It's taken me a while to post this up; I just had to wait to do a side-by-side comparison when a brewer makes a light and dark version of the same beer. St Austell, that Cornish bedrock of the eponymous Tribute, have always had a few secret weapons up their sleeve; Admiral's Ale is a fantastically complex drop, and you'll find a secret fan club for Proper Job.
What makes Proper Job (5.5%abv) a little special is the fact that it's almost unashamedly non-commercial; a truly English IPA that manages to be both tasty and assertive enough to satisfy traditionalists and hop-heads alike. There's smooth, wheaty malt, sure, but over the top there's a marmalade-heavy juiciness; and on top of that richness comes zingy grapefruit notes both in the aroma and the taste. The bitterness is, as the label states for a change, powerful, and supremely rising in it's assertiveness. This is not a crowd-pleaser; Proper Job manages to tread that line between mainstream and 'different' very well indeed.
Proper Black (6%abv) arrived to very little fanfare when the world was going crazy for Black IPA; and again, there's a great balance here. Tasting the two side-by-side almost makes me want the same beer but different colours (even the label is a negative version of the original), but Proper Black manages to be even more assertive, if you ask me. Black as night, the body of the beer is massively different to it's lighter sister. Massive roasted notes, milk chocolate, drying coffee (Latte? Espresso?) give the beer a full yet rounded body; and all those bitter-end-of-the-scale flavours give PB a dry, dry finish. To counter this, the hop profile seems almost twice a big as PJ; Grapefruit upon Grapefruit upon Orange pith. Big, Brash and Powerful; Proper Black is one beer not to be messed with.
Whilst we are on the Black IPA channel, Buxton's wonderful Black Rocks is on at North Bar this weekend, alongside Moor Top, Kinder Sunset and the awesome Axe Edge IPA. Put this alongside Proper Job and you've got a very different prospect: BR is much, much fruitier; tropical fruits, Lychee and Strawberry dominate, and the body of the beer is light enough to lift those up but roasty enough to make sure you know it's a dark beer. Fruity, Smooth and with a real depth, Black Rocks is one of the most balanced, drinkable BIPA's I've tried.