There’s a new beer style emerging currently, and brewing right alongside it is an argument about whether this new style should be called Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA) or Black IPA (or one of the many variants of the latter).
This new beer is basically a dynamic duo of malt and hops – it is characteristically dark or black in appearance, due to roasted malt, but still retains the big, bold hop flavors and aromas more traditionally found in an IPA. There are claims that the style originated in Vermont and there are those who insists that homebrewers in the Pacific Northwest were making it first. But, wherever it started, the style is finally hitting the mainstream. As brewers across the country were experimenting with making this new beer style, a variety of names popped up because no one was quite sure what to call it: Black IPA, Black Ale, Dark Ale, India Dark Ale, India Style Dark ale, India Style Dark Ale, Cascadia Dark Ale, etc. In 2010, the Brewers Association added the style to the Great American Beer Festival guidelines and officially designated it as American-style Black Ale, but the debate about just what to call this beer rages on.
There are many who believe strongly in naming the style Black IPA, but a whole lot of us here in the Pacific Northwest are fighting for the name Cascadian Dark Ale. Yes, the style is dark and yes, it still tastes very hoppy, so we can see why the early brewers used terms like Black IPA to try to explain what they were brewing. But, it really bears little similarity to the historic IPA’s and paring the terms black or dark with pale ale in the same style name seems more than a little confusing! So our vote is for Cascadian Dark Ale. Not just because Cascadian hops are used in this beer style (and in a vast majority of all beers produced in the United States) and not just because there are those who trace the roots of this emerging beer style to our region. We are championing the name Cascadian Dark Ale because here, in the Cascade region, we have embraced this style while it was still a gimmick for most of the rest of the United States. The Pacific Northwest is where this new beer style is emerging, being embraced and being defined! Perhaps it’s just that it’s a natural fit for us. Those of us here in the Northwest seem to have a pallete all our own where big, bold flavors are appreciated – intensely roasted coffee and big, hoppy, bitter beers. Naming this style Cascadian Dark Ale is about honoring this region and the styles and hops that come from here and that have helped to shape this industry.
Those who argue against the CDA name say that it shows regional favortism and that we’re poised to go the route of champagne if we allow this (only Champagne comes from Champagne region of France – everything else must be called sparkling wine). But, brewing with Cascade hops or brewing the beer HERE in the Cascade Region is not a requirement for the style. The name is more appropriately seen as an homage to where this beer style came into it’s own. We don’t think this is any different from other beers named for specific regions: Pilsners from Pilsen in the Czech Republic or Scotch Ale from Scotland. Pilsners and Scotch Ales are now brewed everywhere, by all kinds of brewers…and yet, the names remain and they honor the roots of those beer styles. Just as we hope Cascadian Dark Ales will honor the Cascade region and it’s part in brewing history. Cheers – from all of us here at Boundary Bay Brewery!