I will admit it (and I may have said this before): Cascadian Dark Ale is not my favorite style. For me it’s too much of a weird clash of dark, roasty, possibly astringent malt character with the floral, herbal bitterness of the hops—and too often, they’re not brewed well enough to get past this discord.
That being said, there are of course examples I like. Turmoil from Barley Brown’s Brewpub is at the top of the list for me. Deschutes Brewery’s Hop in the Dark is a close second. Fortunately I live in Bend so I can get Hop in the Dark when it’s fresh—and more fortunately, Deschutes sent me a bottle recently!
Hop in the Dark is 6.5% alcohol by volume, and 70 IBUs, and Deschutes’ secret to making this beer (everyone has their “secret” I imagine) is to de-bitter the black malts by steeping them in cold water (much akin to cold-steeped coffee). It’s a process that works and one that’s worth exploring from a homebrew angle.
Appearance: Dark brown to black and opaque. Thick bed of tan foam, creamy with very fine bubbles and lace.
Smell: Vinous, resiny hops with a touch of citrusy zest, and a hint of background roastiness (think coffee). Nicely hoppy with no harsh burnt notes or astringent aromas.
Taste: Roasty malts, a touch dry (as in stout), with green, sticky hops that coat the tongue. Nice resiny character, none too fruity—the almost-woody or pitchy hops balance really well with the dark malts. Very clean.
Mouthfeel: The darker malts do make it a touch heavy, otherwise medium-bodied with a lupulin-y aftercoating.
Overall: Well done, very balanced and clean drinking. One of the few Cascadian Dark Ales that is done right.