Archive for category California

Cascadian Dark Ale – A name is dead? – time to re-brand!

500px-Flag_of_Cascadia.svgThanks to the litigiously minded Eli Gershkovitch at Steamworks Brewery in Vancouver, BC The name for that dark, top fermented beer, with full hoppy aromatics, created by the Cascadian varietals of  hops, has now effectively ceased to exist. Proud Cascadian brewers across the Canada-US border in the beautiful Pacific Northwest have been denied the chance to brand the style that was created and championed with the cross national region that takes its name after the Cascade mountains (a term first used  in 1825). In 1970 the term ‘Cascadia’ was first used to describe the surrounding region, and since then has been a popular name used by its inhabitants. Sadly the use of the word “Cascadia” and “Cascadian” has been trademarked for beer names and styles by a brewery that no longer produces the beer that once bore its name.  Sadly, as far as I know, this has not been tested in court, no doubt because these things cost money, and money is often in short supply within the world of  small craft brewers.

So it might be safe to assume that the battle to use the name for our region is lost for now, but that begs a new question: What should we call this style now? Black IPA seems popular but is a truly horrible contradiction (black and pale – oh please!!) So what are the options?Cascadia_map_and_bioregion

The American Brewers Association has plumped for ‘American style India Black Ale’ – with its US-centric attitude towards beer styles they have ignored the Canadian contribution to this beer as well as the uncomfortable use of ‘India’ within this name.

The American  BJCP, founded on principles of homebrew competitions, have yet to decide on a name for this style other than a speciality style, but debated the issue last year. (I can’t find any resolution on their site).

The British based World Beer Awards have gone for ‘Black IPA’ and the US based World Beer Cup with its record breaking number of sub-styles call it ‘American style Black Ale’.

One thing is certain, no one agrees!

The use of ‘American’ for me is problematic as it ignores Canada and its contribution to the development and popularisation of the style. The great thing about ‘Cascadian’ is that it crosses the border effortlessly without the ‘North American’ moniker.


There is a genuine ancestor of this style that was brewed as a porter, but prepared for export to India with extra hops and dry hopping. This was called a number of things such as ‘India Porter’ or ‘India Export Porter’, or ‘Export India Porter’. This was predominantly hopped with English hops (but not necessarily exclusively) but resembles the CDA in the same way a British style IPA would resemble a North American style IPA – related, similar but not the same. The Kernel  Brewery in London have re-created the style (interestingly they also make a Black IPA). This gives us a start but ignores those that developed the Cascadian version and the use of Pacific Northwest  hops


Here are some options which I would be grateful for you, the reader, to consider.


North American Style India Porter

West Coast India Porter

West Coast Porter

West Coast Dark Ale

PNW (Pacific Northwest) Dark Ale

PNW Porter

Can-Am Black Ale

Obviously there are many variations (Black versus Dark etc) but you get the idea. Perhaps a shortlist can be assembled and some names voted on!







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Lost Coast Winterbraun

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tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

The Lost Coast Winterbraun is a strong dark brown ale brewed especially for the winter months. The label sports a Picasso-esque snowboarder with skin the colour of this rich and deeply hued brew;  the sweet, dark caramel and rye bread aromas that greet you are a comforting reminder of why we drink different beers when the nights draw in and there is a chill in the air.

The flavours are warming too, a hint of black treacle, roasted malt, baked dried fruit, and sweet caramel are all there and give this beer a cake-like appeal. This can be drunk with a rich beef and ale pie and gravy or on its own, some might enjoy this with desert, such as a steamed sponge pudding made with lots of dried fruit and a caramel flavoured custard.

ABV: 6.5%

Serving type: 650ml bottle

Best Served: 9 – 11 °C



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Winter Beer Showdown

Seasonal beers are filling the shelves right about now, and go well beyond any single type. The basic style is the classic Winter Warmer. This is not usually spiced but brewed to a slightly stronger alcohol volume (6% – 7% is typical for this warming malty style). Specialty Christmas beers take their cues from the old Wassail Ales – spiced, sometimes fortified, mulled beer given to carol singers in Medieval England. Although no longer fortified or served warm, it is usually strong and spiced, rich and filling. There are other winter seasonal ales brewed in the Belgium style.  They tend to be strong and dark with a super-rich malt profile.

