Beers of Cascadia

cascadia solstice rainbow pride


“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”
― Benjamin Franklin

University of Washington professor W.J. Rorabaugh wrote in The Alcoholic Republic that “Patriots viewed public houses as the nurseries of freedom,” and that taverns were “certainly seed beds of the Revolution, the places where British tyranny was condemned, militiamen organized, and independence plotted.”


The Pacific Northwest (OR-WA) was slower in developing than CA but has truly become a beer mecca. Portland is not only the leading city for numbers of micros/brewpubs if considering a radius of about 25 miles it now surpasses Munich, Germany as the beer mecca of the planet (# of breweries). The beers in the Pacific Northwest (OR-WA) are a bit closer to true styles and CA’s are more unique. But that is not to say that brewers such as Rogue for example, does not make a nice selection of innovative beers-it/they do. Deschutes Brewery’s – 2009 Reserve, Mirror Mirror is further evidence of the great and even daring beers brewed in the PNW. Choose either of these regions as the standout(s). Most hops grown

Today marks the beginning of American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) – a nationwide celebration of craft beer in the U.S. Sponsored by the Brewers Association, this looks to be the biggest ACBW yet, with events taking place in all fifty states. To celebrate, I will be posting new craft beer posts every day of the week (starting with today). Today’s feature is on the Declaration of Beer Independence.

I declare that these are historic times for beer, with today’s beer lover having inalienable rights,
among these life, liberty, and the pursuit of hops and malt fermented from the finest of U.S.
small and independent craft brewers with more than 1,600 of them brewing today, and,

I declare the beer I choose to enjoy is not a commodity, but more importantly an artistic creation of living liquid history made from passionate innovators. The beer I drink furthers our culture and teaches us geography and helps to nurture a sense of community, and helps to make the world a better place, and,

I declare to practice the concept of “Informed Consumption,” seeking and deserving to know if my beer comes from a small and independent brewer or if it is owned by a large brewing company. I want to know why so many of my local beer brands are not available in many of my favorite restaurants, bars and beer stores, and I encourage beer sellers to offer a wide selection of beer styles and beer brands that includes beer from my local and regional breweries, and,



Give these guys a beer and they can describe the subtlest overtones from lemon-lime to burnt rubber. They are part of the fermentation science program at Oregon State University headed by Tom Shellhammer, and they’re building a new vocabulary of beer.

The best place to pattern the most effective of Northwest handcrafted ale is a well run brewpub, which is able to stimulate the human spirit with heat, the scent of malt, nice conversation, and hearty food.

Helping to fight the chilly, damp local weather of the region, brewpubs have change into great locations of refuge the place you may shake off the tears of a hostile world, order a pint of cask beer, then savor a posh beer that may caress every one in every of your senses.

Folks like sustainably-minded homebrewerAbram Goldman-Armstrong are lobbying for CDAs to be officially recognized by the American Homebrewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program. To Goldman-Armstrong and other proponents of the beer of Pacific Northwest origin, the term “Black IPA” simply will not suffice.

To call Goldman-Armstrong a beer aficionado would be an understatement. The Oregon native is an accomplished beer scribe and organizer of the largest organic beer festival in North America (NAOBF). Hopworks Urban Brewery used Goldman-Armstong’s own recipe for a CDA to construct the pitchy Secession Ale. Goldman-Armstrong has worked for some time to raise the public’s awareness for what he demands be referred to as a “Cascadian Dark Ale,” a beer that does share hop characteristics of a Northwest IPA, but with complexities all its own. While some, in order to dumb-down or make more widely acceptable, use the term Black IPA, Goldman-Armstrong makes a solid case for allowing the beer its own sub-style in the BJCP brewers guidelines. The beer style reflects the rich culture of brewing and recognizes the important harvest prevailing from the watersheds throughout and the climate zone spanning from Northern California into British Columbia.

Abram Goldman-Armstrong’s Proposed Style Guidelines for the Cascadian Dark Ale:

Cascadian Dark Ale (aka Black IPA)

Aroma: prominent NW hop aromas: citrus, pine, resinous, sweet malt, hints of roast, toast, chocolate malt, and/or Carafa, dry hopped character is often present.

Appearance: Deep brown to black with ruby highlights. Head varies from whit to tan/khaki.

