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.
Much like coffee beans and wine grapes, oysters and hops owe much of their flavors to terroir: the environments in which they’re cultivated. Mineral rich soil and long summer days in Oregon’s Willamette Valley give Centennial hops a floral aroma and resinous pine-like bitterness, while the cool waters of San Diego’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon gives Carlsbad Luna oysters a clean brininess and melon-like finish. With hundreds of hop cultivars and oyster appellations, there are virtually limitless options for pairing fresh oysters with hoppy beers.
Hoppy Beer and Oyster Pairing
Pairing: Tower 10 IPA – Without any garnish, Tower 10’s caramel malt undertones draw out the oyster’s sweetness. Add a little lemon juice and you’ll boost the zesty grapefruit flavors of T 10’s Cascade and Chinook hops.
Coast Kumamoto – Originally a Japanese appellation, Coast Kumamoto oysters are farm-raised in Humbolt Bay, California. They’re sweeter than the Sweetwater and fruitier than the Carlsbad Luna, making them a natural match with fruity Belgian IPA’s.
Pairing: Blackball Belgian IPA – Warm fermentation with a Belgian yeast strain, combined with Curacao orange and citrusy Pacifica hops gives Blackball the perfect mix of flavors to complement the sweet and fruity Kumamoto oyster.
Carlsbad Luna – Carlsbad Aquafarm has been sustainably raising shellfish in San Diego’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon for the past twenty-five years. Their Luna oysters have a mild salinity and melon-like fruity finish. Look for them in San Diego restaurants or at a number of local farmers’ markets.
Pairing: Big Barrel Double IPA – The tropical fruit flavors of the Nelson Sauvin hops draw out the natural fruitiness of the Carlsbad Luna.
Blue Point Oysters – Cultivated by Blue Island Oyster Co. in New York’s Great South Bay, this world-famous variety has a crisp texture, clean salinity, and hints of celery and pine.
Pairing: Boardwalk Black Rye IPA – Boardwalk’s complex toffee and spicy malt profile balances the salinity, while its bracing Centennial hop bitterness draws out herbaceous undertones.
Every so often a small but dedicated group of our employees gather to talk beer and food. The group includes our Executive and R&D Chefs, our Brewmaster, and a few other foodies lucky enough to make the guest list. During these discussions we chat about great beers we’ve tried, restaurants we’ve visited, and even dishes we’ve prepared at home. By taking ourselves out of “work” mode, we’re able to get great work done. Our Chefs Gunther and Corey use these gatherings as an opportunity to prepare and share their latest beer and food pairings. Over the years these guys have done some truly remarkable things with beer in the kitchen – and this month’s post is a homage to their passion for beer and food. Below is a recipe inspired by their Belgian IPA Mussels, created especially for April’s menu. This version uses ingredients available at local farmers markets, including the Carlsbad Aquafarm mussels we use in our brewery restaurants. I picked up the mussels, produce, and bread at Sunday’s Hillcrest Farmers Market.
Ingredients: Prep Time – 25 Minutes
2 lbs Carlsbad Black Mussels (cleaned and de-bearded)
6 Slices Bacon Chopped (pre-cook and pat dry before chopping)
½ Cup Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
½ Cup Finely Chopped Fennel
1 Shallot Finely Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves Crushed
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Tbs Clover Honey
2 Tbs Butter
½ Cup Heavy Cream
1 ½ Cup Blackball Belgian IPA (room temperature)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Step 1: Scrub mussels with a coarse brush under cold running water. Remove any beards and discard any mussels that are broken or open. Reserve cleaned mussels in a large bowl of ice water until ready to steam.
Step 2: Melt butter in large saucepan. Add bacon, fennel, onions, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Step 3: Add Blackball Belgian IPA and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover, and steam until mussels have opened (4-5 Minutes). Remove from heat and discard any mussels that have not opened.
Step 4: Transfer mussels to serving dish, reserving the broth in the saucepan. Return broth to medium heat and stir in honey and cream. Ladle broth over mussels and serve with grilled French bread.