What do you like about CDAs (Cascadian Dark Ales)?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Lulah, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Lulah

    Lulah Initiate (45) Jun 6, 2020 Idaho

    I'm been awhile since I've had a dark beer I've really enjoyed, but now that I'm taking beer more seriously, I've been starting to learn more and more about varieties of pale ales (the genre of beer I enjoy most). The idea of something that was both a pale ale (at least in lineage, if not color) kind of intrigued me.

    But I haven't gotten to try one yet. I've seen them mentioned as some underrated brews and they came up in some research I was doing (for my fantasy brewery - in the sense of if I had a brewery, what would my beers be?). I find the idea of minty or rosemary flavors/aromas in beer interesting, so that might be a plus (or not).

    So what would you say makes Cascadian Dark Ales appealing? How do they taste to you? What makes them interesting to you?

    (Honestly the last dark beer I remember drinking more than once was Point's 2012. Since I don't remember loving it, that probably wasn't that great.)
  2. einhorn

    einhorn Disciple (301) Nov 3, 2005 California

    I know I'm gonna get some hate here, but I like the fact that I like that Black IPAs (aka hoppy stouts) aren't on the shelf any more.
  3. Lulah

    Lulah Initiate (45) Jun 6, 2020 Idaho

    I mean, it's not hate... but if your reason is that you don't dig 'em and would rather not have shelf-space wasted on them, that's not super-helpful. I already gather they haven't been the most popular style, even if there are some ardent enthusiasts.

    I'm mainly curious as to what exemplifies the style and what might recommend it to someone who prefers her beers to be a translucent amber, generally.
  4. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,368) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    I've been drinking a lot of Sierra Nevada Stout lately. Its a west coast stout with lots of that classic Sierra Nevada cascade hop flavor going on. What I love about it, and about the hippy stout/black IPA style is the interplay between the pine/citrus hop bitterness and the cacao/coffee/char bitterness of the malt, all with the support of the rich, sweeter, malty body. I think that the SN stout really shines with the addition of the floral/rose note that is really prevalent in some batches
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  5. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (7,290) Sep 24, 2007 Mayotte
    Society Trader

    I don't like 'em because I find the sharp roast flavors and the strong hops clash with, not compliment, each other. They're kind of a chore to drink. Firestone-Walker's Wookie Jack was the only one I've had that I actually liked.
  6. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,957) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    I think most brewers aren't good enough to pull off a good Black Ale/CDA/Black IPA/Hoppy Porter. It has flavors that can clash, and it kind of rests its hat on making that clash interesting and delicious. I gave up on finding one that I enjoy as much as I did Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone, which was a bright, perfectly presented, roast meets grapefruit, atonal symphony for the taste buds.

    I think the name Cascadian Dark Ale could be the worst beer style name. OTOH it does capture pretty much every one of the flaws I find generally in beer naming conventions.
  7. eppCOS

    eppCOS Meyvn (1,377) Jun 27, 2015 Colorado

    I'm a Libra, I'm indecisive, and I love the "is it a Stout or is it an IPA " dimensions of these beers. I miss having (more or) them. So there. If you don't like this style, you just move on...
    +1 on Wookie Jack
    I also like Pipeworks Close Encounters Black (IP)ale as well, at 6%
    NB put out a black imperial voodoo ranger that was pretty damn good too, and I don't drink normal VR.
  8. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,683) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    I really enjoy both BIPA/CDA's and hoppy stouts. That said, I also feel like many of them have clashing flavors. Especially when someone makes an especially big one.
    On the hoppy stout end of things, I feel SN Stout and Bell's Kalamazoo are the best examples. They're also two of the oldest. For a bigger take, I still love normal 'ol Yeti.
    For Black IPA's, I feel like the classic west coast places did well with their initial efforts. Stone, Deschutes, Firestone, Bear Republic, etc. Short's in the Midwest, too. Later versions started getting too big and too gamey. Some of those late and dry hop additions made things rough. I still think the best example of the style is Avery's New World Porter. They actually stopped brewing it before Black IPA even became a thing, sadly.
  9. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Poo-Bah (1,644) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    7 Seas Brewing up here does one which is actually rated fairly high (4/5) but the thought of Big C hops combined with roasted malts is kind of a turn off for me.
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  10. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,379) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey

