Behind the Beer: Blackball Belgian IPA
In April 2010, Blackball Belgian IPA joined Big Barrel Double IPA in KARL’s Coastal Reserve, but this hoppy Belgo-American strong ale got its start long before the first bombers rolled off the line. In fact, the inspiration for this beer, like many of our most popular offerings, came from a small batch brewed at one of our brewpubs. I caught up with brewer Nolan Clark to recount how his “Belgian Stranger” strong ale evolved into today’s Blackball Belgian IPA.
“The Belgian Stranger came about when I was brewing downtown… Some people don’t know me as a brewer for Karl Strauss but as a drummer, specifically for a local San Diego reggae band by the name of Stranger – hence the name of the beer. All the guys in the band love craft beer and enjoy drinking local brew just as much, so I wanted to create something as sort of a tribute to them. Long story short, I wanted to brew a high gravity Belgian Pale Ale with some of my favorite West Coast hops.”
Any particular reason why you chose to create a Belgian-style ale with a West Coast hop profile?
“I’d been drinking a lot of Belgian-style beers at the time but hadn’t really had many West Coast-style Belgian pales. I like simple things that function well, so I went with a pretty simple recipe; Pale 2-row, Carapils and C-40 for color – a pretty typical pale ale malt base that really makes the hops to stand out. I also chose an Abbey ale yeast from White Labs that could handle the higher gravity and would also impart the distinctive clove and spice notes characteristic of many Belgian styles. “
And the result?
“My simple approach ended up working really well. The Belgian yeast strain gave me a super dry and spicy beer that really allowed the citrusy Cascade and Amarillo hops to shine through. I also added some coriander and Curacao orange peel during the boil which added to the citrus and spicy notes in the beer.”
What did people think?
“It was so well received that Paul and the guys had me brew a second batch for American Craft Beer Week 2009, and ultimately we used the recipe to create what is known today as Blackball Belgian IPA.”
Are there any major differences between the original Belgian Stranger and Blackball?
“There’s really not too much difference between the two, other than the Stranger’s alcohol content (10.6%) and Blackball’s massive dry hop addition of choice New Zealand hops. Overall, if you put Stranger up to Blackball, you would notice that Blackball has a more pronounced hop profile, while the Belgian Stranger is a bit higher in ABV. To this day, I still refer to Blackball as the Belgian Stranger. Maybe I’m a little too proud, but sometimes you gotta savor those moments of inspiration and creative satisfaction. Drink up ya’ll and don’t forget to share. Cheers!”
Blackball Belgian IPA
Stats: 8.5% ABV – 14 SRM – 80 IBU
From the label: When checkered blackball flags dot the California coastline, experienced surfers migrate to advanced breaks where strangers to the sport dare not. Blackball is a Belgian-inspired India Pale Ale with a robust West Coast hop profile. Belgian ale yeast, coriander, and Curacao lend a fruity and spicy character for an ale bolder than your average IPA. A blend of New Zealand and Cascade hops add a vibrant floral aroma and clean citrus hop bitterness that lingers through its’ crisp, dry finish. Drink up while it’s young, heavily hopped IPA’s are best enjoyed fresh.