I just received the press release for Odell’s Mountain Standard Black IPA. I’ve never had the beer so I’m excited to try it. What I really wanted to talk about briefly though, is this never-ending discussion of whether we call a beer a Black IPA or a Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA). CDA is a term that many people in the Pacific NW are attempting to use in branding the style of these beers because, among many reasons, the hops used in these types of beers come from Cascadia, the Pacific NW. Many people outside the area don’t want it called that. The distinction in the terms Black IPA and CDA are important in the beer geek world for more reasons than that but I want to share my opinion.
Mountain Standard is indeed a Black IPA, not a CDA. The press release says “Named for the time zone in which the brewery resides, Mountain Standard Double Black IPA features hops grown on Colorado’s western slope.” Not only is Odell playing off the geographical debate that’s taking place by naming their beer after our time zone, but they’ve specifically used hops from this time zone, not from the Pacific NW.
There is a difference between the hops grown in the Pacific NW and the hops grown in other areas. Hops in the Pacific NW can produce really distinct aromas and flavors that are dank, piney, as well as grapefruity. I’ve found that a proper CDA will have these types of hops in them and that’s when the style is at it’s very best. The style is not just a gimmick, it’s a beautiful combination of roasted malt and piney hops. If a beer doesn’t utilize those specific hops then we can call it a Black IPA, no problem, but it’s not going to taste the same as a true CDA. I came to this conclusion when I was talking with a British guy on some homebrew site. He was telling me that CDA’s are a gimmick. He said he brewed his own version but because those hops were scarce he ended up using some substitutes from across the pond and then claimed ‘It just tastes like a porter with extra hops!’ That’s when it hit me, a CDA is indeed it’s own style, if you ever drink a Hopworks Secession, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I brought the Secession out to Scotland and let some beer folks try it, and it was their favorite out of 11 different West Coast beers.
All this to say that I think Mountain Standard Black IPA is not only a fitting name but it’s also a clever play on geography. As you know through my production of Beers Made By Walking I’m very interested in the idea of ‘indigenous beers’ (as Jeff from Beervana puts it) where the landscape itself can influence the way a certain locale makes a beer and therefore new styles or ideas emerge. I wonder if using Colorado hops in Black IPA’s will catch on? And if so, maybe we could give it a distinction of Mountain Standard Dark Ale, or Rocky Mountain Dark Ale?