India pale ales continue to dominate craft beer sales, with the Brewers Association noting in its 2016 recap that the hop-heavy style represents “roughly one-quarter of craft volume” in America. So when San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery began discussing names for a new double IPA, says co-founder and brewmaster Shaun O’Sullivan, talk quickly turned to the style’s ubiquity: “There’s single IPA, there’s session IPAs, Black IPAs, Blah Blah Blah IPAs.” The cheeky name, originally used for an early version of the brewery’s Toaster Pastry hoppy red ale, stuck.
If the IPA field is overly crowded — and it should be noted that 21st Amendment offers an IPA, a session IPA, a black IPA and a double IPA, with a blood orange IPA on the way — why add yet another to shelves and taps? “We wanted an accessible double IPA,” O’Sullivan says, noting that Blah Blah Blah is 8 percent alcohol by volume, and other double IPAs, such as 21st Amendment’s Hop Crisis, are 9 percent or higher.
Blah Blah Blah stands out in another way: Although the trend in craft brewing is toward IPAs showcasing just one or two varieties of hops, this recipe involves nine, from the primary use of familiar Chinook and Cascade to late additions of Mandarina Bavaria, Idaho 7, Motueka and other hops at regular intervals. (“There’s a lot of running up and down the stairs” to throw more hops in the kettle every few minutes, O’Sullivan says, and the final result contains around two pounds of hops per barrel.)
Just as important as the hops is the huge malt profile, with five styles of malt, including two kinds of pale malt, a honey malt to add sweetness and white wheat to add more texture to the body.
With so many ingredients, it could have been overwhelming. Instead, it’s a beer that works in symphony: the orange marmalade and dank resin in the aroma; the sweet, toasty body full of honey and caramel, matched well against tropical fruit juiciness; and a piney bitterness. The mouth feel is rich and sticky, with lingering grapefruit hoppiness, and the lasting impression is of a well-rounded beer, especially given the amount of hops. It’s one you’ll be talking about for a while.
21st Amendment Blah Blah Blah IPA. 21st-amendment.com. About $13 for a six-pack of 12-ounce cans.