Flavor: A balance between citrus-like and spicy NW hop flavor, bitterness, caramel malt, and roast, chocolate, or Carafa-type malts.

Roast character ranges from subtle to medium. Black malt is acceptable at low levels, but should not be astringent. Intense ashy, burnt character is not appropriate. Caramel malt as a secondary flavor is acceptable but the finish should be dry. Diacetyl should not be present. Emphasis should be on hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium, hop bitterness and tannins from roast malts combine to create a dry mouthfeel. Resinous character from high levels of dry hopping may create a tongue coating sensation.

History: A style that emerged on the Northwest Coast of North America in the early 21st Century. Northwest hops are prominent, balanced with malt, roast malts give color and flavor, but body should be reminiscent of an IPA, not heavy like a porter or stout. The style is not only gaining traction with brewers in the Pacific Northwest, but is starting to spread to other regions.

Comments: Some brewers prefer to cold steep the dark grains to achieve a very dark beer without the tannin contribution of adding the grains to the mash. The use of Sinnamar to enhance color is common.

IBUs 40-90

Color: 40+ SRM

ABV 5.5-8.5%

Classic Examples: Rogue Brewer, Phllips Black Toque, Hopworks Secession CDA, Barley Brown’s Turmoil, Widmer Collaborator Cascadian Dark Ale, Lucky Lab Black Sheep, Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, Walking Man Big Black Homo, Rogue Black Brutal, Pelican Bad Santa, New Holland Black Hatter, Laughing Dog Dogzilla

Gordon Strong, president of BJCP responded to these guidelines with the following:

“There has been a mechanism around for quite awhile for someone to do something like that. I have a style guidelines template on the style section of the web site. If someone wants to propose a style, all they have to do is write it up and send it in.

Ever since the 2004 guidelines, I have also said that I supported the idea of proto-styles being described this way. Enter it in the experimental category, but use a style description that’s posted on the web site. Then pay attention to how often you see it entered in competitions. If it’s something that people are making a lot, then consider it for incorporation into the full guidelines at a later date.

I have approached a number of people about writing up styles in this way.

So far I’ve only seen two attempts, one at Australian Pale/Sparkling Ale and one at English Golden Ale. Both need a little more work before posting.

For newer American styles, I’d prefer to see if they are going to be made year after year rather than being a flash-in-the-pan. The BA makes guidelines for the GABF that change every year and often have these faddish styles included. We’d like to see if they have some staying power before including them, although writing them up as a provisional style certainly has a lower bar than that for inclusion in the full guidelines.

The specialty and Belgian specialty categories have lists of styles that could be considered real styles that haven’t been written up. Any of those could be covered in the same way.

So, yes, I’m in general support of doing something like this, but at first only as something that would be entered as a specialty. The hardest part is for someone to do the full research and accurately describe the full range of a style, providing commercial examples, specs, etc. Lots of people seem to think they can do this, but they never seem to come up with anything complete enough. If someone wants to do the work, I will certainly work with them to review what they’ve done and ultimately release it.”


BJCP’s Region Representative, Ted Hausotter added:

“The BJCP is the tail of the dog, it makes no beer, or does it create beer styles. It is just a group of beer judges sitting around waiting for you to ask them to judge a certain beer style to a certain criteria. Actually we do more but you get my point. The BJCP also will write the style guidelines so the beer judges can have a reference to judge it by. To bring this forward, articles need to be written in magazines to bring awareness of the style to home brewers. Recipes available along with a style guide needs to be available. The easier it is to turn in a entry in a (homebrew) contest, the faster the beer style is recognized.”

Interview with Abram Goldman-Armstrong

Aside from the detailed BJCP guidelines you’ve mentioned for a Cascadian Dark Ale, how do you briefly summarize what the style entails?

Abram Goldman-Armstrong: Big Northwest hops offset with roast character in a fairly light bodied beer. A session beer for the Pacific Northwest, massively flavorful, dripping with hop sap, and with around 6-7 percent ABV.

Why do feel it is important for people to understand and recognize this beer as something more than simply a Black IPA or Brown IPA?

AG: The signature hops of the style are all grown in Cascadia, the Pacific Northwest. This is a style that clearly originated here, and has grown in popularity over the years.

Did you invent the name Cascadian Dark Ale? Where did it first come from to the best of your knowledge?

