Given all that, just what is Widmer's W '10 Pitch Black IPA? Well, it's a science experiment, really. This is how they describe the beer:
Pitch Black IPA is a Pacific Northwest twisted tribute to an IPA style of beer. It is almost a traditional IPA but it is instead brewed to the emerging style of Cascadian Dark. We add a modest amount of a specially made debittered black malt to give this IPA a very dark color but without the characteristic dark malt flavors. Pitch Black IPA is hopped generously in the brewhouse and then again later during the dry hopping process. Hopheads of the world will certainly enjoy this dark version of IPA, as will beer drinkers looking for something new and experimental to fill their pint glass.
I first read about this beer on Beervana and I was intrigued. IPAs aren't typically my thing, because a normal amount of hops is plenty for me. Still, I thought perhaps with some malt in there, sweetening and darkening the brew, it could be a good thing. As Jeff at Beervana said, the difficulty of a black IPA is to find harmony in disparate elements. Did Widmer pull it off?
My short answer is kind of. As their description says they didn't use a normal malt, so it wasn't going to be as sweet as usual. To my tastes it still was a little milder than a normal IPA, with a slight cocoa taste. Very slight - and still a little bitter. I really think this could be good if it was brewed longer, allowing the hops and malt to meld together to create a little more cohesion.
Of course, I'm not an expert, and that very act probably turns it into something else, so it would no longer be a black IPA.
My final conclusion? In my book black IPAs go right below IPAs now on the "don't really like" list. This one isn't horrible, but perhaps if you like that style - or IPAs in general, check it out. Beervana doesn't typically like black IPAs and he liked it, but then again he likes IPAs a lot more than I do. I'll pass.