Young and Hungry

Black and Hoppy Beers: What Do You Call ‘Em?


WaPo's Greg Kitsock and I are both beer writers in D.C., and we frequent many of the same bars, shops, and overly geeky listservs, but rarely do we actually cross paths. So it's significant that we both happened to choose the emerging "black IPA" style for our columns this week. Well, at least that's what I wrote about. Kitsock told the story of the "Cascadian Dark Ale," which is the terminology that he (and many brewers in the Pacific Northwest, home to the Cascade mountain range) prefers for this new cropping of hoppy American beers with thick, chocolatey malt profiles. The thinking, say advocates of the "CDA" label, is that it's paradoxical to have a beer that's both "black" and "pale" (the "P" in IPA).

But why would the Pacific Northwest get to own this beer style? Its origins trace back to Vermont. Stone, in southern California, and 21st Amendment, in San Francisco, make two of the country's best versions, and Philadelphia's Victory had a go at the style last year with Yakima Twilight. Cascade also is a variety of hop, the most common one in American pale ales (think Sierra Nevada); it's representative of a lot more than this new breed of black, hoppy beer.

So for me, "Cascadian dark ale" is out. Yes, "black and pale" is an oxymoron, but if our nation's eaters can handle Junior Whoppers and "tall" Starbucks lattes, I'm willing to look the other way for a black IPA. It just sounds cooler.

  • D

    ...let alone the "Imperial" designation and how it has nothing to do with anything that has any connotation with that term.

    The whole exchange over the style name is nothing but snobbery and needless bickering over semantics.

  • Lisa

    I love the style and don't care what people end up calling it, but I'm leaning toward the ridiculous, given how it's been playing out in beer geek land - His Dark Hoppiness (or HDH for short). I'd love to see that as an official BJCP style.

  • WDC

    You'd have to count Dogfish's India Brown in the same category - definitely not a West Coast brewery. I've got no problems with BIPA or IBA. At least those names describe the beer. The Cascadians have great PR but no case.

  • RKW

    I have tried only 2 beers of this style. 21st Amendment back in black, which I think is only okay, and Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous, which is awesome. Wait, that isn't the question though.

    Dark IPA. I prefer names that give you a good idea of the character without bringing in outside info. For example, I am bothered that ESBs are not that bitter.

  • monkeyrotica

    LOVE ESBs that aren't bitter. That's what makes them extra special: they don't taste like death-by-hops.

  • Durwood


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