AG: No, My friend and home-brewing buddy Bill Wood coined the phrase, when we were brewing an India Dark Ale in 2007. He was reacting to the term “San Diego style pale ale” he said that the CDA style should be named after the Northwest since brewers here invented it.

The first Cascadian Dark Ales were brewed by John Maier at Rogue. Mogul Madness, Black Brutal, Skullsplitter, and Brewer come to mind all brewed in the early 2000s, though Mogul is older I don’t personally find it roasty enough for the category. Matt Phillips at Phillips in Victoria BC, also developed the style independently in 2002 0r 2003. He couldn’t decide whether to release a brown ale or an IPA, and ended up brewing a hybrid, Black Toque, which was one of the first beers I had in this style.

How important is the geography, culture, or other variable behind this particular style of beer?

AG: This is a style that could only have come from the passion Cascadian brewers have for our hops. People (often correctly) accuse brewers in this part of the world (particularly Oregon of over-hopping styles that should not be. (NW style ESBs are a good example of this). Cascadian Dark Ale is a great example of how this love of hops can help develop new styles. Who would expect a big hop character to work with roast flavors? In the Northwest its been done in stouts, so when someone comes along and makes a CDA, people taste it and judge it in a “does this taste good fashion” instead of assuming that the beer did not work out right.

How did the CDA symposium come together?

AG: It came out of a conversation I had with Shawn Kelso of Barley Browns at the Great American Beer Festival this fall, we went around trying different CDAs on the fest floor (most were from Oregon), and said hey let’s put together a symposium to talk about the style. We talked to Carl Singmaster of Belmont Station and Carl and I began wrangling kegs from across Cascadia.

What can people expect at this event?

AG: The symposium itself is a chance for brewers to taste and discuss the style, and hopefully develop the loose BJCP style guidelines into something a little more specific. (the symposium itself is limited to brewers and media only, due to space constraints) Everyone else can except the biggest assortment of Cascadian Dark Ales on draught in one place ever before, starting Wednesday the 20th (of January).

What are some of your favorite representations of the style?

AG: Barley Brown’s Turmoil, Phillips Black Toque and selfishly my own, a version of which is now available commercially as Secession from Hopworks.

Did you have a hand in pushing Widmer to release the W ’10 as their latest Reserve Series brew?

AG: No, but the brewers asked me about the style when they were developing it and I did push for the term Cascadian Dark, which appears on the the label despite the “Pitch Black IPA” tagline.

Hopworks also is bottling their Secession CDA, do you foresee many other brewers joining in to make this a regularly or at least regular seasonally produced style?

AG: Yeah, in addition to Phillips where it has been a standard beer since 2003, there seems to be a lot of interest in the style. Deschutes is rumored to be releasing one as a seasonal soon. Benton Brigade from Block 15 in Corvallis is already a seasonal. Stone has added one to its lineup after releasing it first as its 11th anniversary beer, Carl Singmaster even brought back a 9.5% imperial CDA from South Carolina.

As with most styles of beer outlined in the BJCP there is a bit of variance between one particular representation to the next, is there a specific aroma, appearance, flavor, or mouthfeel you prefer (ie more aromatic hops vs bittering hops; specific malt varieties)?

AG: Big NW hop aroma is required for the style. preferably dry hopped. I favor Amarillo for this, New Zealand varieties can also help with the citrus character, I’ve used Pacific Gem before. As for malt the not so secret ingredient in the style is Weyermann Carafa, which gives the intense black color without too much bitterness. Sinnamar, a liquid color extract made from Carafa by Weyermann is often used as well. I personally like a hint of roast barley and some chocolate malt as well. The mouthfeel is what sets this style apart from American Stouts, it should give the impression of light to medium mouthfeel, like an IPA.

What do you think it will take to get BJCP and ABA to recognize this specific style of beer as more than simply a Black IPA?

AG: Good question, the answer from BJCP is “entries, entries, entries.” They want a bunch of entries in the category 23 “experimental beer” class, labeled as CDAs. I have submitted my loose style guidelines to the Brewers Association, and will submit more comments post-symposium.

Any word of any CDAs making an appearance at the NAOBF this year?

AG: Not certain, I would love to get the Elliott Bay version for the fest, Doug Hindman brought a keg for the Brewer’s Lounge and it was quite good. Maybe Secession if Hopworks is amenable.