Lagers get a make over too with the German, and now Canadian specialty, Ice-Bock, giving fans of strong and malty dark amber lagers something to enjoy. Of course breweries the world over make all sorts of beers for the festive season and often they don’t fit easily into any specific style, but that’s what makes it fun – beer can be full of surprises!


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Anchor Brewing ‘Our Special Ale’ 2009 (Christmas Ale)

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Anchor Brewing famously change the recipe for their Special Ale every year, as well choose a different tree, a symbol of the Winter Solstice, to adorn the label. This version (2009), when held up to the light, has a gorgeously dense ruby colour and an almost creamy pale tan head. The aroma is full of malty molasses with a definite hoppy highlight. The flavours that follow fill the mouth, but don’t overwhelm it; the main taste that starts off is a strong malty one, that develops into a black molasses backbone to the beer. There are some laid-back spicy notes layered into the malt, perhaps nutmeg or a hint of cardamon, but the hit of a citrus hop gives this sweetish beer an assertive and refreshing finish. This Winter seasonal ale is a real pleasure to drink, and is not too heavy or laden with spices, so is good for  those who find the ‘big’ spiced warmers a bit too much!

ABV: 5.5%

Best Served: 10°C


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Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale


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Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale comes in the large 650 ml bottles, and it’s a good thing too, as this is a rather quaffable ale. It is a nice bright mid-amber in colour, with a medium frothy head that doesn’t linger for too long. There is a hint of sweetish toasted malt on the nose and maybe a touch of hop, but not a whole lot else. This has a nicely balanced palate with the malt leading the way followed by some spicy hop notes. There is a bit of light fruitiness in the background but not enough to take away from the nice drinkable toasted caramel flavours of the malt. This is a well made west coast amber ale, and finds itself regularly in my mix of brews in the fridge! This would go great with a big plate of nachos or a juicy burger.

ABV: 5.8%

Best Served: 7°C


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Marin Brewing Co. Point Reyes Porter


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Marin Brewing Point Reyes Porter is a rich chocolate opaque brown and this is good indicator as to the flavour that follows the pour. Roasted coffee bean and dark cocoa are at the forefront here, and their rich bitterness is very satisfying and extremely moreish. There is a touch of chocolaty sweetness on the finish, but only enough to balance the enjoyable bitter notes that rounds this beer off nicely. This is a supremely drinkable porter that slips down without any trouble at all, so even the large 650 ml bottle seems to disappear far too quickly. Pair this with a dark chocolate dessert of some sort, or you could be adventurous and drink it with a rich chilli con carne!

ABV: 6%

Best Served: 11°C


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Moylan’s Celts Golden Ale


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Moylan’s Celts Golden Ale is a slightly cloudy attractively coloured ale that pours with a nice light head that leaves almost no lacing down the sides of the glass. The aroma has a nice yeasty note with a hint of hop underneath. The flavour doesn’t seem to follow the aroma as it is so lightweight that it doesn’t offer much. There are very subtle yeast notes, and maybe a touch of malt, but nothing to really get hold of. I know Golden/Summer Ales are supposed to be light, but really this is obviously aimed at the macro lager crowd, which is fair enough, but it doesn’t do it for me.

ABV: 5%

Best Served: 6°C


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Lagunitas Sirius Cream Ale


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Lagunitas Sirius is a ‘High Gravity’ Cream Ale weighing in at 7%, which is not a common occurrence, but nor is a cream ale of this quality. Do not be fooled by the high alcohol, this is a supremely quaffable and refreshing beer as a cream ale should be. It is surprisingly light and well balanced. There are notes of banana and crisp grapefruit with a hint of pine in the background, but no flavour overwhelms the palate.  There is a touch of hoppy bitterness, that leads to a crisp finish and invites the drinker to take another gulp. This is a great evening aperitif beer.

ABV: 7%

Best Served: 6°C


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