Blending Beer for Black IPA

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.50.19 PMLast week, I posted an article on making extra dark beers with the intention of blending them into lighter beers for added color and perhaps flavor. This way, you could enjoy both the pale beer and a darkened version of it. In this post, I’ll give a specific example of brewing a dark beer that, when blended into an IPA, makes a black IPA.

The recipes given here are for 5.0 gallons (19 L) of the dark blending beer, but you can scale them to any volume desired. Frequently, you will only need 1 or 2 gallons (4–8 L) of the dark beer per 5.0 gallon (19-L) batch of the lighter beer. To scale these 5.0-gallon (19-L) recipes, multiply all the ingredients by your intended volume of dark beer (in gallons) divided by five (gallons). [Or divide your intended volume of dark beer (in liters) by 19 (L).]

American IPA is, of course, a pale, hoppy, relatively dry beer. Black IPA — sometimes called Cascadian Dark Ale, especially by folks in the Pacific Northwest — is an IPA with a darker color. It may optionally have a small amount of roast flavor, although not as much as porter or stout. You can brew a very dark beer specifically for turning your favorite IPA into a black IPA. For this example, I will assume you have a favorite American IPA recipe. (If not, you can use my Roswell IPA recipe.) I’ll give two options, brewing a 2X dark beer for blending and (in a later post) brewing a 4X dark beer for blending.

2X Blender

There are a few benefits to making a doubly dark blender for your black IPA. The blending ratio is simple — 1:1 with your regular IPA— and convenient if you bottle your beer (as opposed to kegging it). In addition, the dark blending beer makes a decent porter-like beer on it’s own. So, you’ll actually have thee drinkable beers — the IPA, the “porter,” and the blended black IPA. If you make 1.5 gallons (5.7 L) of the dark beer, you can drink 3.0 gallons (11 L) of the black IPA blend and still have 3.5 gallons (12 L) of the regular, unblended IPA to enjoy on its own. (Or see the chart above for more combinations. Click on the chart to expand it.) 

Black IPA 2X Blender (generic)


(Blend 1:1 with IPA)

INGREDIENTS (for 5 gallons)


This beer isn’t overly dark, so adjusting the water chemistry should cause no particular problems if you’re used to water chemistry calculations. The carbonate levels will be higher than your (pale) IPA. Additionally, your dark blending beer should have a similar level of sulfates as your IPA.

Dark Grains (SRM depends on IPA recipe, but at least 25)

9.0 oz. (255 g) black malt

2.0 oz. (57 g) chocolate malt

1.0 oz. (28 g) roasted barley

Other Grains (OG matches IPA)

Use the same amount of specialty and other grains (if any) as in your IPA recipe. Add pale malt until the calculated OG is the same as your IPA recipe. (Another way to look at this is to take your IPA grain bill, add the dark grains, then subtract a small amount of the pale malt so the dark beer’s calculated OG is the same as the original IPAs).

Hops (IBUs match IPA)

Use the same hop bill as your regular IPA. You want the dark blending beer to have the same degree of bitterness and same hop character as the original IPA. That way, when they are blended, the hop character doesn’t get diluted (or otherwise changed).

Yeast (FG of dark beer may be slightly higher than that of the IPA)

Same as your IPA (and at the same pitching rate).


Brew the beer as you would your IPA. There is no reason to treat the dark grains specially — cold steeping, stirring them into the top of the mash, etc. — just mash all the grains together following the same mash program as your IPA. Boil the wort and add hops as you would with your IPA. Ferment your dark beer under the same conditions as your IPA, and carbonate it and condition it equivalently. (Basically, you want the two beers to be identical except for the color and roast flavor.)

Once both your regular IPA and your dark blending beer are ready, just blend them at serving time in equal volumes to make your blended black IPA.

I’ll post an explicit example, using my Roswell IPA, separately.

Fade to Black

You can make a dark blending beer for any specific beer using this same approach. Add enough dark grains to the lighter beer recipe make the dark blending beer twice as dark as you want the blended beer to be. Subtract some pale malt so the OGs of the two beers match, and likewise keep everything else the same between the two beers.

Alternately, you could make a generic dark blending beer by developing a recipe that should mesh well with your usual lineup of beers. This would be fairly easy if most of your beers are similar in strength and bitterness.

Related Articles

Relatively Dark, IPA-like Thingys

Black IPA

Cascadian Dark Ale

Roswell IPA

American Hoppy Ales

Speak Your Mind