As I wait for the wort chiller to do its thing on the ale, I thought I give a few minutes to a post about this style. I did take some photos of things during the boil, I'll post them later.
The 1996 Samuel Adams Longshot bottle from which I poured some of my stout tells all about my confusion and incredulity of the black ale. One of the winning entries that year was for a black lager. This style is also know as Schwarzbier. I find it quite unbelievable that some homebrewer didn't take a version of this style and make it into an ale. Yet, search though I have, the only version I can find as an ale is Belgian.
This is a dark, yet not grain bitter beer. It is quite different from a porter or stout is this regard, little to no bitterness from the roasted grain. When I started to make some guidelines for my American ale version, I kept this requirement in mind. The bitterness would be all hops, with hop characteristics in the mid and after taste. I still submit this as a new style, though I am well aware that it may already exist, just be extinct in modern brewing. After all, it seems the going thing now is smoked ales, in particular a porter. Ok, Rauchbier, I've seen this before on the lager side.
So, I come to the end of the soapbox talk. I submit that the Schwarzbier and Belgian Black ales can be used as a guide to make a new American ale style. Dark and malty, with loads of hop character and no grain bitterness (unless one overcooks the grains and gets tannins). We shall see how it turns out and where it goes from here. It should be fun, none-the-less.