Saturday, 10 May 2014

Black Tongue Double Black IPA

Signature Brew


Beer and heavy metal are tough to pry apart from each other. You don’t expect to smell the lingering aroma of champagne when you go to a little subterranean sweatbox to watch a gang of hairy folks hammering out ungodly riffs to a sea of horn-throwing metalheads.

Iron Maiden were the first metal band (to your correspondent’s knowledge) to roll out a signature beer (via Robinson’s brewery, and it’s rather good) and Mastodon have now joined them in the business of headbanger fuel, joining up with Signature Brew to unleash Black Tongue Double Black IPA on the unsuspecting world.

From the “kssssh” of the cap’s release a miasma of chocolate and roast vanilla scents is immediately spawned in the air above the open neck of the 330ml bottle. A gluggy, claggy oil-pour leads to a quite lively, eventually thinning, rough and bubbly beige head atop a dirty, black body. The colour of Black Tongue isn’t the ruddy, bloody black of a stout such as Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, but the filthy brown-upon-black of a miner’s boot after a shift.

Once poured the initial nose is of overripe fruit, a season’s take left to die on the vine. There are mounds of sugar in the aroma, which comes across like a damp, misty reworking of the IPA scent- a gritty reboot of IPA, if you will. Or perhaps IPA from an evil, parallel universe where everyone has goatee beards. Your mileage may vary.

The first taste is acrid, Stanley-knife sharp and bitter. There are hints of overdone Christmas cake in there, along with an unsubtle suggestion of a rotten orchard partially on fire. In a tasty way.

With some mouthfuls this beer is bitter almost to the point of being caustic, and soon it becomes aggressively warming, the rise in perceived temperature you can expect from such a beer bypassing the head and starting straight out in the stomach, blooming up through the body cavity in a way that makes you wonder if the Victorian theories behind spontaneous human combustion were true after all.

Further glugs conjure up flavour-images of scorched driftwood floating on a lake of molten brown sugar, with a curious taste suggestive of an almond passed over the flickering flame of a lighter hanging above the scene in the shape of a question mark.

This is a seductive drink, its wiles making it hard to maintain disciplined sips. At the half way point the temptation to skull the rest of the glass was almost impossible to resist.

The aftertaste shows off an undeniable crispness, the refreshing nature of an IPA preserved beneath the black veil. As two thirds of the glass became empty space a scent of rich decay, like the atmosphere of a stagnant and moss-filled stately home’s abandoned library, rises from the bubbly surface of the remaining beer.

Through the last third of the glass the occasional electric crackle of lime arcs between the teeth as the ripeness of the taste builds. The final mouthful is a collapsing ceiling of chocolate, as the gingerbread house, festooned with fecund vines, crumbles in on itself and the drinker.

Black Tongue is a thick, powerful, but still crisp ale which manages to sidle up to the domain of Imperial stouts in terms of richness while still keeping itself within the India Pale Ale Zone. Signature Brew have nailed it with this nuanced, dark, heavy yet crisp and refreshing ale that is pretty much heavy metal in a glass.

As a post-script I’d like to bring attention to the health warning on the label. Beer is serious business. Alcoholism kills thousands of people a year, and drunk driving and alcohol-fuelled violence heap corpses on top of this pile. None of this stops alcohol being a hotly politicised issue, though, and to see such a clear and simple message on a beer bottle is heartening. No gender-divisive alcohol intake guides, no stating the obvious that getting in your car after six of these is a dumb idea, Signature Brew choose to keep it simple.

“Respect: yourself, this beer, other people”.

This is all anyone needs, and it’s a tune we can all dance to, I think.

Hit the lights.

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