So here’s a note for all of you Cascadian beer bloggers, homebrewers, and all-around beer geeks: If you’d like to support the style, write about it, brew it, and talk it up. This will help it generate some traction. Otherwise you might be stuck with only Black IPAs.



Birth of a New Style: Cascadian Dark Ale



Author Marc Martin
Issue Jul/Aug 2010

Variety is the spice of life. For hundreds of years, wine drinkers have enjoyed many different wine varieties and a vast array of vintages. Beer aficionados, especially those in the US, have not been so lucky. It has only been since the late 70s and early 80s that a wider variety of beer styles have become readily available. We are now blessed with 78 beer styles, many with sub-categories, recognized by the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Most of these have been around for many years, with fewer styles being recent additions. That is what makes the birth  of a new beer style exciting.

This brings us to the great Pacific Northwest, home to vast fields of barley and, of course, the two largest hop producing regions in North America — the Yakima Valley and the Willamette Valley. With the most breweries of any city in the world, it is easy to understand why beer-loving residents refer to Portland, Oregon as “Beervana.” What better place for the beginnings of a flavorful new beer style?

On January 23rd, I was fortunate to be invited to a beer symposium to discuss Cascadian dark ale. Seven other beer writers and thirteen brewers gathered at one of the most famous bottle shops in the northwest, Belmont Station, to discuss this new style. The meeting was lead by Abram Goldman-Armstrong, a local beer writer and volunteer point man for promoting this new beer style. Nineteen examples of the proposed new style were present for a tasting and to serve as a basis for evaluating the limits of the style parameters. Industry leaders like Rob Widmer of Widmer Brewing were among the attendees to offer their support and feedback. The plan was to finalize the style descriptors and basic recipe guidelines. Once completed, this information would be forwarded to the Brewers Association (BA), organizers of the GABF, and also to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) for their consideration.

The proposed beer name was Cascadian Dark Ale. The term “Cascadia” is derived from the Cascade Mountain Range. It is used to describe a self -designated region that encompasses British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, western Idaho and northern California. This area, also known as “The Peoples Republic of Cascadia,” has been the source of many stories and rumors. There has been talk of seceding from the union in order to protect the hop supply. A Cascadian flag has even been created featuring a tall evergreen tree and three colors, blue, white and green representing blue sky, white capped mountains and green forests.

Who brewed the first version of this style is a point of great debate. Some say Greg Noonan of Vermont brewed one in the early 90s, but this can’t be substantiated. What we do know is that the first two widely-known examples came from the Northwest. In 2003, John Maier of Rogue Brewing in Newport, Oregon made Skull Splitter, a black interpretation of his Brutal Bitter strong IPA. About that same time Matt Phillips, owner of Phillips Brewing in Victoria, British Columbia brewed Black Toque which he labeled an India Dark Ale. (Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown Ale, a beer with a similar mix of dark grains and extensive hops, has been available since 1999.)

Since then, many dark brown to black beers of IPA proportions have been brewed by Northwest breweries, usually as a specialty beer for a festival. The style gained greater exposure when Widmer Brewing’s W-10, also know as Pitch Black IPA, won a gold medal in last year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Now this beer is part of their bottled line up and distributed in several states. Probably the biggest indicator of the popularity of this style was that nineteen breweries produced the examples we tasted for this symposium. So, what is so special about this beer?

A quick review of the specifications we proposed will provide your first clue:

Color = 30+ SRM
Original gravity = 1.060–1.080
Final gravity = 1.010–1.016
Bitterness = 50–90 IBU
Alcohol by volume = 6.0–8.5%

Your second clue is a list of the proposed style descriptors:

Aroma – Prominent Northwest variety hop aromas – resinous pine, citrus, sweet malt, hints of roast malt, chocolate and/or Carafa®, can include mild coffee notes, dry hopped character is often present.

Appearance – Deep brown to black with ruby highlights. Head varies from white to tan/khaki.

Flavor – A balance between citrus like and spicy Northwest hop flavor, bitterness, caramel and roast, chocolate, or Carafa® type malts. Any roast character should be subdued. Black malt is acceptable at low levels but should not be astringent. Any burnt character is not appropriate. The finish should be dry with caramel malt as a secondary flavor. Diacetyl should not be present. The main emphasis should be on hop flavor.

