Squid Ink Brings Nimble Lips, Noble Tongue

3 sheeps

When Black IPAs started to become a “thing,” Grant Pauly wanted to get his brewery on board. The problem for him, a huge hop fan, was keeping a true IPA flavor.

“It always bugged me. I’ve had Black IPAs, and some are very tasty, but the idea of taking these gorgeous hops and then putting roasted malt on top of them just didn’t sit well,” said the founder of 3 Sheeps in Sheyboygan, Wisconsin. “Just call those a hoppy Porters and I would be completely fine with it.

“It just seemed weird.”

Not wanting to give a beer a dye job with basic food coloring, Pauly’s wife happened across the answer, helping end a three-year search.

A year ago, she had black pasta at an authentic Italian restaurant in Chicago. The dark noodles became that way because of squid ink.


“On a lark I put [squid ink] in Google and the number one result was Amazon.com,” Pauly explained of how he tracked down the odd, but edible, substance.

He bought a little jar of it and made a Firkin with the brewery’s IPA.

“It turned out pretty well,” he said. “I have pants that are ruined forever while we were playing with this thing.”

The squid ink isn’t just a smoke screen for a cephalopod. It makes humans weary about the look of a milky black pour with an off-white/gray head. Looks aside, Pauly swears by the taste factor.

“What finally sold me on it is that it’s very briny and salty and that type of salt enhances hop profiles,” he said.

Opening a bottle gives off a whiff of ocean, he said. The pour may be off putting, but a blind taste test among the 3 Sheeps crew proved otherwise. “They all picked squid ink as a hoppier version,” he said. “So I realized that I found my product and it gave me the black effect and it made more of what I love about an IPA and that’s the hops.”

Pauly uses he same grain bill 3 Sheeps uses for its Really Cool Waterslides IPA, but it reconfigured the hop bill to remove the citrus, fruity notes and instead inserted Simcoe for an earthier, piney flavor.

“I wanted to give hops the first billing on this thing,” he said. “I wanted to play more to the squid ink. There is a light hint of brine, much like at the end of eating an oyster.”

The beer — a 14-barrel batch that produced about 200 cases of bombers — was released at the beginning of September.

“It’s got some character to it,” Pauly said. “Luckily we have good people in the craft community that are willing to give it a try. And they like it by and large.”

It’s the third release in the brewery’s “Nimble Lips, Noble Tongue” series. Pauly said they plan to work on a Brett and a limestone rock ale made in the classic Stein fashion for the future of the series.

“It was fun to do,” Pauly said. “There are so many breweries out there that try to be creative and try to go for that shock-and-awe value. Which is great. For me, I would rather take an ingredient that you don’t think of putting in a beer and enhancing it and making it still drinkable. That’s where I get my kicks.”

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