Well, the time has come. The mighty Propaganda has been bottled for two weeks and is ready to drink. Instead of the usual simple tasting, I decided that Mrs Nelly and I should do a "Black IPA comparative blind taste test". I bought a bottle of Thornbridge Raven (which used to be called Wild Raven) and a Buxton Imperial Black IPA (7.5%).
In the brief period of time between our child going to bed and tea being ready, we did an "in-depth" taste test.
Drink A (Thornbridge) was hoppy-ish, with a head that stuck around. It had a medium body and a slight caramel/toffee taste. It also pulled off the clever trick of managing to have a fairly white head on a black drink.
Drink B (Buxton) had the least aroma and had a head which subsided the quickest with the least carbonation. We noticed a distinct liquorice flavour which, while not unpleasant was different to the other two.
Drink C (Nelly Brewery) was the darkest in colour and had a slightly brown foamy head. It had more carbonation than the other two and more mouthfeel.
Mrs Nelly, the Father-in-law and I agreed that we liked Beer A the best, Beer C second and Beer B third. I felt that the Buxton was too flat and became a bit chewy and hard-going as a result, which I think can happen easily with very strong, dark ales and was something I had consciously been trying to avoid. The Thornbridge beer definitely had more flavour, with a lovely complex roasted, caramel taste and was really nice, as you'd expect, having recently been voted best Black IPA in the World.
I think that next time, I would slightly reduce the amount of dark malts used, as there was more than enough to make it go black. And it needs more hops. When I tried a few bottles in the first week, the hop aroma was still there but after two weeks in the bottle, it's all but gone. You have to put a stupid amount into these beers, to get the delicate hop aromas to stand out against the strong roasted malt background. I reckon about 400g in late and dry-hopping would be okay for the next batch.
I had another three bottles of Propaganda and can now report that the hangovers you get from homebrew are very similar to the ones you get from shop-bought ale. Urgh!