Mouthfeel – Light to medium, hop bitterness and tannins from roast malts combine to create a dry mouthfeel. Resinous character from high levels of dry hopping may create a tongue coating sensation.

Comments – Some brewers prefer to cold steep the dark grains to achieve a very dark beer without the tannin contribution of adding these grains to the mash. The use of Sinamar® color extract to enhance the color is common.

What differentiates Cascadian dark ale from a hoppy porter or stout? There are really three main differences. The first would be the basic hop profile. These beers are brewed using traditional IPA bittering, flavor and aroma hops with citrus, spice and floral characteristics. Typical hop selections would be Columbus, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade or hybrids of these like Warrior or Magnum. The second would be the vastly reduced roast malt flavor contributions. The use of debittered Carafa® malts instead of black patent or roast barley. This provides color without the harsher, burnt flavor profiles of robust porters or stouts. And finally, the third is the much drier finish. This is achieved through the use of very little light caramel malts and highly attenuative yeasts.

It should be easy to see that this is a big, dark, hoppy beer of proportions that certainly puts it in a classification of its own. The 19 examples we evaluated had interesting names such as Dark Days Black, Arctic Apocalypse, Black Sheep, Hop In The Dark, and Chaos Imperial Dark. After tasting each one, our panel discussed the flavor profile to see how they compared. It was agreed that one of the key characteristics of this style was that the dark malts are so subdued that, if you closed your eyes during a sip, you would not suspect that the beer was black. We also noted that the interaction of the debittered dark malts and citrusy Northwest IPA hops like Cascade, Simcoe and Amarillo exposed unsuspected flavors. Some picked up a minty flavor while others used descriptors of herbal and rosemary-like. The professional brewers all agreed that a neutral yeast of the American ale variety was advisable to use.

By the end of the tasting, the guidelines were finalized and Abram forwarded these to the BA and BJCP. In a letter dated February 11th sent from Chris Swersey, competition manager of the GABF, the good news was received. Charlie Papazian had completed the style update for 2010 and included this new style. The name “Cascadian” was deleted as it was felt that non-Northwestern brewers may be turned off to the style if it hinted of regional exclusivity. The accepted name is American-Style India Black Ale. The style descriptors remained relatively unchanged but some of the basic specifications were scaled back. Here are the finalized GABF numbers:


There’s something to be said for self-determination and for independence. People always want to be masters of their own destinies to as great a degree as possible, and the whole of the New World has been shaped by those who wanted to pursue their futures on their own terms, from Nunavut to the United States and from Panama to Argentina. While today the borders are firmly drawn with thick ink on the maps and stern guards at the crossing points, that doesn’t mean they will stay the same through tomorrow and tomorrow.

Cascadia! Not just a more aesthetically pleasing name to describe the Pacific Northwest, but a region made up of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. On occasion it’s been tapped as a country of the future, and perhaps one day that will be the case after all – granted, in order for that to happen something would have to happen to the United States first, as history shows that it takes a rather dim view of secession.

Secession Cascadian Dark Ale, on the other hand, is nothing to look at dimly. Indeed, it’s dark enough that even when you shine a light down on it, it remains resolutely opaque. Brewed by Hopworks Urban Brewery of Portland, Oregon, Secession is an organic, carbon-neutral beer that urges us to “join the party and uncap a revolution.”

I’ve been looking for a bottle of this particular brew for months, and was pretty much resigned to having to go down to Portland to find some, when during an unsuccessful search for a bottle of Rogue’s Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale I found it on the shelf at the Central City Liquor Store in Surrey.
According to the label, Secession is a Cascadian Dark Ale – this is a relatively new style of beer, the result of experimentation by craft brewers across Cascadia, making use of Northwest hops as a key ingredient. The style was pioneered by Rogue Ales of Portland with its Skullsplitter in 2003, and has been catching on since.

Technically it’s a kind of India Pale Ale, and while I know that the “pale” here refers to the nature of the malt that was used to make the beer, there is nevertheless something off about taking something as dark as Guinness and calling it “pale,” sort of like calling East Germany “democratic” with a straight face.
As far as the beer itself goes – it’s got something of a spicy smell, one which brings to mind pine trees in springtime. The taste is recognizably that of an IPA, somewhat bitter with a vaguely metallic, hoppy aftertaste that is nevertheless much more tolerable than other IPAs I’ve tried.

