Beer style names are often rather odd, when you think about them too much. Which I do on occasion, perhaps unsurprisingly. My favourite example of late concerns a recent (delightful) trend in craft brewing circles which has seen the release of several dark-and-hoppy / hoppy-and-dark beers.
If you take the rich black malty base as your starting point, you might see these as hoppy porters and one instance of the broader modern hoppy-x phenomenon. But if you start from the hop focus instead, then these look like IPAs with the malt darkened to the limit.
Both starting points lead to clumsy potential names for the style, as it emerges. “American style porter” carries the unfortunate implication that the United States is synonymous with hoppiness and that sort of lumping is just a bit much like suggesting that “Belgian” equals boozy and “English” equals not-very-bubbly. Even if a nation does do something particularly well, I just can’t shake my discomfort with having their name in the style’s name.1 The other extreme usually leads to “Black IPA”, which is peculiar for the rather-obvious reason that the ‘P’ in IPA stands for pale and ‘black’ pretty much entirely implies not pale.
I don’t really have a good suggestion for how to fix all this, but I can say that I emphatically reject Deschutes’ attempt here to coin “Cascadian Dark Ale” / “C.D.A.”. That’s just awful. It sounds horrendously smarmy in its full version, and too much like “seedy, eh?” in its abbreviated form. And what about beers that don’t opt for Cascade or generally-Cascadey hops? For what its worth, I vote No on C.D.A., while at the same time voting Hell Yes on another one of the beer itself, please.
I’m loving this style, whatever it winds up being called, and this is a bloody lovely example of it. Huge and rich, and with a many-fronted hoppy component that makes instant nonsense all over again of the one-dimensional name. Even when you know what you’re getting into with these things, the fruity nose is still a pleasant shock — the brain’s connection between this sort of appearance and more-traditional porter / stout is pretty strong yet, I suppose. This one just struck me like a fantastic fruit salad from some parallel universe in which chocolate is also a fruit.
And, enjoyably, this turned out to be a rare exception to the way in which taking photos of your beer tends to get you laughed at — here, it got me laughed with. My Newfoundlander friend Jillian (over here on an extended holiday, part of which she spent working with us at the Malthouse) took the opportunity to show off (or just entirely ad lib and invent; I’m not sure) her light-writing skill by ‘signing’ my glass with my trusty beer-illuminating cigarette lighter. It’s a pretty good result (though, if we’re being entirely honest, there were several hilariously-crap early attempts, which I’ll spare you), and gave me a crash-course in the long-exposure settings on my new camera. Bloody marvellous.
Verbatim: Deschutes ‘Hop in the Dark’ C.D.A. 3/3/11 @ MH from my stash. 1pt 6floz ÷ 2 w/ Peter, after a nice night out @ Hop Garden. The Emerson’s dinner was on, which had a side-effect of letting us hang with a bunch of regulars. This seemed suitably weighty. I do love the Black IPA, as much as I resist this silly name. It’s massively dark, with a surprisingly fruit nose. Just what you need. Like fruit salad, if chocolate was a fruit, as well.
1: I’m okay with “American Pale Ale”, though. Which is possibly just old-fashioned inconsistency, though I might defend myself by noting that APA certainly did emerge from the U.S., and that the national adjective pegs to the varieties of hops and their character rather than just the raw notion of their presence and intensity.