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05-03-2010, 07:07
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It feels like every time Iíve read through the American beer blogs or looked at twitter this week Iíve been faced with the term Cascadian Dark Ale. Adrian Tierney-Jones (http://maltworms.blogspot.com/2010/03/cascadian-dark-ale.html) wrote about it this week, linking back to a Hop Press (http://hoppress.com/) post by Lisa Morrison (http://lisamorrison.hoppress.com/2010/01/26/emerging-beer-style-cascadian-dark-ale/), since then itís popped up repeatedly with the name slipping casually into place as if everyone accepts, knows and understands what it is already... but I donít like it.


Iíve grown to like ĎBlack IPAí as the name for a dark beer lustily bittered and flavoured with US hops. Yes, itís an oxymoron if you look at it as being an India Pale Ale, but Iíd sit down opposite you in the pub and happily argue the point (which Iíve written about here (http://pencilandspoon.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-hell-is-ipa.html)) that ĎIPAí and ĎIndia Pale Aleí are terms which can be used separately and that ĎIPAí has become its own noun with different meanings to ĎIndia Pale Aleí to todayís drinker. Iíd argue this because the evolution of an IPA, in nearly all modern examples, separates it from its historical connotations in many ways: different hop varieties used; different mentality behind the brewing; the now-redundant use of ships and barrel-aging; the necessity to drink these beers super fresh rather than brewing them to taste one way and appreciating that it will change into a more drinkable beer. New-skool IPAs are not Pale Ales brewed to be exported to the Indian market in the 19th century, they are something completely new.


IPA has become the staple of US brewing and itís almost a benchmark of how good a brewery is Ė if your IPA isnít up to it then neither is the rest of it. Black IPA is a US thing, which is now being picked up by British brewers. As itís a US thing, you need to look at the US understanding of an IPA, which for me, when suffixed onto a beer name, tells me Iíll be getting something pale in colour (usually golden, through caramels and into an orange hue) with a lot of vibrant, fruity, citrusy, piny hops and a bold bitterness. There is no link to a beer which has made a long sea journey to be enjoyed in India. A Black IPA tells me Iím getting a dark beer with the hop quality of a Ďregularí IPA and I think it works. Plus the oxymoronic quality of the name somehow adds something, as if this style were a little bit naughty and rule breaking, which transfers into the taste.


But some people donít like ĎBlack IPAí, hence the push for Cascadian Dark Ale to be the style name. I would guess that this push is mainly coming from the Pacific Northwest, specifically in the Cascade region... To me, CDA means nothing. Sure thatís where most of the hops grow, but thatís not enough and the area is too specific for a Ďworld styleí. Lisa Morrison lists four reasons why she likes the name Cascadian Dark Ale. Iíd argue against all of them. One, Black IPA and Dark IPA are oxymoronic, but Iím fine with that, as Iíve said, because the style is challenging and different, so the name fits. Two, she thinks CDA is a great bar call, as in ďTwo CDAs pleaseĒ. I think itís a terrible bar call. It sounds like a drug or an illness. Three, the story and history behind a beer style endear people to it, which is true, but you canít magic up history in a couple of months, slap a new name on it and expect people to be interested. Thatís called marketing and I donít think the story behind it is interesting enough (ĎOh, thatís just where a lot of hops grow, then?í I can hear them saying, but engage them in a discussion of Black/Dark IPA, the history of IPA, the evolution of style and the use of the Black/Dark misnomer and thatís interesting). Four, it celebrates an appellation, but would this stop hops grown outside of the Cascade area from going into a CDA? Does the water and barley need to be from there too? I will also add that Cascadian Dark Ale sounds like the name of a brew, not a style.


If the term Black IPA isnít liked, and Cascadian Dark Ale doesnít do it for me, then what about alternatives? Dark IPA is a gentler version of Black IPA, and I like that. ĎDarkí doesnít crash in like ĎBlackí, instead it suggests that the beer is just a little darker than usual. What about India Brown? Or is this just a strange linking of styles between an IPA and a Brown Ale? Does the addition of ĎIndiaí to a name immediately suggest that lots of hops have been added? If so, why? What about Imperial Brown Ale, just like red ales have been Imperialised (and they taste like Red IPAs...), why not just intensify the Brown Ale?


I do think we need to have a name for this emerging style of beer but I hope Cascadian Dark Ale doesnít stick. It seems to me that Black IPA is working so far, so I donít see a need to change it, but if itís going to change then my vote goes with Dark IPA or Imperial/India Brown Ale (IBA).


What do you think works as a name? And as a side note, which dark IPAs are good? I havenít found Thornbridgeís Raven (http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/thornbridge-raven/113934/21197/), which sounds like a winner, but Iím not a huge fan of the style yet as for me thereís something which collides somewhere between the heavy roasted bitterness and the citrusy hop bitterness...
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