Review: St Ambroise Black IPA

I still have fond, vivid memories of McAuslan's St Ambroise beer when I lived in Quebec City in summers of 2006 and 2008. Their beer was incredibly affordable, appealed to my palate and was always a great time. Their Oatmeal Stout is still one of my favourite stouts of all time. St Ambroise has only been available on and off for the past year and a half or so, first with bringing out their IPA which I found tasted a bit too extracty in the hop category.

Now their Black IPA is available in Manitoba. It's brewed with Bravo, Centennial, Cascade, Citra and Chinook hops - quite a decent variety for it being a darker beer.. and only 58 IBU, 6.5% ABV.

Appearance: The Black IPA pours a black-as-the night body with a bit of a dark brown cola hue to it. The head has a good amount of yellowish-beige foam that starts off a full finger and a half in thickness and gradually diminishes to a minor amount of film on top of the beer. So far, it looks a bit like their Oatmeal Stout (minus the head).

Aroma: I'm finding that there's definitely a liberal hop presence taking place here, which I'm liking. There's a fusion of bitter and citrusy hops to give it a rich piney aroma, as well as notes of grapefruit and lemon. On the other side of things, it's also giving off stout-like notes of chocolate, vanilla, a bit of a roasted coffee scent, and burnt caramel. Once the beer warms up a touch, the rich roastiness of the malt pops up more and more.

Taste: The first impression is a very hop-forward profile - I'm getting a pine bitterness immediately as it hits my tongue, notes of lemon and a light presence of citrus fruits from the Citra hops, a bit of an earthy peaty hop presence, a light amount of roasted coffee bitterness, a bit of chocolate and burnt caramel. This is a bit more tropical and sweeter than I'd expect in a typical Black IPA. There's a light amount of creaminess for mouthfeel, and a bitter coffee aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: This has a bit of their Oatmeal Stout vibe to it but without oats and taken down a notch.. and liberally hopped. This is pretty heavy yet has a very floral/bitter hop presence that is generally pretty rare in most Black/Cascadian IPAs I've had.. I only recall two or three Black IPAs that had a floral/tropical hop presence to it. Night and day compared to their regular IPA, I'm actually liking this one quite a bit. Solid Black IPA with a good hop presence to it, perfect for the long cold Manitoba winter I'm experiencing right now!

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