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Thursday, June 03, 2010

This CDA Thing Appears to Have Legs

For weeks now I've opened my fridge and looked at the bottle of Deschutes Hop in the Dark, a beer they proudly tout as Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA). For weeks, I've said, "maybe later." Last night, I said, "oh, all right."

My relationship with the style is not wildly positive (see here and here), which is a shame for someone as baldly parochial as I. And it's not for lack of trying--I do want to like the CDAs. The clash of flavors, roast and hop bite, have heretofore been too much to overcome, however, so I regard them with the reviewer's eye, never enjoying them with the drinker's tongue.

I have to confess: Hop in the Dark isn't quite as far outside my wheelhouse as I expected. According to the website, it took Larry Sidor and Cam O'Connor 22 batches to perfect the recipe. (That's one of the reasons I think breweries need to get the yeast for Cheers to Belgian Beers as soon as possible--but let's not get off into the weeds.) One stroke of brilliance is oats, which gives the beer an impressive creaminess. You'd think this would further confuse matters for an already schizophrenic style, but it actually helps bridge the gap between coffee bitterness of the darker malts and hop bite. Like a friend who tries to smooth things over between adversaries.

Deschutes also decided to just go for it with the hops; they're a nuclear 75 BUs, and taste every inch of it. Generally CDAs try to find the balance point (which is like finding a balance between orange juice and toothpaste), but not Hop in the Dark. It's a hop bomb. One other thing I've finally tumbled to: somehow the combination of lots of hops and noticeable roasty malt creates the impression of pine. And not mildly. I have previously believed this to be a function of hops, but with Cascade, Citra, and Centennial, the pine clearly comes from elsewhere. My guess is that two compounds--one from malt, one from hop--conspire to fool the tongue. (Sally detects it only if I prod.)

I can't really judge these things on the "good" to "bad" scale, but I can say I would drink another pint if offered one. For me, that's saying something. No doubt the brewery will hasten to add that to their promotional materials.


  1. Tried it, not too impressed. But very thankful that they aren't calling it by the bastardly "Black IPA". I can live with CDA.


  2. Not a huge fan of the Black IPA's either. Mrs Wort really likes Walking Man's Big Black Homo. I thought it was... uh.... Good. Many other BIPA's I've had have been rather disappointing.

    Just had a BIPA from Hopworks. Actually, a friend bought it for me... I was going to have Lemonade! I have to say the Hopworks BIPA did fit all the criteria of what "I" think a BIPA should be. It was moderate bodied with a big hop aroma; Big Hop taste; Big Hop throughout. The hops were well balanced throughout and not muddy or over layered. The Malt was somewhat roasty like a stout with some dark malts and moderate crystal to back it up. Could use more toast and higher crystal but it was pretty spot on for the style. I won't order the beer because it's not my thing, but it was well made.

  3. I think my wife described the combination of the roastiness with hoppiness best when she said all CDA's taste like "dish soap." I don't think breweries have quit yet perfected how to balance these into something enjoyable instead of just awkward that leaves me wanting an IPA or American Stout. Then again, I'd rather they used their energy elsewhere altogether.

  4. I've only tried 3 beers of this style. Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous (and the 11th anniversary ale), Widmer's BIPA, and my own horribly planned attempt (I didn't even know this was a style, I just wanted to make an IPA that was darker! I used too much roasted grains, and should've added some oats).

    The Stone beer IMO is just as the title expresses, sublime! I wasn't crazy about the Widmer. Didn't hate it, didn't love it. I think you can tell what I thought of my concoction. I will be trying this again though...

    I actually look forward to trying more brewers attempts at this before the fad dies away.

    Hey! At least they're not Belgians!

  5. Tried one this weekend. Not overly impressed as it seems merely to be an IPA with some roastiness. The smoothness of oaks was not evident. I'll perform a second opinion on my next bottle...

    The question that leaps to mind is: Isn't a CDA simply an overhopped Porter? Not "new beer style" worthy, IMHO.