Continuing in my recent tradition of offering reviews of beer that you may or may not still be able to find, I present to you Bent Stick’s Throwin’ Shade Cascadian Dark Ale.
First, the Bent Stick boys get full marks off the top for calling the beer a Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA). In my curmudgeonly world that is the only appropriate name for this type of beer. Sure, some call it Black IPA, but that is too much of an oxymoron for me to countenance (remember, IPA stands for India PALE Ale). Clearly that is their position too.
For those of you less familiar with Edmonton’s youngest brewery, they have adopted a model of never releasing the same beer twice. Meaning it can be hard for a beer writer prone to procrastination to get around to posting a review that might actually push sales. (I actually sampled a bottle of the beer earlier in January and the notes sat unattended for a while. My bad. Such is life.)
“Get to the beer!” you might cry, lest it sell out before I finally get to describing it. So, here is my review:
It pours a dark, opaque brown, verging on a stout-like appearance. It builds a dark tan head with tight bead accented by bigger, looser bubbles to give it a textured look. The aroma offers chocolate at first along with a hint of coffee. I then pick up some piney, light citrus hop. The choir includes dark fruit of raisin and grape, a hint of brown bread and a smidgen of caramel.
The flavour also starts with chocolate, along with caramel and a rich, dark fruit character that reminds me of raisin, plum and prune. The middle sharpens up intensely, bringing out a resiny, piney hop character and some sharp coffee notes. The back end then brings out a noted bitterness and continues with the piney, earthy hop character. Roast goes along for the ride in the back seat as well. The linger is pine and citrus hops backed by a sweet chocolate character. I do also find an odd harshness to the overall body that I can’t explain.
In my opinion this flavourful beer exhibits the hop character of CDA almost perfectly. Present and forward but not overly dominating. The right tones are there too – citrus and pine and fruit. I wonder, however, if the malt base might be a bit overdone. I find a bit too much roast (even though it is still fairly subtle) and overall it is not as smooth as I might normally like from a CDA. Still, it holds up well as a flavourful, interesting beer. I enjoyed the glass from beginning to end.
I recognize it was the first attempt (such is the highwire act they engage daily). Should they choose to make this again, if they toned down the darker malts a touch they would have themselves a formidable CDA.
And, again, kudos to them for calling it the right thing.