Loving me some Mount Hood hops in Tuppers' India Ink!
Strong refers to the alcohol content. This is a hefty 7.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv). Hoppy, here (but not always), refers to the aroma of the hops, not simply their tannic bitterness. Mount Hood hops in India Ink add a wonderful minty/floral aroma to the barley-derived flavors of toasted malt and not-quite stout like roastiness. But let there be no doubt: there be abundant Mount Hood hops here.
For three decades now, Bob and Ellie Tupper have been beer-raconteurs and good beer-beer advocates for the Washington, D.C. area. They contract brew their Hop Pocket Ale and Keller Pils, bottles and kegs, at St. George Brewing, in Hampton, Virginia. India Ink. on the other hand, is draught-only. Mad Fox Brewing, a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia, produces it for the Tuppers to their Mount Hood=heavy recipe.
There is bad news for Mount Hood fans, like me, and the Tuppers. Acreage devoted to the hop is decreasing every year. In fact, Mt. Hood hasn't been one of the top 15 most planted varietals since before 2007. (Sterling hops —which are among the top 15— might be considered an approximate substitution.)
But, you know, I just can't get myself to speak that nonsensical tag: Black India Pale Ale.
A pale ale is pale; Black IPAs are not. The India connection (other than the pun in the Tuppers' beer) is tenuous at best. Pale ales, stouts, and light lagers have been, and are still, shipped to India (and, at least, for the last of those three, brewed there). But, that's it.
There are even those who call these beers Cascadian Dark Ales: as in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, where Cascade hops and their grapefruity, alpha-acid-heavy, brethren are grown —well, actually east of those ranges. Yes, Mount Hood hops are cultivated there, but they definitely are not high in alpha acids, nor do they evince 'grapefruity' character.
All of this stylizing smacks of formalism and time-wasting silliness, more Soviet than democratic. It detracts from what's really important: how does the beer taste?
Spicy, minty, floral, roasty, dark, strong. However one might designate it, I'm enjoying Tuppers' India Ink, while I can.