Yesterday’s quickie beer review was fun, so let’s have another one today before we get back to whisky!
What we have today is the Boomstick Double Black Rye Coffee IPA that is part of the Off Label Series produced by No Label Brewing Co. out of Katy, TX. The expansive name description of this beer is perhaps somewhat misleading as this is technically an American Black Ale, brewed with coffee, yet there is a subtle hoppiness at the back that hints at the IPA reference. Name confusion aside, this is quite an interesting beer that shows a nice, creative flair.
No Label Brewing Company
No Label Brewing Company is a family-owned operation that spawned from the home-brewing endeavors of co-founder Brian Royo. Brian, along with wife, Jennifer, and father, Gilberto, founded the company in 2010 and released their first beers to the public in 2011, and by 2013 No Label’s production rate was a respectable 5,000 barrels.(1) Projections for 2015 is that No Label will be producing approximately 6,500 barrels.
No Label Brewing Company is based in an old rice silo that was sitting empty in Old Town Katy. Since opening, No Label has expanded to include a Tap Room and small store, and they run tours and tastings, as well as participate in a number of local and regional beer events.
No Label Brewing Co. produces a series of Year-Round releases that include 1st Street Ale, El Hefe Weizen, Eleven Amp IPA, Ridgeback Ale and Pale Horse Ale, and also currently have three Seasonal Releases: Black Wit-O, a Fall release of a dark Wheat Ale brewed brewed with a touch of Star Anise giving it a clean smooth finish with a hint of licorice; Elda M, a Milk Stout brewed with 10 different malts and featuring rich flavors of roasted and chocolate malts with a hint of coffee that comes out every winter; and Don Jalapeno Ale that comes out in Spring. The Don Jalapeno Ale is based on the Pale Horse Ale, but is brewed with 60lbs of jalapeños – 30 lbs raw and 30 lbs roasted (seeds included).(2)
Lastly, in addition to their Year-Round beers and their Special Releases, No Label Brewing Co. also puts out the “Off Label Series ” which are one-run, limited edition, specialty beers that show off their experimental side, with plans to launch a new “Off Label” beer quarterly. The beers in the Off Label Series don’t fit in with the core range of No Label Beers and the company describes them in this manner:
“From the Wee-heavy Perpetual Peace to the pumpkin allure of Nightmare on 1st Street, our beers are just the right balance between odd and one of a kind.”
Which leads us perfectly into the subject of today’s beer review, because “odd” and “one of a kind” sums up perfectly, the Boomstick Double Black Rye Coffee IPA!
Boomstick Double Black Rye Coffee IPA
Yes, that name is quite a mouthful….and yet it sums up this beer pretty darn well. However, there is a bit of a challenge in accurately categorizing this beer because it simply does not fit properly into any of the recognized, or standard definition beer categories. Despite the IPA in its name, Boomstick doesn’t necessarily fit the true definition of an IPA – at least the historical definition of IPA. More accurately, the IPA reference is simply indicative of the beer’s underlying hoppy nature (which could lead to a discussion about overuse of the term IPA).
So Boomstick is not technically an IPA, but despite the deep, dark color and coffee and roasted malt notes that might point to either a Porter or a Stout, Boomstick is neither of those, either. Well, then, what is it?
Boomstick is probably best categorized as an American Black Ale, but given that this beer encompasses, incorporates, and overlaps several beer profiles and categories, let’s just call it an Experimental Release and go from there! For the fact is, a label or a name doesn’t really matter, after all, its the TASTE that counts!!
Okay, so what goes into a beer with such a complex name and uncertain identity? As the name implies, this one has quite a mix of rather complex ingredients!
Concocted in partnership with Boomtown Coffee, an artisanal coffee roaster in Houston, No Label’s Boomstick Double Black Rye Coffee IPA starts with a traditional India pale ale, then incorporates Black Malt (also called Black Patent Malt) and Rye Malt, and then introduces a spicy Ethiopian blend of coffee.
Creating this beer, and especially getting the ingredients balanced was a challenge, according to head brewer James Wolfe, who admitted that, “The first test batch had too much coffee [that] drowned out the hoppy characteristics of the Cascade and Columbia hops.”(3)
Continuing to dissect the name, the “Black” reference refers to use of Black Malt which, “gives a highly roasted flavor, that carries some bitterness and acidity. But it can also show a deep fruity character reminiscent of currants, blackberries or sultanas. It gives deep contrast to a round malty beer by giving it some elbows, without being pushy. Most importantly, even in very small quantities, it provides a drying quality that brightens up the finish of any beer.” (4)
And finally, the use of Rye Malt adds a distinctively crisp, refreshing, and spicy aspect, but also introduces a richness that complements the a citrusy hop character while adding silkiness to the body. (5)
Boomstick was first released in February-March of 2015, and in spite of the confused identity, the tongue-tangling name, and the limited size of the release, reviews of Boomstick has been very positive, even receiveing a very respectable 87 score from BeerAdvocate.com and a 93 from RateBeer.com
Review: Boomstick Double Black Rye Coffee IPA
- STYLE: American Black Ale
- ALC/VOL: 7.46%
- IBUS: 17
Appearance: The color is deep dark brown, almost black and has a rather delicate, lacy, frothy head with an aggressive pour.
Nose: As you’d expect from the name, the first experience is the big, gigantic notes of coffee, but behind the coffee are touches of rye grass, aromatic spices, roasted malt, delicate hints of blackberry and bittersweet chocolate, and espresso beans. Certainly, this remains coffee-forward.
Taste: Big notes of rye spices that blend well with the slight bitterness of the coffee and roasted malt, yet there is a softly sweet malt note, too. A delicate hint of bitter chocolate. A somewhat light and relatively delicate body.
Finish: The finish has fresh-baked rye bread, aromatic coffee, rye grass, and a softly bitter and drying-spice note. Good length.
Overall: Absolutely delivers on its name – after all the confusion I talked about above, this beer couldn’t be named anything other than Double Black Rye Coffee IPA! The flavors and aromas in this beer are bold and very expressive, and while the coffee is prominent on both the nose and the palate, it is well-balanced so that it doesn’t complete obliterate the other flavors, which it could have done. The only “flaw” might be in the relatively delicate palate; for a beer with such strong, bold flavors, you sort of expect it to carry a more substantial body.
I really enjoyed this beer and look forward to trying other releases from No Label.