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Monday, 3 August 2015

Dutch Beer of the Week

HillDevils American Black Horse IPA

Right, this is a black IPA so let's just talk about that for a moment. I know there are some writers out there who kind of roll their eyes at the term "black IPA". How can an India Pale Ale be black?  Well if we're going to be picky I suppose it is a contradiction in terms. But - it is also useful shorthand to describe beers which combine a dark malt presence with a hop forward character and I for one have no problem with that. Rather this than the clunky "cascadian dark ale" favoured by some.

It's also a style of beer that's easy to get wrong.  There needs to be a fine balance between that malt and hop character I think. Too much hop and the dark malts are almost an unnecessary accessory. To much dark malt character and you have something more akin to a hoppy stout.  When it's done right though I find these extremely appealing beers.

So, HillDevils. They are based at Wouwse Plantage which is in the far south of the Netherlands in North Brabant - indeed they are very close to the Belgian border.  The people behind this are Theo and Marleen van Eekelen and they've been producing their beers since 2013. I don't think they are full time brewers, and indeed they are "brouwerij huurders" or brewery hirers insofar as they don't have their own kit at the moment. The labels tell me their beers are currently being made at Dorpsbrouwerij de Pimpelmeesch in fact.

Although they've been around for a couple of years I didn't come across them until the 1st Dutch Craft Beer Festival at Enschede in May. I normally flit around from bar to bar at beer festivals but enjoyed their beers so much I hung around and tried the range. It was really my sort of stuff - IPAs, Black IPAs and Double IPAs - some aged on oak chips as well. Lovely beers.

Lovely people too. I got talking with Theo and totally unprompted he said he'd send me some beers. Sure enough a couple of months later a box arrives with five bottles (4 x 33cl and 1 x 75cl plus a glass, some beer mats and stickers). This was one of the beers he sent me so here's where I insert the pious disclaimer about it not affecting my opinion of the beer etc, etc, etc. So, having got that out of the way let's get on to the beer.

The label tells you everything you need to know.The malt grist is pale ale, amber, chocolate and smoked malt while the hops are Chinook, Simcoe, Magnum and Amarillo with Columbus used for dry hopping,  With 68 EBC and a nice round 100 EBU it comes in at 6.5%. 

There's a touch of roast in the nose along with a hint of liquorice sweetness and underlying resiny hops. As you drink there's an immediate big hop hit with roast coming through and then the merest hint of smoke. The finish is beautifully long and bitter.  I'm very pleased I have a second bottle of this and will be aiming to get more on my next trip to the Netherlands. Top class.

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