I thought I had a handle on Black IPA's as a style of beer, that I knew all its tricks and what to expect, and as such when I saw that Magic Rock Brewing had produced a Black IPA I was looking forward to trying it, as they make awesome beers, but I wasn't in any rush and the cynic in me did think "Another brewery, producing another black IPA".
But Magic Rock Brewing Magic 8 Ball isn't a Black IPA, it's THE Black IPA. I can confidently say that this was the best Black IPA I've ever tried, hands down, by a bloody country mile. It is genuinely astounding.
The colour is the first thing you notice; properly, absolutely black, with an off-white, sticky head that clings to the glass and laces the sides with pungent hop oils.
Then you are hit by that aroma. It's a full on tropical fruit punch of mango, passionfruit, orange pith, apricot, a little bit of sweet lemon even. The thing that instantly struck me was the fresh whole hop aroma you get from this beer, like sticking your head in a bag of raw, unboiled whole hops.
The flavour completely lives up to what's promised in that aroma but marries prominent flavours of mango, apricot and passionfruit with a resinous, bittersweet IPA quality wrapped up in a silky medium weight body. It's thick enough to properly coat your mouth and spread around those amazing flavours but not too heavy or cloying, and remains extremely drinkable and moreish.
As your palate adjusts after the initial onslaught of hops you also get a very slight caramelised/burnt sugar flavour with an orangey edge, alongside a bit of liquorice and faint, fruity dark chocolate. You've really got to look for it though, and pushing past those big hops isn't easy. The 7% abv doesn't even get a look in.
In my opinion it's the best beer that Magic Rock Brewing have produced, and it's definitely the best Black IPA I've ever tasted, from any brewery.