Dark Ale, more of a simple descriptor than a style designation for a particular type of beer. During the early days of the microbrewing movement in the United States in the 1980s, describing a beer as a “dark ale” was a simple way of making plain the fact that the beer at hand was dark in color and therefore different from most beers then available. Although occasionally still seen in the UK, the term is rarely used today because both brewers and beer enthusiasts have become more accustomed to broadly accepted style designations.
There are, however, some exceptions. The designation “Belgian strong dark ale” is often used to describe dark abbey-style beers with strengths above about 8% alcohol by volume, the fuzzy upper limit for the dubbel style. Although the Belgians themselves do not use the term, there are many Belgian beers that fit the name.
Although fairly new, the designation “Cascadian dark ale” is gaining some currency as the name of a beer style emerging out of the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes referred to as “black India pale ale,” Cascadian dark ale is a top-fermented beer using roasted malts for color but also featuring strong hop bitterness and an effusion of hop flavor and aroma. Perhaps feeling that the name “black India pale ale” was clearly silly, brewers in Oregon and Washington coined a style name that alludes to a mythical republic of Cascadia that would link Seattle to Portland and Vancouver and take a snip out of Alaska. Although the name is tongue-in-cheek, many examples are now produced commercially. Most use dehusked dark malts to avoid a clash between hop bitterness and the acridity that conventional roasted malts can lend to beers. Not surprisingly, just about all Cascadian dark ales are flavored with hops grown in the American Pacific Northwest.