Colorado Brewed: Crabtree Syzygy Barrel Aged Black IPA

Each Wednesday in this column I post my insights about one of the thousands of beers brewed in the great state of Colorado. Feel free to shoot me an email with your suggestions of Colorado beers you’d like me to feature – Lee Williams at – or leave your ideas in the comments.

There is still a fervent debate among breweries and beer aficionados as to the proper name for the style most commonly referred to as “black IPA”. Some argue that it’s not a new style, and is in fact simply a reemergence of the seldom brewed, true American porter – a decidedly hoppy variation of the archetypal English original. The biggest point of contention revolves around whether the style is or is not the invention of the Cascadia hop growing region of the Pacific Northwest. Drinkers of the hoppy black stuff in this region are many in number, and proudly prefer the moniker Cascadian dark ale.

Dig a little deeper and you discover that long before anyone in the U.S. had coined the terms black IPA, Cascadian dark ale, or American porter, breweries in England in the late nineteenth century were quietly producing a bitter porter known simply as India porter, or East India porter. A beer not dissimilar from our buzzed about, argued and championed black IPA.

Here in Colorado, breweries seem less interested in posturing, and more focused on brewing interesting variations of the black IPA – or whatever you prefer to call it.

Crabtree Brewing of Greely have released a heavily dry-hopped version of their robust black IPA, Syzygy, aged for 12 months in French oak Cabernet Sauvigon barrels.

Barrel aged Syzygy is thick with obvious aromatics. The nose is rich with the smell of port wine, vanilla, blackcurrant, red plum and potent juniper berry. In the drink, the beer has a lot of immediate roasted malt and pumpernickel bread flavor. The extended wine barrel maturation has lent the beer an expected dryness, astringency and slightly earthy tannin quality.

My best advice for pairing this beer with food is to try it with dishes with which you would normally pair a red wine. Steak, peppery sausages, roast pork, lamb, or any meat gamey in character would be ideal.


  • Brewed in Colorado by: Crabtree Brewing Co., 625 3rd St. #D, Greeley, CO 80631
  • Released: August 2011 in 750ml bottles only
  • Beer style: Black IPA
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • IBU: ?
  • Hops: Cascade
  • Grains: Chocolate Malt
  • Special ingredients: French Oak Cabernet Sauvigon Barrels
Did you miss any of the past Colorado Brewed series? See them all right here.

About Lee Williams

Beer writer. Founder of Hoptopia. I write for various beer related publications, websites and festivals. Email -

  • Kevin Burke

    I apologize for the geeky request, but if the desired outcome of ‘dry-hopping’ a beer is to result in a fresh, and immediate aroma: what is the result of a beer that is dry-hopped and then rested in oak barrels for 12 months? Does the beer exhibit secondary and tertiary hop characteristics? Does the deliberate dry-hopped nature of the beer still prevail?

    • Lee Williams

      Kevin – Thanks for your comment.

      In this instance. The dry-hopping was done after the barrel aging. I can’t say I’ve had a beer that was dry-hopped and then barrel aged.

  • Lee Williams

    Kevin – Thanks for your comment.

    In this instance. The dry-hopping was done after the barrel aging. I can’t say I’ve had a beer that was dry-hopped and then barrel aged.

  • Ryan

    Not trying to argue semantics but would you really call this a black IPA, seems like a Belgian Porter to me. Delicious all the same, but it doesn’t seem to fit the style.

  • Lee Williams

    Thanks for the comment Ryan. For the sake of discussion it definitely fits most of black IPA descriptions. But as I talk about in the post, the very notion of black IPA as a style is contentious to begin with.

    This beer doesn’t exhibit any particularly Belgian ester character to me. From what Crabtree say it’s simply a barrel aged version of their all-American black IPA.