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Dark Island - Orkney Brewery

Not Rated.
Dark IslandDark Island

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

352 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 352
Reviews: 234
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 12.09%
Wants: 57
Gots: 12 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scottish Ale |  4.60% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 04-02-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 352 | Reviews: 234 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of RblWthACoz
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark brown that shows some dark ruby tints when held to light. Minimal tan-nish head falls fairly quickly. Nose is that woody syrupy sweet thickness. Pretty traditional stuff. Seems like there are some coffee grind tones on the end too. Flavor tastes like bitter old coffee at first but calms down to only a fairly bitter tone. As it warms it becomes more pleasant and some firm peat tones really start to appear. Leaves a smoked, peaty like aftertaste in the mouth. Feel has a thick liquid body and a good level of carbonation. Overall a decent brew. If you drink it too soon without letting it warm up, don't expect as much as you should be getting.

RblWthACoz, Jan 01, 2008
Photo of beerking1
3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Dark amber-brown with a big, dense tan head. Malty aroma with hints of smoke. Tasty malty roast aroma with a very subtle hop background. Body is just right for style. This is very good version of the "Scottish," not "Scotch" ale style.

beerking1, Dec 06, 2007
Photo of slyke
4.43/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I first had Orkney Dark Island in a pub in Edinburgh along with my first meal of haggis. When I found it recently at local beer store, I was thrilled.

A: An almost black dark red with a finger of tan head.

S: Dark fruit, roastiness, maybe a hint of chocolate, a little sweetness.

T: The dark fruit is there, the roastiness, maybe a touch of smokiness, and a sweet-malt backbone holding it all together. The taste becomes more complex as the beer warms.

M: Slightly coating with a lingering finish.

D: This is an excellent beer. If you come across it, do yourself a favor and try it.

slyke, Dec 01, 2007
Photo of PhageLab
4.22/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a standard pint glass at the Bier Garden. I didn't get a chance to check out the bottle very long, and am now surprised to see that this is a Scottish ale. I had it pinned for a schwarzbier. Oh well, here goes...

A - Pitch black brew with a small fingertip's worth of head that dissipated rather quickly. Blotchy lacing here and there. Looks like a schwarzbier to me.

S - Not a whole lot going on here, but there are definitely berry notes, possibly multiple kinds at that.

T - Blackberry hits me immediately, and it's much sweeter than I had anticipated. Very sharp and crisp. Much lighter than it's appearance may lead one to believe. Very mellow bitterness rounds it off, bringing a nice balance to the fruit flavors.

M - Crisp light bodied beer with a medium level of carbonation. Really clean finish, no residue or aftertaste.

D - Very high, the low abv and light profile coupled together make this one an excellent session brew. If I could find it closer to where I live, I would make this a staple in my collection. Recommended.

PhageLab, Nov 10, 2007
Photo of CplHunter
2.88/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Deep brown with a red hint. Off white head quickly dissipates to a "dusting". Decent lacing.

S: Burnt. Plums. Estery. Burnt esters...? Cidery. Smoky.

T: Grapes. Plums. Hints of cider and smoke. Sea salt. Ocean. Hop bitters linger. Something off that I can't put a finger on. Whatever that "something" is, it's inhibiting my enjoyment of this beer.

M: Some champagne-like carb hits the tongue. Thick. Rich. Coating.

D: <5% ABV makes it a candidate for a session beer. Just not my session.
BIA: No. This one just doesn't do it for me.

CplHunter, Nov 06, 2007
Photo of JamesS
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This has an excellent look to it, a nice burnt brown instead of the extremely burnt copper of many scotch ales, along with an excellent head and wonderful lacing. It has a very pleasing scent, a mixture of peat and burnt oak, along with a subtle bit of malt. Nice taste, malty with hints of burnt grains. It has the usual scotch ale flavor, along with a bit of caramel, but the flavor isn't as strong as most scotch ales, even the non wee heavies, but it's still quite good, and gets better and heavier with each drink. It goes down extremely well, though, a nice smooth and creamy drink with a great finish.

JamesS, Oct 26, 2007
Photo of Minkybut
3.85/5  rDev -3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I poured this odd looking little beer into my tumbler at 50 degrees. The beer was certainly dark actually opaq looking. The head was decent and was full of very fine bubbles. The smell was nutty like amoretto. The taste was r=the same with a nutty flavor that was rather nice. I also thoughht it was a tiny bit smokie but that mighth have been due to my last beer before I drank this one. In any event I will buy again.

Minkybut, Oct 25, 2007
Photo of BEERchitect
4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Yep, that's Scottish alright. The only culture who gets drunk enough to burn dirt. ..and then make beer with it. Fresh from the bottle, the beer emits a burst of peat / campfire / smoke qualities along with a hearty molassas sweet scent and dark fruits. As expected, the appearance is a solid brown color with a tawny tan head that shows a lot of creaminess and lacing. The taste of the beer does a backflip, giving a lot of syrup-sweet maltiness, rich dark figs, dates, plumbs, and grapes. The beer holds firm with woody, earthy, smoky flavors showing midway through the sip and increasing into the finish. Moderately hopped for bitterness but no hop aroma or flavor. Certainly balanced toward the malts. Despite such bold flavors, the feel is lighter than expected, but without thinning or becomming watery; remains creamy throughout. Maybe a touch of roasted grain chalkiness in the finish. A good beer, but even boldly smoky for a Scotch Ale.

