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South Carolina isn’t the first place that jumps to mind when I think “Craft Beer” but with a name like, “Ales from the Dark Side,” this Beer Mistress couldn’t say no. RJ Rockers is located in Spartansburg , SC but the owner is a New Jersey native, who took his love of craft beer south.
Initially captivating to me were both the dark, foreboding label and the elegant wax seal on this bottle. Considering Black Perle is a dark IPA, I feel that the label is an excellent fit for the style. This 9.5% ABV beer has a compelling story on the side of the bottle describing a ship wreck of a famed East India Company ship in the late 17th Century, and its infamous cargo the Black Perle. These details combined contribute to my surprise when I find out that Spartansburg isn’t even on the coast of South Carolina ! The German Perle hops also add to the story – this beer fairy tale keeps getting better and better.
For the brewing enthusiasts among you, Black Perle contains 8 varieties of hops and is a 90 minute IPA. I find it interesting that the average Beer Advocate rating is merely 85 when the pros have given is an “outstanding” rating of 94. I’m wondering where on the spectrum I will fall but it sounds like a solid beer either way.
As I open the bottle my initial impression is that though the wax adds charm, it also adds a layer of difficulty. Since my bottle was in the refrigerator, the wax is hard and cracks off after I use a foil cutter to break the seal. Lesson: this bottle may make an impressive gift, but don’t try to open it in the middle of a party as the extra steps may prove difficult. Under the wax is a cap that reads: “RJ Rockers. Handcrafted. Every beer. Every drop. Every time.”
Believe it or not, Black Perle pours almost black, but with a considerable dark head and a lot of lacing. The head has large bubbles that last until the first sip, then dissipate. The nose reminds me of a porter: coffee, dark chocolate, roasty malts. So far, nothing about this screams IPA, at most there is a slight piney hops aroma.
The mouth feel on this beer is deceptive. In the glass, it looks like it should be thick, and it definitely has a complex flavor profile, but the body is not heavy. Initially it feels like a robust ale, but when I move it around my mouth, it’s actually creamy. The tip of my tongue is blown away by the smoky notes, but the finish is an outright accosting of the tastebuds by a bitter, burnt toast flavor. Somehow Black Perle walks the line of a light-bodied, dark chocolate, gently hopped IPA.
This beer will not be for everyone – Black IPAs have a very specific customer, but for those of you who are tired of IPAs that are one dimensional, this will prove a welcome change. For porter and stout lovers, I think you’re bound to enjoy much about this beer. And for the winter – you’ll be hard pressed to find anything more perfect on a cold night.
RJ Rockers - Black Perle
January 17, 2013 - Shannon