Steel Toe Brewing’s newest release, or rather re-release, Douglas, is as delicious as it is elusive. While listed on Steel Toe’s website as a “seasonal beer [that] will sneak into our line up occasionally and will disappear quickly,” the season itself is relatively undefined — it is pretty much when they want to brew it. But like your grandma’s chocolate cake, it’s not an all-the-time thing, despite how much your 12-year-old self may want it as an every-meal replacement. Because Grandma knows best, treats should be reserved for special occasions, even if you don’t know what they are, and that makes them all the more special.
Like all Steel Toe brews, Douglas, at a solid 7.5 percent ABV, is sold in bombers for $5. Pitch black, with a thick, frothy head the color of almond cream, the beer’s mouthfeel is full and robust. Douglas is so steeped in roasted chocolate notes, it’s almost in the breakfast beer category, if you wanted to eat brownies for breakfast. A piney hop texture runs through the backbone of the beer — into, and even past, the finish — resting slightly on your tongue as it slides down your throat.
The hop levels, however, are balanced by the dry but heavy malt character; a sip of this dark beer doesn’t overwhelm the palate, at least not right away. Throughout a pint the hop intensity increases, but so does your mouth’s tolerance for it, making it taste deeper and richer, rather than more astringent, as hop-forward India Pale Ale’s (IPAs) often do.
But what is a Cascadian Dark Ale? Although the name is different, the style is almost identical to a Black IPA or and India Black Ale (IBA). First recognized in 2010 by the American Brewer’s Association under the blanket name “American-style India Black Ale,” Cascadian Dark Ales originated in the Pacific Northwest. Hence the name: it refers to the Cascade mountain range that encompasses the area in which much of America’s hop supply is grown. But Minnesota is no stranger to the style; Indeed’s Midnight Ryder, Third Street’s Bitter Neighbor and Surly’s more intense double IPA BLAKKR are in this category as well.