Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cascadian Dark Ale Beer School

Everyone has their own thoughts about the origins of the Cascadian Dark Ale/Black IPA/American Style Black Ale. The following is the story I told the left4beer beer school class last month. All were polite and didn't disagree; perhaps they were worried that I would not share the epic selection of beer.

The first appearance of the Black IPA is accredited to the Vermont Pub and Brewery with their Blackwatch IPA in 1994. Things really got rolling in 2003 at the Oregon Brewing Festival. This is when John Maier (Rogue) first released the Skull Splitter schwarzbier. In December of the following year, Phillips Brewing created the Black Toque India Dark Ale. The exact designation of the Cascadian Dark Ale is a bit of a mystery, but its thought that Matt Phillips first coined and really used the phrase. Until recently this was not an officially recognized beer style. In 2011, the Brewers Association added it to their beer style guidelines as the American Style Black Ale. Their guidelines are used to judge beers at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. At this moment there is not a BJCP beer style, but a proposed one is on facebook.

To start off a night of Black IPAs, you gotta go with the Skookum. The nose is hop forward with pine, citrus but there is added roast and light chocolate. Pine vapours hit the palate first before the liquids arrive. Your tongue is washed with large doses of citrus and pine with malts that are lightly roasted with chocolate. In case you were curious the mouth feel, it was medium to full, like most Phillips beers.

The next beer of the evening was canned. The Back in Black IPA is a perfect example of new ideas. A new beer style (Black IPA) and a newly rediscovered format, the aluminum can. Inside is a beer almost as black as the can. Overall it was very smooth with molasses, roasted pine and bitter dark chocolate flavours.
The invention of the two piece aluminum beer can was attributed to the Adolph Coors company in 1959. Maybe I will save this history lesson for another posting.

The beers just got better and better. Bump in the Night is a brewmasters reserve for 2011 by Full Sail. This was lighter than the rest but still had lots of flavours. Lots of roast, berries and slight honey on the rose. The taste was cool with menthol, bittersweet chocolate and hints of berries. At the end it was all dry cocoa and berries.

The great looking bottle of the Succession by HUB was the next in line. This thing delivered a wallop of hop goodness. Pick any PNW hop flavour and it was there: pine, citrus, floral and even cotton candy. All this and an ample dose of roasted chocolate and espresso; what is not to love about this beer.

An imposing gargoyle greeted us as we opened a bottle of Stone's Self-Righteous ale. The numbers on the side are massive: 90 IBUs and 8.7%ABV. We were not scared. Ouch, we should have been wary. The hops were very apparent and leaned towards the tropic fruit area with back up from citrus and cotton candy. This brew is teeming with flavours; all of them good. Nothing was left out: bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, berry esters, molasses, citrus and cotton candy. The Self-Righteous just tasted a lot bigger than the rest.

Everyone had a great time sampling great beers that originated from our part of the world. Not sure about the next beer school. The Pilsner edition did not go well. Hopefully the 'All About Wheat' edition will do better in July.


Brewtal Truth said...

Nice. Surprised that Deschutes' Hop in the Dark wasn't included. Maybe it wasn't available at the time. There's a blog in Portland (Beervana, I think) with a good piece on the history of the style. I'm quite sure that Portlanders were referring to the style as a CDA before Phillips, but I could be wrong. Here's my own piece on it that ran in Decibel magazine. http://brewtaltruth.blogspot.com/2011/01/blackened-beer-decibel-73-november-2010.html.

Unknown said...

The Hop in the Dark was excellent, but I could only find one bottle. I needed two for the beer school. I'm sure it was Phillips, but then again I am biased.
BTW I have previously read your article, well done.