Like the crochetty Willie T. Stokes meeting up with his partner for their annual con in the 2003 holiday comedy Bad Santa, Pelican Brewing’s Bad Santa Cascadian Dark Ale is back just in time before the year is over. The Oregon brewery releases this roasty, herbal, hop-forward beer each fall. While the CDA name might imply something more exotic, this beer is basically a black IPA clocking in at 7.5% ABV and 65 IBU.
On the bottle, a naughty Santa-hat clad version of the brewery’s signature pelican mascot glares with shades down and a smoldering joint in its beak. Bad Santa cascades out of the bottle a deep red-brown color. Ruby highlights similar to a porter show themselves when the glass is held to the light. An impressive tan-colored head perists on this beer well after pouring, and clings to the rim of the glass even after multiple sips.
Unlike the relentless foam on this beer, the aroma is much more subtle, making it hard to pick up on any specific notes. What is detectable: a delicate roasted malt character complemented by mild notes of floral, herbal hops.
If Pelican really wanted to impress, it might consider amping up the hop flavor and aroma.”
Bad Santa is hoppy on the front and malty on the backend. The first sip presents a strong herbal hop character joined by a mild flavor of pine and resin. Toasty, roasted malt in the form of coffee and dark chocolate becomes apparent as the beer settles on the tongue. The roasted malts also help add to the perceived bitterness and dryness of the beer. Bad Santa finishes smooth and dry with a lingering roastiness on the palate.
While a good example of the black IPA style, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s balanced, but only to a point, with the hops getting lost among the robust roasted malt profile. If Pelican really wanted to impress, it might consider amping up the hop flavor and aroma, maybe even using an American variety instead of Fuggles, the English variety used in the recipe.