I highly recommend you read Mr. Orr's full article, but I also quote liberally from it below for our rebuttal.
Black is back. Have you noticed the large assortment of black beers, particularly black IPAs, that are showing up on the shelves of your favorite beer store or tavern?
I'd say the black India Pale Ale style is now a full-blown trend.
...and Stone Brewing will finally begin selling its genre-defining Sublimely Self Righteous Ale (SSRA) in Boise this spring.
No argument here, CDA is a style to be reckoned with for those who give it a shot. But Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous Ale being considered "genre-defining" ? Absurd. It is a tasty beer, as evidenced by its high score in my recent blind tasting of CDA's. But genre-defining? Stone has just taken what others have been doing already - combining roasted malts with citrusy and piney northwest hops - and Imperialized it.
I forwarded the article on to chief proponent of the CDA term, Abraham Goldman-Armstrong, who organized the recent CDA symposium, wrote the style guidelines and is also a regular writer for Northwest Brewing News and other publications. His comments are below:
Abe's response: I find it odd that this fellow writing in Idaho gives all credit to Stone, when the obvious thing for an Idaho writer to do would be acknowledge the success of Laughing Dog Dogzilla, as that was quite probably the first bottled version other than Black Toque from Phillips to be available year round. He doesn't really seem to understand the reason behind the CDA name, either. "The thinking is the style is derived from the more aggressive and hoppy American IPAs created by Oregon and Washington craft brewers, who live near the Cascade mountains, in the 1980s."
This is good news. Done correctly, I've found the black IPA to be a richer and more roasty malt experience than the regular IPAs, without sacrificing the hop bitterness and big piney and citrusy aromas so essential to the style.
I realize some craft beer enthusiasts don't like the style, and think it's a gimmick.
It's also kind of a cluster to determine where the style originated.There is even a movement in the Pacific Northwest craft beer universe to rename the style and call them Cascadian dark beers.
The thinking is the style is derived from the more aggressive and hoppy American IPAs created by Oregon and Washington craft brewers, who live near the Cascade mountains, in the 1980s. This is kind of impossible to prove and just sounds like silly provincialism to me, but whatever.
Well yes, the style is derived from that type of IPA, and as he says, "done correctly, I've found the black IPA to be a richer and more roasty malt experience than the regular IPAs, without sacrificing the hop bitterness and big piney and citrusy aromas so essential to the style." Hmmm... piney and citrusy aromas, like those from hops grown in...Oregon and Washington, aka Cascadia. But his reasoning misses the mark.
Abe's response: The point is that it is a style that not only relies on hops grown solely in Cascadia, but that the style has joint origins in Cascadia: Phillips in Victoria, and Rogue in Newport. Has this fellow has never seen a map of the region known alternately as the Pacific Northwest or Cascadia (in which Idaho is generally also included)? If he spent less time kowtowing to San Diego and more time supporting his local breweries, he would have a stronger argument. Dogzilla is a Cascadian Dark Ale, by region of origin alone by this rubric.
The big news for me is finally being able to buy Stone's SSRA. It may not have been the first black IPA out there, but I believe it was the first kick-ass version to be distributed widely.
Where Stone goes stylistically, other brewers follow. Stone is from SoCal, and its beer was inspired by a black IPA style beer from Vermont - neither of which are in the Pacific Northwest. The Cascadian thing just doesn't work for me.
I fully expect to hear from people who disagree with my Stone theory and will tell me that something like Rogue's Skullsplitter Ale was the first genre-defining black IPA.It just does. The Pixies, Husker Du, and other indie bands played in relative obscurity for years and all of a sudden Nirvana was the biggest thing since sliced bread. That's just the way it goes.
By dumb luck, I actually got to buy a bottle of the Skullsplitter - which was a very limited release and not currently brewed by Rogue - during a trip to the Oregon Coast in 2003. It was really good, kind of a dark version of the Brutal Bitter. But its reach was limited. The Rogue Web site says John Maier has been brewing Mogul Madness since 1991, but I don't remember that beer being very available over the last decade.
It's hard to tell who was first or best or any of that stuff, or why a certain style gets popular.
Lisa Morrison the Beer Goddess chimes in on CDA's: