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The birth of a new beer style

Posted by richard on 19th Sep 2014

Ever wonder how many beer styles there are in the world and how they came to be? Unfortunately an exact number of styles is impossible to put a finger on as there is no universally agreed list, with different countries and organisations having different sets of classification criteria. However, it is safe to say that there are over 75 different beer styles in the world with many of these styles having been around for hundreds of years.

As taste buds evolve and brewers continue to innovate with brewing techniques, hybrid styles and ingredients, more styles are needing to be defined and added to style lists. Each beer style is defined by a variety of characteristics with ingredients, yeast, colour, bitterness and alcohol by volume being the key determining factors. A recent style addition has been the  Black IPA, also known as an India Black Ale or Cascadian Dark Ale – one “style” can be known under slightly different names.

The birth of this style is dated to the late 90’s and early 2000’s in the United States and was initially referred to as the Cascadian Dark Ale, named after its place of origin. Cascadia comprises of a region in the American Pacific North West, made up of Washington State, Oregon, British Columbia (Canada) and portions of other US states. This region has a highly developed craft beer movement and is home to North America’s two largest hop growing regions (Yakima and Willamette Valleys). Interestingly, a secession movement has also been trying to have Cascadia become its own independent state and even have their own flag!

In 2010 a handful of beer writers and industry leaders met in Portland Oregon to discuss the Cascadian Dark Ale. With nineteen examples of the style on hand they went about finalising the style descriptors and basic recipe guidelines. Once completed they submitted their Cascadian Dark Ale characteristics to the American Brewers Association and Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).  This style has since been entered into the style lists and as a result a new style is born.