    Just curious why do you care isn’t on the shelf. Nobody is forcing you to buy them? Call it “hate” if you’d like but I don’t like black IPAs either, It’s not about the beer. It’s about negativity. Why is there so much negativity it’s just beer drink what you like
    #10 Urk1127, Jun 16, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
  11. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,633) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I'm generally not a big fan of the style either, but there are exceptions. I agree the Wookie Jack was pretty good, and then there's the Armored Fist collaboration from Boneyard and Three Floyds (the version we got out here was made over at Boneyard of course). This is actually an imperial CDA, with an abv around 10%. There's a huge initial aroma and flavor of chocolate, caramel and light smoke, but then the huge hop presence comes on strong. The beer is resinous, with considerable pine and grapefruit on the finish. The beer has a soft, almost creamy mouthfeel that only enhances the drinking experience.

    I generally don't buy 10% IPA's any more, but I used to pretty much always grab a glass of this whenever I saw it on tap. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Boneyard appears to have stopped making it for now. I think it's been a year or two since I last saw it on tap around these parts.
  12. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,957) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Ahh, man, you just brought back a great memory. Totally forgot Armored Fist! Was lucky to have the Boneyard 2011 edition from a trade and it blew me away. This style definitely can shine in a really unique way when done right!
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  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,537) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You will read diverging viewpoints here. For my palate my preference for Black IPAs were beers that like those brewed by Kernal Brewing.

    In a past thread a poster brought up the discussion as a comparison of Black IPA vs. a Hoppy Porter (vs. RIS). Below is something I posted in that thread:

    I think that the brewer of Kernal Brewery (London, England) has a good perspective on the topic of Black IPA vs. hoppy Porters.

    “Black IPA (or more simply; IBA) versus Export India Porter

    I know that the style, naming, etc. of these dark ales has been discussed to death on here, but hopefully a recent email that I received will add a little more information to the discussion. There may be others, but I could only find one brewery that brewed both an India Porter and a Black IPA and that brewery is the Kernel Brewery in London. So I decided to send off an email asking for some brewer's insight as to what they saw as the differences, given that they decided to brew both as distinct styles. They were more than courteous to explain it as they saw it. I thought that their reply was interesting enough to share here. Here is their reply...

    Thanks for the email. We really appreciate the fact that you care enough to ask us about these beers, because for us that is partly the reason for brewing them.

    I think that any brewery would have their own take on certain styles, and what one brewery calls style 'x' another would call style 'y'. So we can only speak of our own interpretation of the difference between a Black IPA and an Export India Porter. To put it simply, while both beers use dark malts and lots of hops, the Black IPA should be definitely dominated by the hops, while the EIP should be dominated by the darker malts. There probably is a point between these 2 styles where they may meet, but it is important to us to keep them distinct.

    Our Black IPA keeps to a simple IPA recipe, with the addition of Carafa III malt, which is a dark roasted malt, but it has been dehusked or debittered, so it provides colour and a chocolate flavour, but not the roasted astringent flavour of more classic dark malts (roasted barley or black malt). It is not quite a Pale IPA coloured black, but the hops still dominate the flavour profile.

    We brewed the first EIP partly to answer the question that was often thrown at us as to what the difference was between a black IPA and a hoppy porter. The recipe we used is from 1855. We kept the grain bill the same, but decided to change the hops to US varieties and have used them in a manner similar to a modern IPA. This is already moving the EIP in the direction of a Black IPA. But the malt still dominates. It is roasty, ashy, astringent, chocolatey, and then the hops kick in with some lighter notes.

    Hope this helps. Have you managed to try both of these beers from us?

    Let us know if you have any further questions.

    All the best.

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  14. beerwego

    beerwego Initiate (83) Dec 5, 2019 New York

    So few good ones in my experience, but I was fond of Yakima Glory, as resinous as it was, and the amazing Stone SSRA. Oh, and Wooky Jack. All three gone to the best of my knowledge. I'll live.
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  15. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (439) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Wait for DCDA. Then ICDA and finally...
    wait for it...

