Malt Experiment for a Black IPA — Blackprinz vs Midnight Wheat

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Being a fan of hoppy beers, I’ve tasted a lot of different expressions of IPA, IIPA, Session IPA, and in it sboom, the specialty IPA’s like White IPA, Red IPA, Rye IPA and, one of my favorites of that list, Black IPA
or Cascadian Dark Ale.
This style, according to the BJCP Guidelines, was popularized in the early-mid 2000s. It was a style that boomed (like now the NEIPA) and every brewery was creating some batches of those and selling them like hot bread. Suddenly, the style started to go down in the national numbers, until it was just turned into a seasonal beer with a very well planned volume, so it wouldn’t go to waste.
In Mexico City, you cannot find a very good example of the style, because the style never was popularized like in the USA. If you could find a bottle coming from there, it wasn’t fresh because of all importation logistics and the hops were a little subdued. Being a style that wasn’t available, I tried to brew one just for me with a lot of hoppiness in there, resulting in a very enjoyable brew. I’m not such a fan of stouts, porters or very roasty beers. Nevertheless, Black IPA was delicious because the toastiness was restrained and it was just a faint touch of it, with a smooth, not astringent, nor bitter finish (this is part of the BJCP Guidelines).
I recently found that a supplier brought some Briess Specialty Malts and in hiding in between different bags, there were some Blackprinz (a hulless black malt) and Midnight Wheat (black wheat). I was wondering about the main difference between them, aside from one being wheat and other barley, and ended visiting the Briess website and made some research. Both malts have a quite similar description of lending a smooth, not dry, not bitter, not astringent flavor; and both are recommended for Black IPA. It was after reading the specifications that I decided it was time to test both malts in this nice and rarely
found beer style.

GrainsHop ScheduleYeast
83% - Pilsen Malt50 IBUs Chinook @ 60minNottingham Ale Yeast
6.7% - Crystal 40 Malt17 IBUs First Gold @ 5 min
6.7% - BlackPrinz / Midnight Wheat1oz First Gold @ 0 min
3.6% - Victory Malt2oz / 2.5 Gallon First Gold - 3 Days
Notes: OG: 1.062 | 6.2% ABV
IBUs: 67
Mash Temp 149F - 90 Min.
Water Profile: Ca: 66 | Mg: 12 | Na:23 | SO4: 119 | Cl: 52

Black IPA Malt Comparison Process



On brew day, I decided to brew 2 little batches of 5 liters, just for sake of experimentation (and depending on the result, brew a bigger one for the kegerator sake!), with 30 minutes apart between batches for a stress-free day. I milled the grains, each batch with the respectively dark malt. Then, did a BIAB (Brewing in a Bag) with a classic approach:
  • Mashing for 90 minutes at 149 °F for a nice starch conversion and a lot of simple sugars. I added some Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, Epsom Salts and Phosphoric acid to achieve a nice 5.5 pH.
  • Boiling for 60 minutes with the respective hop additions.
  • Chilling with a copper immersion chiller.
With the 2 different worts, I took density measurements and reached the same gravity. Transferred them to 2 little PET carboys, rehydrated the yeast, pitched and put on some airlocks. Fermentation kicked up 8 hours, first in the Midnight wheat and just a little later in the Blackprinz sample, both with a lot of activity and a delicious aroma. After primary fermentation was over and gravity was steady, I added the hops in some mesh bags and waited for 3 days.
After dry hopping, it was time to bottle them, with some priming (sucrose) and waited for 10 days for the beer to be fully carbed. Finally, it was time to taste them and compare them! The approach was like the pro’s so an Appearance, Aroma and Flavor test was held with each beer:
Blackprinz :
Aroma: A lot of hops with a fruity profile, citrus with a slight hint of roasty character just behind the hops.
Appearance: jet black, opaque, with a head that slowly disappeared.
Flavor: hop forward, high bitterness, citrusy with a note of dark chocolate. Like eating a chocolate of 90% cacao.
Midnight Wheat:
Aroma: A lot of hops with a fruity profile, citrus with a lesser hint of roasty character than Blackprinz malt, just behind the hops.
Appearance: jet black, opaque, with a head that slowly disappeared.
Flavor: hop forward, high bitterness, citrusy with a note of dark chocolate but less apparent than with Blackprinz malt. Not sweet, dry, a little harsher than Blackprinz malt.

Conclusions and Discussion



When tasting them blindly, I couldn’t find a strong difference. Just after knowing each one and really paying attention to every detail in the aftertaste I could find a little more flavor in the Blackprinz pint.
It was definitely an IPA with an accentuated bitterness, but with an interesting back note of what I could say is roasted cacao. It really gives extra depth and complexity to the beer without being overpowering and cloying. I think Blackprinz and Midnight wheat can be substituted but IMHO, to accomplish a similar flavor profile (like that note of dark chocolate), Midnight wheat should be added in more quantities.
Midnight wheat is definitely a great choice to add color without almost any flavor, in that case, someone searching for just a black coloring while keeping the same flavor as a pale IPA can find a good ally in that malt. In the other hand, Blackprinz is also a good option to fix color but expect just a little more flavor.


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Hideki Arao
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I would like to add a remark: after 2 and 3 weeks after the tasting of the first bottles, me and a friend started doing random samples of them, trying to find a bigger difference between them. It has been more and more simple to do it because of 1 big characteristic: the one made with Midnight Wheat has taken a more acrid, torrified profile than the one with Blackprinz. The flavor has been bolder and without a question, my friend and I prefer the one with Blackprinz because it has a more mellow chocolate taste than the more "ashy" one from the Midnight Wheat. I believe they are still substitutes, but Midnight has more torrified punch and should be used with care, maybe in fewer quantities than Blackprinz. Cheers!
 
I just brewed my first Black IPA. I did a Black Oatmeal IPA though and used some flaked oats and Blackprinz. It's in secondary right now with a bunch of Mosaic, but I'd have to agree that the Blackprinz gives more complexity right now. I'm super excited for the finished product!!
 
Thanks for your experiment, always wondered about those 2 ?
Have used Blackprinz in Stouts , but was curious about the wheat.
 
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