Review: Back in Black, 21st Amendment Brewery

Back in Black
21st Amendment Brewery — San Francisco, CA

  • Style:  Black IPA / Cascadian Dark Ale
  • Bitterness:  65 IBUs
  • ABV:  6.8%
  • OG:  Not provided
  • Malts:  Rahr Pale, Crystal 45L, Munich, De-bittered Black.
  • Hops:
    • Bittering:  Columbus
    • Flavor:  Columbus and Centennial
    • Dry Hop: Centennial and Simcoe
  • Sampled:  12 oz. CAN

Description: “Inspired by Paul Revere's midnight ride, we rebelled against the British style IPA, embraced the more aggressive American version and then recast it in bold, brave, defiant black. Our Black IPA is a Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the expected.  Back in Black is our newest year-round beer available now in six pack cans and on draft. Brewed like an American IPA but with the addition of rich, dark malts, this beer has all the flavor and hop character you expect with a smooth, mellow finish." — 21st Amendment Brewery

Random thoughts:  I wanted to try Back in Black for a few reasons.  First, I've been on a quest to sample CDAs (Black IPAs).  Second, I wanted to find out if canned craft beer can taste good.  Third, this beer has a wicked cool name and I suspect that the brewers' are paying homage to AC/DC.
The tasting:  Color was dark brown—not quite black.  It had a tan colored head with good retention.  Aroma was mostly hops, along the lines of grapefruit. After it warmed up, I could smell the malts.  The first flavors I noticed were some roasted malts and coffee.  Then the taste of the hops came through and left a slightly bitter aftertaste, which was pleasant.  There was a touch of sweetness, that I could have done without.  Body was light.  Carbonation level was nice.  Very drinkable.

Comparison:  I've tried two CDA's so far—and liked each of them.  Deschutes' Hop in the Dark reminded me of an over hopped Porter.  Alaskan Double Black IPA was more of a malty IPA.  But Back in Black is unique, in my opinion, because it tastes like a distinct beer style, rather than a combination of two existing styles.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again.   The only reason I didn't award it 5 stars is because of the subtle sweetness.  That minor point aside, this is a great beer and I highly recommend that you try it!  Men's Journal magazine agrees—they recently called Back in Black one of the 25 Best Beers in the WORLD!   My reviews and ratings are not intended to replicate the views of professionals.  They're simply a reflection of my personal tastes—nothing more.  But my tastes tell me to try more of 21st Amendment's beer soon!

Oh, I almost forget the whole "can" thing.  Let's just say this....after trying Back in Black, I CAN say that good beer CAN be CANNED.  The moment I poured it into a glass and got a whiff of the aroma, I totally forgot about the can hullabaloo.  I think we'll being seeing more cans in the future, so get over your bottled beer snobbery already.

Have you had Back in Black or any of 21st Amendment's other beers?  If so, please let me know what you think.

10/25 update:  Check out my interview with Nico Freccia, Co-Founder of 21st Amendment.


  1. Just tried the Brew Free or Die IPA. Very good. I'll be looking for the other beers to try.

  2. Mark, I have not tried that yet. Keep your eyes out for Monk's Blood. I've been hearing great things about it. Should be out by mid- to late December.

  3. Tried the Back in Black yesterday. Excellent beer! It enhances my own love affair with the Black IPA/CDA.

  4. It's a great style. I brewed a CDA a few weeks ago and just had my first (carbonated) taste of it today. It turned out GREAT! My favorite of the three I brewed so far. Makes me wonder what other great combinations are just waiting to be discovered.

  5. I always go back to the Back in Black. Great beer. I got to thinking about what you wrote here about the next great combo......when I lived in Billings, MT I would frequent a small brewery, Yellowstone Valley. One of the brewers there would fancy himself an "alchemist" and would often combine beers that he had on tap in into the glass. I thought this was a strange thing to do until I trusted his judgement and enjoyed several of his combos. What are your thoughts on this practise and have you experienced it?


Thoughts? Tell me what you think.