With a 6.5% alcohol content, it hits somewhat hard if you’re not eating anything with it… and you really should be eating something with it, if only to cleanse your palate of the hoppy aftertaste once it’s run its course.

Keep this one cold before you uncap it, too – it was easy enough to tell that it would taste a lot worse if you give it the chance to warm up. The label gives it “15 degrees Plato,” but this isn’t an instruction to serve it at a temperature of 15 degrees – this refers instead to its sugar content. Apparently it’s a popular measure in at least the Czech Republic, but this is the first time I’ve encountered a North American beer using that particular yardstick.
As the old commercials say, you have to live here to get it. Secession is pretty much only available in Cascadia, though you may also be able to find it in parts of Idaho and Alberta, even though Alberta has never been part of Cascadia and would in fact stink up the place with all its coal and dirty oil. We keep all those all-natural pine-scented air fresheners all along the Rocky Mountains for a reason. At Central City, a bottle of this set me back about $8.65 before taxes.

Stepping back from the beer for a moment, I have to give Hopworks kudos on Secession’s graphic design. It’s a clear, individual label – not many beers have national maps on them – done in the colors of the Cascadian flag, using Hopworks’ specific, eyecatching font; both in design and taste it strongly outperforms the other independence-themed beer I’ve tried, L’Independante of Quebec, and that one was an honestly pro-independence brew.
I don’t normally like pale ales, but Secession was worth a go – so if that’s up your alley, uncap a bottle and raise a stein to a free Cascadia.


“Cascadia Dark Ale,” people! Let’s hear it!

I wonder if Germans in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were aware of new and emerging beer styles. Given that in those days people were often born, lived and died without having traveled more than a few miles from their homes, I suspect that folks just drank what they were given and they liked it or hated it without much regard for what was “emerging” elsewhere in the country or on the continent. (I use this period and location as a general illustration; certainly the same could be asked about folks living in England, Ireland, Scotland – anywhere.)

We’re a lot more plugged in now – for better or worse; I have to remind myself to shut off the 24-hour news when I’m around Beer Rant HQ. A phrase or expression dropped in friendly conversation can find its way ‘round the earth in no time and don’t get me started on the whole viral video thing. It makes an old-timer’s head spin. I sometimes wish I could have been born, live and die within a few miles of where I was born.

In any event, a phrase from the Deschutes Brewing Brand Ambassador a couple of weeks ago, has stuck in my mind and, I’ve stumbled onto it again in my Internet travels. I’m a little late to the party, but dare I say that I smell an emerging beer style on the horizon.

First, a related Quick Riff:

Widmer Brothers
W ’10 Pitch Black IPA

Dark coffee color but not opaque with a robust beige head. Smells faintly of grapefruit but not like an IPA. There is a balanced maltiness and hoppiness. Looks like a stout, labeled like an IPA but really neither.

I’ll admit this isn’t much of a review but bear in mind that this sampling was done on March 14th, 2010, before my conversation with Erik Frank, the Deschutes Brand Ambassador. In that brief discussion, Mr. Frank made mention of a new style akin to a dark IPA and he used the term “cascadia.” Hmmm.

Go back to my comment that Widmer’s Pitch Black IPA is neither a stout (though it looks every bit the part) nor an IPA (though it did have hints of hoppiness and a grapefruit smell).

Now, jump over to a post that Lisa Morrison recently made at Hop Press. Ms. Morrison – in very few words – sums up the emerging “Black IPA” or “Cascadia” style and she makes an excellent argument for enshrining this as a distinct style. I don’t cotton to the label “Black IPA” since the name IPA already comes with a shipload of baggage (not the least of which is the dubious history behind the origin of the style). Is the Cascadia style ready to be set apart as a separate style for beer judging – I don’t think so, yet – but if it’s dark but not a stout, and it’s hoppy but not an IPA, then what the hell is it?

I vote “Cascadian Dark Ale” or any name that includes “Cascadian” or “Cascadia.” If the danged thing originated and “emerged” in the Pacific Northwestern United States, then for heaven’s sake, call this new beer “Cascadia” something or other.

And, to bring this little commentary full circle, I’ll just say I feel like some simple blacksmith somewhere in Germany just tasting a rauchbier for the first time, or a dimwitted carpenter in Ireland who’s just taken a quaff of his first pilsner. Where do I go from here? Lord only knows, but I’m ready.


