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Pitch Black IPA Clone

A recent issue of BYO had a whole section on Black IPA’s.  As a huge fan I rushed to try out one of their recipes.  I loved Widmer’s Pitch Black IPA, so I picked that one first.  I was really happy with my first Black IPA, so I had very high hopes for my second.  The recipe called for quite a bit of grain, so I looked forward to making a decently ‘big’ beer after my Summer of low alcohol offerings.

Ingredients:  Amber Rye Ale

All-Grain Recipe

  • 10.5 lb American 2-row
  • 24 oz Caramel 10L
  • 12 oz Carafa II
  • 10 oz Special Roast

Hop Additions

  • .7 oz Warrior (16%) – added during boil, boiled 75 min
  • .3 oz Cascade (5.8%) – added during boil, boiled 2 min
  • .7 oz Warrior (16%) – added during boil, boiled 2 min
  • .6 oz Cascade (5.8%) – dry hop, 1 week in secondary
  • .3 oz Warrior (16%) – dry hop, 1 week in secondary


  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast – reused from Amber Rye

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.068 / FG 1.010
  • 7.6% ABV
  • Brewed 08/13/11.  Racked to Secondary 08/27/11.  Bottled 08/21/11.

Brewing the Pitch Black IPA Clone

For my mash water, I warmed 5 gallons of water (3 gal. jug / 2 gal. tap).  I mashed in about 4 gallons of water at 162°.  As seems to be common for me, my mash started out a bit warm, and I stirred to cool for a while and got it to 152°, which I let sit for 60 minutes.  After an hour I recirculated about a gallon of the first runnings back over the grain bed, then I started my sparge.  My sparge water was 1 gallon left over from my mash and 2gal/2tap with a T of pH balancer tossed in for good measure.

I sparged for about an hour and collected about 7 gallons in to my brew pot.  This batch had a 75min hop addition, so I got the pot to a boil and let it run about 15 minutes before my first hop addition.  I ran out of gas in the middle of my boil, so there was a point when my pot lost heat for a time.  The rest of the hop additions went pretty standard, and I added the Wort Chiller and whirlfloc at 10 minutes.

As I cooled the wort, I racked over my Amber Rye, so that I’d have a yeast bed ready for the Black IPA.  I then proceded to strain my Black IPA wort in to the Primary.  I added about 45 seconds of Oxygen before giving it a good stir and capping it.  Due to my interrupted boil, I didn’t boil off quite as much as usual, so I had more than 5 gallons of wort.  I used a blowoff tube, knowing I’d need it.  As you can see from the picutres, I REALLY needed it.  This thing took off like I’ve never seen.  I even overflowed my overflow!

A week after racking to the secondary, I made my final hop addition.  Normally I use a hop bag, but I decided to just toss them in this time to see how that works.  It didn’t…  A week later the hops still hadn’t settled out at all.  When I racked to my bottling bucket most of the hops came along for the ride.  I decided to fix this, so I poured the beer in another bucket and re-racked it over with the hop bag at the end of the cane, acting as a filter.  This took a pretty high risk of aeration, but I don’t think this played in as a factor in my eventual off flavors.

Drinking the Black IPA

So I’ve got a problem.  This batch and the Citra Blonde that followed both have an issue.  I haven’t completely figured out what my problem is, but ultimately both batches have a strong bitterness that they shouldn’t have.  There’s also a sharpness to the carbonation, and they’re a little dry.  After a lot of research I’ve decided I must have a dirty piece of equipment and each batch had a slight bacterial contamination.  It seems like a little wild fermentation has taken place after bottling that really dried out the beer, and adding some additional bitterness.  Damn.  I’ve since gone through and cleaned EVERYTHING, which has resulted in good batches ever since.

This batch isn’t so bad you can’t drink it, but it’s pretty damn bad.  Fortunately, not everyone I hang out with is a beer snob, and there are some who are more than happy to help me drink it!  As far as taste, it’s not great, but I think you have to blame my issues before you comment on the recipe.  There’s a pretty strong coffee flavor that balances out the extra bitterness, but I don’t know that I’d want it that strong, otherwise.  Trying to think past the contamination, I think I prefer my first Black IPA recipe.



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