Bomber of the Month: June
Deschutes Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale
By: André DiMattia
Regular Price: $5.99
Sale Price: $4.49
Sale End: 6/30/2012
Beer Advocate: 91
Rate Beer: 95
While the India Pale Ale beer style can be traced back to an English origin, there is no debate that it is now one of the defining beers of American craft brewing. The variations are numerous and with the continual evolution of the category stateside, the India Pale Ale is becoming recognized as a domestic staple of modern brewing. Becoming distinctly American by way of the ever growing desire to imperialize and double the amount of hops that can be crammed into a recipe, the intensely hoppy flavors began flowing out of a few west coast breweries and ushered a new chapter for hop focused beers. It grew to include beer styles that didn’t usually offer this range of flavors, Red ales, Barleywines, Belgian-Styles and the most recent to take some attention; dark ales with a significant hop bite.
With some simply calling these beers hoppy porters or light stouts with heavy hops, there has been a group of few demanding to call this a new style all together. The major waves to spark debates came about when a collections of brewers in the Pacific Northwest requested that the Brewers Association recognize a new style to be called Cascadian Dark Ale. The Cascadian mountain range stretches from British Columbia down to Northern California and includes the largest hop growing areas in all of North America. These hops are known for their particular qualities and are desired for many modern IPA producers. With the source of ingredients lending the brewer’s mind to wander, many locals within the Cascadian range felt it would be an honorable way to establish a new beer style while showcasing the roots for their inspiration.
While beers of this nature weren’t born in the Pacific Northwest (brewers in Vermont and even Dogfish Head created very hoppy and slightly dark beverages in the nineties), they were significant contributions of new beers being released that shared similar qualities of flavor. These beers are brewed using the same steps and similar hops as would be found in regular ipas and should give off floral aromas of pine and citrus. The malts are darker than usual but not so roasted as to influence a flavor of richness, the hops are still to be the main ingredient of focus. Alcohol is within a range of around 5-7.5% and the beer should have a smooth texture and finish dry. The increased level of toast and bitterness works in unison with hop’s natural level of bittering flavors and yet these beers should still be highly drinkable with that zesty hop focus.
On to the Tasting Notes:
Hailing from within the heartland of the Cascadian range, Deschutes is a brewery that takes their local hops very seriously. The “American Black Ale” created many imitations through semi-successful tried efforts from a variety of domestic breweries. While not a surprise, one of the major beers to come out from the rest was the Deschutes brewed; Hop in the Dark.
Labeled as “Cascadian Dark Ale” and very proud of the fact, the beer’s title shouldn’t be the main topic of discussion. Pouring with a light brown head that might easily be called out as a usual stout if seen from afar. Dark in color but not so intense as to block out a near light if held close. The hops are quite floral and add aromas of grapefruit and earthy grass to the creamy mocha and light chocolate tones. Malt is apparent but only after the waves of large hops make their presence known.
The flavors are a mixed bag of tricky combinations. Chocolate and coffee are felt but don’t feel flabby or sweet. The hops spread their delightful bitterness on the palate and give off some refreshing floral high notes upon the smoke and chocolate. The beer holds long and focused without ever seeming sweet, the darkened flavors are an interesting combination to have with the lemon and piney notes and they actually marriage well. Balance is key and Hop in the Dark is integrated with wonderful technique. Toasted without feeling burnt, bitter without being overly dry, herbal but still clean with refreshment.
Food Pairing:This is a beer that would be such a fun beverage for the restaurant owners and Cicerones to play with. The diverse range can be applied to the casual or the intense. The easy route of pan roasted steak would be obvious but the addition of fresh peas with butter laced potatoes and fresh mint makes the combo that much more interesting. Nutty flavors would be the next shoe in, beans, grains and even sweet corn would be a simple application with the toasted flavors of the beer. The hops allow an option of creamy cheeses or rich meats. This also might be one of the more pleasurable beverages to have along side foods with rugged levels of heat. The combinations could be endless, apple pie or chocolate cake, both would have their merits.