When it comes to beer, we live in exciting times. More and more people are discovering the world’s 140+ styles of ales and lagers, spurring a brewing Renaissance. Not only is this North American thirst bringing traditional European beer styles, like Witbier and Gueuze, back from the verge of extinction, it’s even spawning entirely new styles. Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA) is one.
CDAs are so new that debate around defining the style still lingers, mostly over what to call it. My former colleague from Northwest Brewing News, Abram Goldman-Armstrong, actively advocated for calling it a Cascadian Dark Ale because it originated in the Pacific Northwest with beers such as Phillips Black Toque and Rogue Mogul Madness. CDAs are also distinct in their liberal use of Northwest hop varieties. So to call them an American-style India Black Ale, Black IPA, or India Dark Ale is, at the very least, confusing the public with references to India where absolutely no connection to the Subcontinent exists.
Goldman-Armstrong submitted draft style guidelines to the US Brewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program. The BA modified these, and first offered “American-style India Black Ale” as a category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2010. It has since been re-classified as American Black Ale. Regardless of the name, this beer should be deep brown to black with ruby highlights, and topped by a white to tan head. Northwest hops should feature prominently in the aroma with sweet malt and hints of roast malt, chocolate or coffee. In terms of taste, CDAs are meant to be hop-forward. Despite their colour, the roast malt flavour is supposed to be much less than a stout or porter, and finish dry.
As with any style of beer, when you taste one, you haven’t tasted them all. While style specifications seem, well, quite specific, a wide range of flavour profiles can be achieved. Granville Island’s Cascadian Dark Ale sneaks in at the more accessible end of the range for those who don’t get a testosterone rush from alpha acids. The hop bitterness and dark-roasted malts are quite balanced, which may spawn beer geek arguments over whether this can even be called a CDA, but this is just semantics for those only interested in a quaffable brew. Citrus, floral, and tropical notes come from Falconer’s Flight, a proprietary blend of Northwest hops created by Hopunion to commemorate legendary Oregon brewer, Glen Hay Falconer. I’d like to see a bit more hop character, especially when this ale warms to cellar temperature. Perhaps we’ll see that in next year’s version. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable effort from Granville Island that will pair well with braised or grilled beef if you are firing up the barbecue this long weekend.
Brewer: Granville Island Brewing
Category: Cascadian Dark Ale
Availability: for a limited time in 650ml bottles at the GIB retail store and BC liquor stores; in draft at select Vancouver pubs and restaurants.