  16. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,142) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    Do you know if the recipe they used was the same as Pretty Things' "Once Upon a Time in 1855"?
    That was the only beer I ever rated as a perfect 5. Not to say it was my favorite or the best beer I've ever had, but at that moment, it was perfection.
  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,537) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

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  18. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,142) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    I tend to view the difference between hoppy/EI porter and Black IPA/CDA as this: are the malt or the hops the driving flavor? If malt is, it's a hoppy porter, if it's hops, its a Black IPA.

    Anyhow, what I liked about the style, when done correctly, was that it was a showcase for the more herbal/piney qualities of the hops used, with some sweeter citrus to back it up, with just a touch of roast ,and caramel and dark fruit to carry it. I kinda viewed them as the beer equivalent of amaro, or some other bitter liqueur, but with less sweetness.

    Hard to wrap your head around nowadays, but there was a time when folks liked herbal/piney hop flavors.
    #18 MrOH, Jun 16, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
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  19. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,142) Jul 5, 2010 Maryland

    A lot of the historical beers they brewed in collaboration with @patto1ro were a letdown at the price point, but that one was amazing!
    I've tried my hand at recreating it at home, with mixed results. But I may get there one day.
  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,537) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I remember those times (fondly). Now it seems to be all about tropical fruits with maybe some citrus as well.

    Did you read about the new beer from Coronado where they actually add pineapple (because they did not obtain enough tropical from the hops?). Maybe they should have branded this beer as Double Down IPA?:thinking_face:


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  21. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,368) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    And don't forget DDH NEDCDA!
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  22. mambossa

    mambossa Aspirant (230) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    This thread made me wonder if anyone had ever brewed something along the lines of an “India Dark Lager”? I used to love black IPAs, but I’m over them since any good one is a shell of itself now.

    but I for sure would try a really hoppy dark lager!
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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,537) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well, there is Jack's Abby Session Black IPL.

    And a list of others on that ‘other’ site:


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  24. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,179) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Bell's Leaves of Grass III - O Captain! My Captain!... labeled a "Black India-Style Pale Lager / Black IPL." It was probably a one-off six pack.
  25. Amendm

    Amendm Crusader (784) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    If you like hoppy IPAs and big roasted malt character, Black Ales are worth a look.
    Think of a hoppy stout with a lighter body. Usually very bitter, this turns some people off on the style. With all demand for hoppy and bitter Beers, it makes me wonder why they are so rare.

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  26. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Defender (642) Mar 28, 2009 California

    I recently brewed a black ipa as I like the style but can’t find them. Also, I’ve noticed that most black IPAs are simply IPAs that are black in color.

    what I like is a black ipa that is well balanced between the malt and hops. Probably more on the lines of a really hoppy stout. If done right when drinking a pint at times I feel i am drinking an ipa and then at times a stout.

    one big thing is the roast has to be minimal otherwise the roast does clash with the hops and also can have an undesirable bitterness. When I Homebrew’s mine I added the malts late in the mash to reduce that harsh roast/bitterness.

    Here’s a pic of my Homebrew.
  27. mambossa

    mambossa Aspirant (230) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    Wow how did I overlook that. I definitely got a couple bottles of that when it came out. I wasn’t too impressed by it, but I thought it was solid enough to throw a couple back.

    I used to be a fierce advocate for CDAs but they’re just too tough to pull off, and to stand out enough from the hazy-juice-flaked-oat-DDH-LondonIII-OJ crowd of our modern day.
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  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,005) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    New Amsterdam (one of the earliest contract-brewed craft brands, predating Samuel Adams) released one in the mid-90s - as noted, after the brand was sold to first F X Matt and then another owner.

    Still listed here on BA - New Amsterdam India Dark Ale - so it lasted a few years.
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  29. mambossa

    mambossa Aspirant (230) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    I was wondering about heavily hopped dark lagers though. Since, it seems to most of the USA, dark lagers are largely under appreciated, hoppy lagers are fairly criticized, and Black IPAs seem to be everyone least favorite style.

    a cascadian dark lager sounds like it could provide a cleaner definition compared to a CDA.
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  30. NickSMpls

    NickSMpls Meyvn (1,273) Nov 11, 2012 Washington
    Society Trader

    My favorite was Black Top Ale from New Glarus. Probably 5+ years ago, but it set the standard for American Black Ales for us. Seemed to be a bit of a stretch for NG, but when Dan Carey puts his mind to it, he just hits it right out of the park.
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  31. Minnesota_beer_guy

    Minnesota_beer_guy Disciple (300) Feb 15, 2014 Minnesota

    I really enjoyed and miss Surly Blakkr, that one had a huge pineapple nose.
  32. Prince_Casual

    Prince_Casual Disciple (349) Nov 3, 2012 District of Columbia

    Prefer Russian Imperial Stouts to be honest. They're still good (possibly better) if you don't drink them fast.

