I feel comfortable saying that more often than not, beer enthusiasts get turned onto to craft beer after trying an IPA. This is also true for myself. However, the next style that I became fascinated with has since seemed to have exited the scene and faded into obscurity. I am talking about the Cascadian Dark Ale, or more commonly known as the Black IPA.
The Black IPA isn’t drastically different from a “normal”. The first obvious difference is the color. Rather than a golden to amber hue, it is a deep brown almost looking black, reminiscent of a porter. But like an IPA, it has all the hop flavor that you would expect. After trying many, my opinion is that hops that have more of a piney profile (i.e. Simcoe, Cascade) taste better than say some of the fruitier hops like Mosaic or Citra. Along with the hop profile, you get just a kiss of the dark malt the brewers use, which could be chocolate malt, Carafa Special, or black patent malt**.
It’s an unreal combination of porter and IPA that is as good in the fall as it is in the spring and winter. I used to always have a pack of either Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous, or Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown Ale. However, if you look at these iconic brewer’s portfolio, these once staples beers have now been relegated to one-offs or draft rarities.
So what happened? How did this IPA style diminish in popularity when seemingly every other plausible kind of IPA is thriving? My hope is that one day, brewer’s and drinkers will see the light, or in this case, the black.
**pardon my nerdiness