Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

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Dark IslandDark Island
Very Good
434 Ratings
Dark IslandDark Island

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.60%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 04-02-2002

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 434 |  Reviews: 257
Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.35/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Best before the end of 10/2015.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that fades to nothing. No lacing on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt, burnt caramel, smoke, and slight dark fruit aromas. Taste is much the same with roast, char, burnt caramel, and slight smoke and soy sauce flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is an above average beer that is drinkable, but the aromas and flavors I am getting are a bit unexpected for the style.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of kjkinsey
4/5  rDev +1%

Photo of djrn2
3.6/5  rDev -9.1%

Photo of Knapp85
3.73/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a nice shade of reddish brown. The head was white and a little foamy. The lacing was thin and didn't really do too much after mid glass. The smell of the beer had a good amount of malts on the nose, there was a subtle sweetness to the aroma. The taste was earthy, malty, and had some qualities of most English style ales. The mouthfeel of this beer was pretty smooth, it was a little light bodied for the color of the brew. Overall I thought that it was a good brew to try. Glad I had it.

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Photo of t0rin0
4/5  rDev +1%

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is very dark amber (close to opaque) in color and has a light amount of carbonation. It poured with a finger high creamy beige head that quickly died down and left a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface that gradually turned into lacing.
S: There are moderate to strong aromas of caramel and nuts in the nose.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste is dominated by flavors of caramel and toasted malts. It also has notes of nuts and raspberries as well as hints of chocolate and coffee.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a bit thin on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very sessionable given its' low alcohol content. It packs in so much flavor that I could drink this all night long without losing interest.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.06/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle. Quoyloo? Did Herman Melville come through there at one time?

This beer pours a clear, very dark reddish-brown colour, with two fingers of puffy and rocky beige head, which leaves a high-flying array of honeycomb lace around the glass as it slowly sinks away. Sexytime!

It smells of dark roasted malt, some oily nuttiness, soft caramel and bitter chocolate notes, and a subtle drying, indistinct hoppiness. The taste is mildly chocolaty, grainy malt, understated, sulky, and yet persistent nutty tones, some weak, but pesky caramel, and soft, unassuming drying noble hops.

The bubbles are average, and middling, but not at all obtrusive, the body a soothing medium-light weight, and no-questions-asked smooth. It finishes off-dry, the burbling nutty, caramel, and Euro-chocolate sweetness nowhere near overpowering, but still ceding little to the steadfast, if still quite anonymous drying hops.

A lovely Scottish ale, balanced in all respects, except maybe for (from a New World view) the ABV - ah, hell, even I shouldn't complain - any session ale should be lucky to have such complexity and ardor.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.07/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.25/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25


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Photo of brentk56
3.63/5  rDev -8.3%
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

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle into pint glass, bottled on 6/6/2011. Pours lightly cloudy nearly opaque dark brown color with a 1-2 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty lacing clings down the glass. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa, toffee, molasses, toast, raisin, plum, pear, apple, dark bread, light roast, herbal, light pepper, light leather, and yeast earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark malt and yeast ester notes; with good strength. Taste of chocolate, cocoa, dark bread, toast, molasses, raisin, plum, pear, light roast, herbal, light pepper, light leather, and toast/yeast earthiness. No bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of chocolate, cocoa, dark bread, toast, molasses, raisin, plum, pear, light roast, herbal, and toast/yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted malt and fruity yeast ester flavors; with zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a fairly creamy, smooth, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish as expected of 4.6%. Overall this is a damn nice Scottish ale! All around good balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted malt and fruity yeast ester flavors; and very smooth to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.88/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark brown in color with a half finger tall tan head. The head dissipates rather quickly leaving a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. Moderate lacing is observed.

S: Aromas of caramel, dark roasted malts, molasses, and hints of chocolate. The smell is pretty intense and very pleasant.

T: Flavors are primarily of the dark roasted malts with caramel and molasses sweetness, there are hints of chocolate and smoke, and a very light bitterness to the finish. The beer is well-balanced and has a nice complexity to the flavor.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly creamy.

O: I really enjoyed this beer, I was not expecting it to be quite so dark and to have such a wonderful aroma. I was pleased that it had hints of smoke but that the smoke was not overpowering and let the other flavors show through. Very easy to drink and I would gladly have another (if only there was another bottle here at the house).

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.44/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opaque brown in color with a tan head that drops quickly to a decent collar and whispy foam across the surface and leaving just some light lace. The aroma offers a light dark fruit note, a sweet caramel maltiness, and a soft espresso-like roastiness. The body is light, the carbonation limited, and the mouthfeel oily. The flavor, however, is richly malty and quite complex with notes of dark chocolate, burnt caramel, coffee, biscuit, and soft dark fruits. The finish is sweet, even candyish at times, with a light fudge-like note - but always well balanced by an underlying bitterness that keeps the sweetness in check. Although this is a Scottish ale, a warmer serving temperature closer to British standards seems to display its character best. Worth trying, but not worth seeking. Probably very nice cask-conditioned.

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Photo of zestar
3.75/5  rDev -5.3%

Photo of chinchill
3.48/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle with a BB date of August 2016 purchased and consumed in Fife, Scotland; served in a Sweetwater pint glass.

