Welcome to PW's 50-Beer Countdown to Philly Beer Week! Every day from now through the Opening Tap ceremonies on May 31, we'll be getting in the mood by spotlighting a different great craft brew that's been poured by one or more Philly Beer Week participating venues.
Before “black IPA” was a thing, Dogfish Head was hopping up dark ales to then-preposterous levels, making Indian Brown Ale an early hybrid brew that defied style. This beer was introduced way back in 1999, and at the time there was nothing like it. It’s a robust brown ale that comes in over 7 percent ABV — when it came out, that made it one of the heaviest hitters on the market — with malts that suggest the smoky, peaty flavor of a Scotch Ale. For good measure, they also hop it up as if it’s an IPA. The result is a beer that tastes all sorts of brown sugary and sweet but with enough hop bite to give it an edge, like a bitter cocktail of molasses and plums and charred pie. I’d say it’s Newcastle on steroids, but the fact is, even Newcastle on steroids would fail to have all the nuances of this surprisingly complex beer. Indian Brown Ale is sometimes on tap at Varga Bar, Fergie’s Pub, Royal Tavern, and Standard Tap.