As you can see, the everything looks much the same as it did on their excellently designed Northern Light pale ale. I strongly recommend you read my review posted yesterday of Northern Light, because everything on the outside of the bottle is much the same.
The front label this time features a stunning graphic of a circle of standing stones. Nothing sums up the monolithic history of our islands more than this type of images. Whether our monolithic ancestors drank ale however is unlikely. Around the 4.6% volume mark, we are told that this is a Dark Ale. Never having had dark ale, I had no idea what to expect. Apart from darkness. On the ‘authenticity stamp’ I liked so much, we are told to expect a “full bodied malt character”. From my recent experience with Leffe, malt is good.
Orkney Brewery also dodge the puddle trodden in by countless other brewers. We are actually told what awards this beer has won instead of just a vague reference. In this case, Dark Island twice won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Scotland. I don’t know what CAMRA is, but it sounds prestigious and official enough to impress me.
Again on the rear label, we are helpfully treated to their flowery description of what to expect “on the nose” and “on the palate”. Their take on the smell includes “bitter chocolate, figs, toffee and hints of fruit”. And how they think it will taste of “coffee-and-chocolate”, “figs, dates and dried fruits” and an after taste of “fruit and hop bitterness”. That is a lot by which to judge this ale. Let’s see how it does…
I’d say that Dark Ale is just another name for Stout. A quick Wikipedia search reveals that yes, it is stout. That poses a challenge, because I’m not a big fan of stout. That said, I’m always willing to give dark ale/stout a chance.
The smell is just as complex as the label suggests. But I would say, it smells more of burnt malt than chocolate. But if you want to call it chocolate, toffee and figs, I won’t argue. Just go in prepared for it to smell like a stout and you wont be surprised.
As for the taste. Well… It’s a stout. It tastes as a stout should taste. It’s smooth. It has that burnt malt taste that stout has. It is bitter. As someone who isn’t really a stout drinker, what more can I say? It’s not bad though. It’s not so strong as to be difficult to drink. It is quite tasty, even though the bitterness was still putting me off.
Overall, this isn’t bad. In fact, it’s probably very very good, only I can’t see it because I’m not a dark ale/stout drinker. I’ve got to ask Orkney Brewery all the way up in Quoyloo to replace the words Dark Ale with Stout so that ill-informed people, like me, won’t get something they’re not expecting. Try it yourself, but only if you like stouts. Or if like me, you’re trying to develop a tolerance for stouts.
Rating: 3.25, but probably much higher if you like Dark Ale/Stout
Have you tried Dark Island? What did you think? Do you have a favourite Dark Ale/Stout that I should try?