    Dark IPAs tend to have a sweet spot like IPAs 90 days roughly, that's often missed since it's not a popular style -bordering on extinct-, and can turn into a weird malty yet somehow still dark beer

    Stouts are designed to go the distance and that's why I love them personally -

    Like a fine wine: good now and getting better with careful maturation
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  33. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Poo-Bah (2,128) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    I like black IPAs. I consider them to be not one of my top favorite styles, but not one of my least favorite, either. I crave them on occasion. I wish they would come back more, but maybe not en mass. Just a few, the best examples of the style. I will admit that they are often too roasty and that clashes with the excess hoppiness. The key is to find balance with citrus/piney hop notes and chocolate/coffee.
  34. WV_Charles_Homebrew

    WV_Charles_Homebrew Initiate (69) May 17, 2017 West Virginia

    That was a really nice beer! I've enjoyed all the beers in the Leaves of Grass series. With a Locomotive in Winter being my fave. But Oh Captain was a close second.
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  35. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,368) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    I'm honestly surprised that we haven't seen a resurgence of the style yet. It seems like a lot of the new school hops that brewers have really gotten their arms around lately are possibly better suited to the style than the c hops that I most often encounter in it.

    Some of the berry and stone fruit flavors I've gotten from modern ipas could play very nicely with flavors on the chocolates coffee spectrum
  36. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,972) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Society Trader

    I’ve had a few lately that were decent. I like them as a nice change of pace from the haze (along with many other styles).
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  37. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,059) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I agree with this. Foothills has a Winter seasonal called Frostbite that hits these buttons perfectly. I buy it until it disappears.
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  38. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (7,290) Sep 24, 2007 Mayotte
    Society Trader

    I drank plenty of Saranac products back then, and I don't recall "Chocolate Amber". Sounds like something I'd be into.
  39. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,179) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    On the one hand, if a name/category manages to signify something about the product to people, then it is a "thing" and it achieves its desired effect. "Black IPA" certainly manages to signify something and generates expectations (to this audience at least). BUT, I'm the type that will more or less reject a thing like this anyway. I'm OK with losing the positive aspects. CDA is a case of a desire to be treated as unique and Black IPA is a case of labeling anything hoppy as an IPA to encourage sales (with the latter being a plague on the beer scene and the more popular choice). We love categories for the sake of categories.

    I mentioned a Bell's beer a few posts back. That label states: "Black India-Style Pale Lager." I adore Bell's, but it's a shame that our notions about style, our need for both "innovation" and the tick, and our desire to be marketed to has led us to such a ridiculous place. Call it a porter and people will certainly say it "isn't to style" and rate it low.

    Some style guides have provided a narrow idea of what porter is. A result is a downplay of how massive and interesting the style was... and a result of that is a lack of consumer interest. So what if the balance of these "Black IPAs" is such that they put great emphasis on the hops? Does that mean they aren't porters? Historically, more heavily hopped porter was shipped to India than pale ale. I know we aren't dealing with that kind of history when we talk about craft IPA, but c'mon. Porters can be very hoppy, roasty, sweet, dry, young, vatted, bottom fermented, top fermented, table, stout, smoke, lactose, brett, sugar, adjunct. Unfortunately, porter can also be uncool (hence the CDA and Black IPA). No, porter is cool.
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  40. slander

    slander Poo-Bah (2,207) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Moderator Society

    I rag the Firestone folks whenever I see them (Where ma' Wookey Jack?)
    21st Amendment Back in Black was good.
    And I'm going to include Founders Black Rye in this conversation, too.

    The worst thing about the Black IPA (awesomeness) is the way people speak of it in the same sentence as the White IPA (abomination).
    #40 slander, Jun 17, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020