BEERchitect, Oct 11, 2007
Photo of PorterLambic
3/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Mahogany brown, dark tan head with good retention.
Smell is rich with malt but sadly not much else. After serious nasal straining I did find a very faint hint of coffee.
Taste is much better, malty, dark fruit (mostly cherry), oak, sour.
Body is thin, watery, with light, no very light, effervescence. I'm wondering if maybe I got a bad bottle here?
I would give this another shot but if the 2nd is the same then...
Overall, this was just a so-so brew.

PorterLambic, Jun 15, 2007
Photo of Backer2004
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Tom for letting me try this at the Carolina Brewmasters Annual Memorial Day BBQ. Very dark appearance. Cream off tan head. Molasses, bready aroma. Fruitiness, and peat smell and flavor, though not overwhelming. Not for a summer BBQ, but good example of the style, one I am still trying to be more familiar with.

Backer2004, May 28, 2007
Photo of Gueuzedude
4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled March 2007
Pours with a frothy, fully tan colored head that starts out about two-fingers thick. The beer is a very dark, almost black colored beer. There is an interesting spiciness here in the aroma, it is sort of cinnamon like (but not really) or perhaps a touch of clove (but again not really). Mainly the aroma is full of notes of chocolate, coffee, touches of molasses, some dusty chalk notes.

Fairly sweet up front, but then an interesting salty, smoky note becomes noticeable. So now that spicy note in the nose makes sense. Peat it is. The salty, smoky peat character couples with notes of chocolate and a host of (though in no way dominating) burnt characteristics (acidity, dusty burnt grain, and a touch of coffee). This is an interesting beer, I was not expecting this at all. The smoke actually adds something like sweetness, which couples with the residual malt sugars. This is quite a tasty brew, once again I am quite impressed with this brewery and of course I always love tasty, lower alcohol brews.

Gueuzedude, Apr 24, 2007
Photo of stereosforgeeks
3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: A nice with a light brown head and some nice lacing.

Smell: Some nice chocolate roasted malts, some butter, toffee, and mild hops.

Taste: Nice nuts and chocolates with coffee. Very light fruity hop bitterness on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy that still manages to be light on the tongue.

Drinkability: This is sessionable at about 5%.

stereosforgeeks, Mar 23, 2007
Photo of brentk56
3.6/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours a cola brown color with garnet highlights and a very nice, sticky head that leaves mucho lacing

Smell: Vague dark fruit aroma with a scent of smoky peat and nuts

Taste: Starts out with a dark fruit flavor that is slightly sour; quickly joined by the smoky peat element that dominates this beer; after the swallow; the smokiness joins with a slight tinge of nutty flavors that fade out as quickly as they arrive

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: While I like certain smoked beers, others just turn me off; unfortunately, this is one that I don't care for, even though I appreciate its complexity, as I don't like the sour aspect

brentk56, Mar 10, 2007
Photo of Stephen63
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Impressive dark body and well maintained head that lasted to the bottom of the pint.

S - Malty with ground coffee like smokimess.

T - Really hits the spot, just the right level of bitterness and lovely smokey feel in the finish. Nice and rich.

M - Very pleasant carbonation.

D - Bit high on alcohol for me to have too many pints but the one I had did not last very long!

A fine beer that made me forget about the miserable torrential rain outside. Definitely a must try as a cask beer.

Stephen63, Mar 02, 2007
Photo of dedrinker
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Root beer color, peaty/ earthy aroma and flavor. This was a very nice mellow ale for modest comfort-quaffing after coming in out of the cold. It made me want to wear a sweater. Cask-conditioned gives it that extra edge on aroma, flavor and mouth feel. At the bar that served it I suddenly wished I had arrived without my friends so I could take the last chair by the fire to close my eyes and slowly pour this beer down my hatch.

dedrinker, Feb 12, 2007
Photo of jettjon
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Presented in a 500ml bottle, no freshness date, into the wine goblet. Very dark, nearly opaque plum/cherry color with no bubbles. One-finger head of tan bubbles fades at a moderate rate leaving a heavy ring and a spotty cap. Moderate lacing along the sides of the glass. Nose is of sweet malt and aromatic smoke. Taste is very smoky with a bit of spiciness (like chipotle), but remarkably not overwhelmingly so. Solid toasted to burnt malt character. Nicely balanced with the emphasis on the toasted/smoke flavor, with little to no hops character. Mouth is watery with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is good overall; this is a tasty and easygoing beer despite a firm smoky character.