Flavor has a load of toffee with brown bread. Neither sweet nor bitter. Low carbonation but a fairly durable head. Near full body.

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Photo of jlindros
4.13/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

THanks to dfclav for this one.

Pours a large almost 2 finger creamy head that fades semi slowly with quite a bit of lacing, over super dark almost black rosy brown color.

Nose brings that typical uk style dark ale, soft aged brown malts, toasty and light roasty brown malts, light molasses and caramelized brown sugar, light porter aromas, light earthy hops.

Taste starts with soft dark malts, again with tons of molasses, caramelized brown sugar, some dark dried fruits, raisin, light fig, some very light cinnamon (not real cinnamon just from the malts and yeast I assume), a light juicy quality, some light earthy and very light bitter herbal hops. Finishes mostly clean, light lingering roasted malts, light chocolate even, some juicy dark fruits with more raisin, and a bit of bitterness.

Mouth is medium bodied with decent carbonation.

Overall pretty good, light and sessionable, nice darker roasty malts, toasty, soft aged brown malts, brown sugar and molasses, lots of great dark malt flavors in a very light and sessionable beer, great job.

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Photo of Gagnonsux
4.23/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark Island is a deep, dark brown in color with an average-sized, light brown head. The head has a nice creamy texture and good retention. The aroma is of sweet chocolatey malts with an earthy undertone and a touch of roastiness. The taste consists of a nice combination of chocolate-flavored and earthy malts. A moderate roasted flavor adds a layer of complexity and is most potent in the finish. Light herbal hopping provides balance, bitterness, and just a bit of flavor. This is great stuff, I love the layering of tastes and subtle complexities. If this weren't so heavy I would give it a higher drinkability score. Anyway, still highly recommended.

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Photo of oberon
3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep brown with some ruby highlights thru out with more head than expected,aroma was suprisingly light a little brown sugar and touch of smokiness.Taste of dark fruit and mildly sweet with a touch of peat in the finish that lingers.A solid ale pretty easy to drink.

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.5/5  rDev +13.6%

Photo of olradetbalder
3.5/5  rDev -11.6%

Photo of Thorpe429
2.75/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle picked up in Winston-Salem the night before Sexual Chocolate 2011. Served in a Bruery tulip.

Pours a very dark brown with almost no head. Appears to be quite a bit too dark for the style. Lacing is non-existent. The nose brings forward some toffee as well as a mild amount of diacetyl. The taste is lightly-toasted with some roasted malt and a bit of sweetness. Underneath there is toffee and butter. Body is light with low carbonation. Not worthy of its position as the #1 Scottish Ale.

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Photo of dcmchew
4.25/5  rDev +7.3%

Photo of smcolw
3.71/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Excellent frothy beige head that leaves wonderful lace on the glass. Nearly mahogany in color.

The smell is disappointing: it's surprisingly muted. There is the definite presence of black patent lending a roasted coffee aroma. Beyond that there is little else.

Flavor wise, this is a full, rich beer. Although listed as a Scotch Ale, this is far closer to a dark porter, nearly stout. There is very little residual sugar (another Scotch Ale anamoly). The hop is subtle, refined but quite noticeable after the swallow. The black patent malt is back provided a roasted and dry flavoring.

OK, this is a very good beer, but it is not a Scotch Ale. If you enjoy dry stouts or robust porters, you'll likely enjoy this one.

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Photo of russpowell
4.05/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours ruddy red to mahagony with a 3 fingers+ tan head. Good lacing & average head retention

Smell: Slight fruitiness

Taste: Peat smokiness up front, not too overwhelming. Dryness, choclate & frutiness then surface. Frutiness and slight smokiness in the finish

MF: Rich and good carbonation level

Pretty drinkable, good smoked/scottish ale. Worth a try if you like (as I do) restrained smokiness

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.33/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A beautiful shade of dusky reddish chestnut which reveals itself to be closer to dark crimson when held to my sunlit front window. The head is frothydense, light toasty brown and is clinging for all it's worth--in chunky pocked sheets--to the upper portion of the glass. If you have sunlight handy, this one is impressive to look at.

The nose strikes me as cross between a Scottish ale and a porter. It smells of lightly roasted dark malt with plenty of chocolate, sweet dark caramel and peat. It tastes pretty porter-like too with flavors of chocolate-covered caramels and sweet black licorice. It's deeper than that though.

There's also a mildly sour, earthy, peaty smokiness that is some kind of satisfying. It finishes mildly bitter, a friendly reminder that hops are present as well. The mouthfeel is medium-full and creamy without a trace of heaviness. (With regards to body/mouthfeel, keep in mind that this isn't a Scotch Ale; the differences between the two styles aren't trivial).

I've had a number of good Scottish ales recently and Dark Island is the best of the lot. The pint bottle was a little on the expensive side ($4), but well worth it. I'll be sure to pick up a few more of these beauties whenever and wherever I find them. Anyone looking to dip a toe into the 'Scottish ale loch' would be hard-pressed to find a better place to start than Dark Island.

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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
Beer rating: 3.96 out of 5 with 434 ratings