Yesterday, on short notice, Hopworks Urban Brewery re-released Secession, a Cascadian Dark Ale. Originally released on draft at the North American Organic Brewers Festival only 2 years ago, the recipe is based on a homebrew that beer writer and CDA proponent Abram Goldman-Armstrong created. In its original release it was dubbed a CDA, and in 2010 it was released as bottled seasonal that was dubbed a Black IPA, though all the packaging contradicted that moniker, with beer notes mentioning Cascadia, the color scheme of the Casdcadian flag, and even featuring a small depiction of the map of Cascadia. It was a change that got no love from beer geeks – including myself – and I am happy to say that the re-release of the beer has been correctly renamed as a Cascadian Dark Ale, with a new label modeled on the official flag of Cascadia.

Last year’s rendition was one of my favorite beers of the year, with its amazing citrus fruity and dank piney qualities that managed to stand out in a black body that was nearly completely opaque, with just subtle roast qualities. I am awaiting the specs on the beer, but have been told it is 6.5% abv and 70 IBU’s this year.


Hopworks’ facebook page described the beer as:

This emerging beer style is characterized by an alliance of Northwest hop flavors as formidable as the Cascade Mountain Range and roasted malts as dark as a moonless night. Join the party and uncap a revolution!

Hopworks is awaiting the new bottles and then we should see this beer popping up both on store shelves and on tap from January through March. I can only imagine that this beer’s sudden un-publicized release was because of the success of HUB’s winter seasonal Abominable Ale, which was no longer on tap at the brewpub as of yesterday. I recommend people stock up on bottles from your local stores that still have it.


IT FEELS VAGUELY treasonous talking to 
Abram Goldman-Armstrong , a Portland brewer and beer writer who refers repeatedly to a place called the Republic of Cascadia. TheROC is a sovereign nation, in the fantasy lives of Goldman-Armstrong and his cohorts, formed from Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Its signature beer: the Cascadian dark ale—often called black IPA—an emerging style whose name remains the subject of considerable controversy.

What is Cascadian dark ale? It’s a highly hopped ale, made with hops grown here in Cascadia. It’s dry in the body, similar to an India pale ale but dark—reddish to almost black. The color comes from Carafa, a German malt that gives color without too much roasty flavor. But the roastiness is there.

Where does the name come from? My friend Bill Wood and I were brewing what we were calling India dark ale. He said, “We better call it a Cascadian dark ale before these people from San Diego try to claim they invented it.” (At that time, they were trying to push for any double or imperial-style IPA to be called “San Diego style.”) Pretty soon other people were picking it up—now you’ll see “Cascadian dark ale” on beer descriptors in North Carolina and Ontario.

What are you doing to preserve it? I’m hoping the name will be recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program—they set the styles for home-brew competitions. I petitioned the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado. They’ve accepted the style as “American-style black ale” which doesn’t really capture it. And I think it is a disservice to Phillips Brewing in Victoria, BC—which is in Cascadia, but also Canada—who pioneered CDA as a year-round bottled product.

We heard that late Vermont brewmaster Greg Noonan was the first to brew black IPA. We’re not trying to say we’re the only people who ever brewed with dark malt and lots of hops. But the signature of CDA is the hops grown here—amarillo, cascade—which have these massive piney, resiny, and citrus-like aromas. The interplay between roastiness and hops is the key to the style.

Is anyone fighting you on all this? This guy called Jack Curtain did a very disparaging article in theAle Street News [“Black and Bitter, True Origins of Black IPA,” August 2010]. There’s this obsession with who did something first in the brewing industry that is silly. I don’t want to take anything away from the Vermont brewers, I just don’t think they have anything to do with the rise of the style here in the Northwest.

Where can we citizens of the Republic of Cascadia find the best Cascadian dark ales? Seven Seas Brewing [in Gig Harbor, Washington] makes one and Mac and Jack’s [in Issaquah] does, too. Iron Horse in Ellensburg has one, but they call it a black IPA. In Oregon we’ve got Hopworks Secession, Deschutes Hop in the Dark, and Widmer Pitch Black. Widmer calls theirs a black IPA but say it’s “our take on the Cascadian dark ale.” They’re hedging their bets on that one.