Overall: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This is very solid example of a Scotch ale with great smoky character without being overpowering (Rogue’s chipotle ale comes to mind as an example of “smoky” overdone). Highly enjoyable; recommended.

jettjon, Feb 07, 2007
Photo of ByTor2112
3.73/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice dark shade of root beer brown. Thin beige colored head. Maintains a nice film across the top.
Aroma- A deep inhale gets some sweet malt aromas-caramel is in there. The dark malt is not roasty toasty, just rich.
Smooth flavor with a medium pronounced hop bitterness that has a slight edge over the malty flavors. For a dark ale I hate to say this is almost balanced. Sweetish malt flavors with an earthy hop bitterness. A good froth on the palate and it maintians it taste and flavor profiles. The hops come back in at the finish as well. Not bold but a good full-bodied ale.

ByTor2112, Feb 05, 2007
Photo of seanyfo
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

served on cask at local wetherspoons

A: Dark with nice full creamy light tan head, that lasts throughout the pint

S: Some nice earthy malt sweetness, no hops to speak of, subtle smokey nuttiness

T: this is very earthy indeed. Lots of smokey peaty coffee like notes mixed with a gentle nutty malt sweetness, that gives this a lovely balance that is not overwhelming and is defintely something different for a scottish ale

M: very smooth with low carbotion, firm body, no wateriness detected.

D: a nice change from traditional scottish ales, smokey nutty aspect makes it very warming, a nice Cold January fireside ale

seanyfo, Jan 31, 2007
Photo of veech
2.98/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I was surprised that I didn't like this beer more, but the overdone smokiness just really compounded with each sip until I just didn't enjoy it any longer. I typically like the style and the presentation, nose and mouthfeel were all fine. The smokiness just really dominated with each successive sip. I have noted the high marks from most other reviewers, but I just really had a hard time finishing my particular bottle. The other Orkney beers I've tried I have really enjoyed, but unfortunately I cannot count Dark Island among them. I guess it's just not my bag.

veech, Jan 26, 2007
Photo of dstc
3.58/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark with nice full tan head that stayed through half my beer.

S: Smoky, earthy and of strong malt.

T: Nice full ale taste with hints of chocolate. Earthy (peat?) undertones with a strong smoky taste.

M: Bites the tongue a little, too much carbonation maybe? Or is it just alcohol even thought it's only 4.6% ABV?

D: Was a nice beer to enjoy with Burns night supper but just a tad too smoky for my taste but a fine beer otherwise.

dstc, Jan 25, 2007
Photo of claytri
4.63/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a rich brown with a tan head. The aroma is of dark scottish malt. The taste is incredibly light, it starts with a nice sharp bite of toasted malt then rounds out with just a slight sweetness. The feel is smooth light and dry almost evaporating off your tounge as you swallow. This is one of those times you want to pat your back for having grabbed this one. Just a wonderful beer. The brewer has been able to highlight the toasting of the malt without overpowering you.

claytri, Dec 07, 2006
Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.53/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Originally reviewed on September 27, 2005. 500mL Bottle. Dark clear brown pour, with a ruby-glinted pour. Topped with a quickly fading bubbly tan head. Earthy and grassy strong oats and wheat aroma, very grainy and malty. Coarse, yet enticing. Some chocolate aroma. Watery and crisp, with a smooth oaty and earthy. Lots of horseblanket and sheep barn. A tinge of chocolate, no alcohol burn. Very drinkable. Much like a beefed up Mild Ale to me.

CharlesDarwin, Nov 27, 2006
Photo of daliandragon
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Attractive both in and out of the bottle. Label portrays the Standing Stones of Stennis against a rising/setting sun above the Orkney raven crest. The body of the beer itself features a mahogany color with a ruby tinge and a fleeting tan head. Nose is malty and ringed with fruit and considerable smoky, spicy, flavors. Chocolate and cream notes rre also evident upon closer inspection.

Very smoky flavor almost favoring a rauchbier except that the finish is very smooth, creamy and mellow. A bit overcarbonated at the start but pleasant in its different ways as each mouthfeel progresses. This is a brew with a lot of flavor and character and I find it quite enjoyable. Now I just have to make it to Scotland and try it on cask.

daliandragon, Nov 19, 2006
Photo of kmacphail
4.43/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Probably one of the most regular of the Orkney beers to be found in the south of Scotland.

A very nice pint arrived, looking very close to a Guinness from accross the bar. Dark brown in colour with a creamy head, this lasted the duration of the pint.

The smell of burnt malts and chocolate with a hint of fruitiness is totally different from the tamer bottled version. This malty and chocolate taste continues through with a nice smokey character in the initial taste, this is then followed with a nice variety of fruits, none too dominant, but this is to the beers advantage I think.

The beer swirled very well round the mouth, nice and full of body, but still very drinkable. This was consumed in the New Bazaar in Dumfries (Scotland), a number of the lads stayed on it all night. A very drinkable beer, much more suited to the cask rather than bottle.

kmacphail, Nov 16, 2006
Photo of oelergud
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Black opaque body with ruby edge. Nice big tan head mostly of medium bubbles that dissipates quickly, not much lace.
Mild chocolate scent, sweet and inviting, buttery and soft.
Mellow and soft mild chocolate taste. Butter and mild spice. The aftertaste is mild hops.
Medium body and low coating.
Good driability.
This is a mild beer in every aspect yet so pleasant and enjoyable to drink. Work day stress will melt away as the glass gets lower.


oelergud, Oct 21, 2006
Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 352 ratings.