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Bitter Darkness, Indeed

If you come from Yukon you likely know a thing or two about how bitter the dark can be. Weeks on end without sunlight (or almost any), freezing cold, isolation. It might anyone bitter. Even their beer.

Which is why maybe it is ideal that at this time of year our friends at Yukon Brewing might try their hand at a Black IPA (often called a Cascadian Dark Ale for the chromatically consistent). The latest release in Yukon’s A.D.D. series (number five to be accurate) is a Cascadian Dark Ale. This style is supposed to be a darker version of an IPA. It originated in the northwest US (in the Cascades region – hence the name), and has rapidly exploded as a desired seasonal brew.

The Yukon folks are quick to admit they are not extreme hopheads. They aim for balance in their beer, which I enjoy and respect. Which means this might be the perfect style for them. You can hop-out, but need enough malty beer base to balance it off, or else the whole beer just doesn’t work.

So how did it work? In my opinion, superbly.

It is deep mahogany brown with some ruby hightlights. The head is off-white, verging on light tan. It is thick and consistent with a few moon craters along the surface. It is a lovely looking beer. Chocolate comes out first in the aroma, followed by some deep caramel, burnt almond, and then afterward a soft hop aroma – floral upfront, but with a citrus undercurrent.

It has a lovely aroma, but the flavour is where the action is. Upfront it is like a soft brown porter, with chocolate, light roast, a toasty malt and some caramel. Then you get a 180 degree turn. A citrusy, grapefruit hop builds as the beer moves toward your throat. The hop is distinctly Cascade – pine, grapefruit and hints of generic citrus. In the finish the beer dries out with hops and light roast. The linger is a playful intermingling of citrusy hop, dark chocolate and hints of roast. Like a game of beer Twister!

Two things make this beer stand out for me. First, it is a bit darker and more willing to go into dark chocolate and light roast than most Dark IPAs. Second I love that angular turn it takes midway. You think you are getting a nice brown porter and then, wham, the hops comes along. The beer finds a way to hold in tension both aspects of the style – hop and malt. The two poles find a way to contrast each other and yet complement each other as well.

I haven’t had enough Caascadian Dark Ales to know whether this is a classic or not. But what I do know is that I want to head out and by a couple of more right away. Which is enough said.

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