After thousands of years of brewing, it's not every day that someone comes up with a new beer style. But in the last few years, West Coast craft brewers have been churning out what looks like a porter but tastes like a sweet India Pale Ale. Everyone loves it. In its debut as a category at this year's Great American Beer Festival, it garnered 53 entries; only 15 of the 79 categories had more—and those were mostly stalwarts like blonde ale and barleywine.
The problem is, no one can decide what to call it.
According to the Brewers Association, which runs the festival, it's the American-Style India Black Ale. By their definition, it is a dark, moderately bitter beer that balances its high hops content with caramel and roasted malt flavors. Imagine a porter and an IPA combined in such a way that their opposing characteristics—one sweet and rich, the other sharp and bitter—complemented each other, bringing out new flavors like ginger, mint, and rosemary.
Not everyone is happy with the name, though. The style is particularly popular in the Pacific Northwest, where breweries like Deschutes and Widmer Brothers have made it a central part of their lineup. Many in the region prefer to call it Cascadia Dark Ale, a nod to its frequent use of Cascade hops as well as the fictional land of "Cascadia," which runs along the Pacific Coast from Oregon into Canada.