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Dark Island | Orkney Brewery

very good
253 Reviews
Dark IslandDark Island

Brewed by:
Orkney Brewery
United Kingdom (Scotland) | website

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

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 253 | Ratings: 418
Photo of SetarconeX
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Having sample's Orkney's Dragonhead stout not too long ago, and being suitably impressed by it, I decided to give one of their other beers a whirl. Dark Island, I must admit, isn't half bad. Pours a nice dark red color, with a lovely brown head. I know I can't take it into account with my rating, but Orkney has the absolute coolest looking labels ever. Nice black standing stones on this one.

The taste is at heart a fairly standard flavor, with subtle little hints of something more complicated underneath. Lightly malty. Perhaps lightly toffee flavored. Ever so slightly toasted, but still much lighter than a Porter or Stout. Exactly the sort of beer I'd want in massive quantities to go with a nice hearty meaty dinner. Alas, it doesn't seem to get sold in the quantities I'd like. Better out there? Sure. But this one's still plenty fun.

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Photo of jdhilt
2.94/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours with a three-fingered very light, brown head that fades slowly and leaves good lace. A nice deep, ruby color. Nose has just a hint of roasted coffee. Starts hoppy/malty and finishes with a hint of malt/hops and just a hint of bitterness. Very good carbonation. $3.99 for 500ml.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
3.53/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A dark brown body capped by a thin tan head that drops quickly to a lace layer; good lacing down the glass.

Aroma of raisins and sour fruit notes, along with toasted nuts and malt. The flavor is peaty and a bit sour, though fruit notes come along with some light chocolate flavor. The feel is a tad thin and watery, though not entirely unpleasant. Easy drinking, seemingly uncomplex beer.

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Photo of Elemental
4.22/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Nice dark brown/black color witha nice brown foamy head. I didn't think that it was a wine colored ale as advertised There are hints of roasted barley, nuts, and hops in the aroma. Real nice taste that is robust in flavor that is slightly bitter with chocolate and fruit undertones. Very well balanced between the hops and malts. Definately worth checking out.

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Photo of rastaman
2.84/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Fairly pleasant. Sweetish malts at the start (chocolate+ a t touch of sugar and also some toffee). nice roasty, peaty finish, thin-ish body with some sourness, musty, sulfuric, and maybe a bit unexciting, but fairly easy to drink. Cask at Chelmsford Beer fest 03'.

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Photo of fattyre
3.84/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

This beer pours a clear very dark brown color with a small tan head that dissipates to nothing. The smell is sweet and sherry like with a peaty background. The taste is smokey and peaty malt with an ascending hoppiness and very slight sourness. The mouthfeel is moderate. A smokey peaty scottish ale with a pleasant flavor that would benefit from a slightly heavier mouthfeel

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Photo of Darkale
4.23/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really liked this beer.

Dark brown and clear body. Thick light brown head, long-lasting with good lacing.

Aroma is fresh and yeasty, but too faint for my taste; however, the beer might have been a bit too cold for it to show itself to its advantage.

Taste is an odd mixture of porter, stout, and spice, covered in chocolate. Slick, with an almost salty aftertaste. Creamy mouthfeel, round and full, with a great mid-tongue burn of malt. Very satisfying.

Can't believe that a beer this powerful, complex, and satisfying is only 4.6% ABV.

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Photo of StevieW
4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Noticed this one on tap at several places while in Scotland. I finally had it at the Hampden B&B in Edinbourgh. Murky deep dark brown to black in color. Hints of ruby along the edges as it is held to the light. Head is bubbly and light brown. Held up nicely. Faint smells of ovaltine and smoked peat. First taste is toasted malt again, some peat, and hints of chocolate creaminess. Maybe some roasted plums or something in there as well. The taste of this beer is nearly exception to begin with, then it seemed to get a little slick, and watery as the beer warmed a bit. The flavors seemed to drown out, if that's possible. Still very good and exactly the kind of beer I was hoping to find in Scotland. A real treat on tap.

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Photo of Realale
4.37/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear, but very dark brown, with ruby highlights. Creamy mocha head settles quickly to an incomplete rocky cap.

Nose is incredibly malty with rich bready licorice, some rum, prune, and a wonderful dusty cocoa note.

Very rich and malty in the mouth. Chocolate predominates, but its also a touch winey. Some hop bitterness acts to balance all of the malt, and there's just a touch of Burton-like sulphur on the end, giving a little extra length. Mouthfeel is a bit flat and dead, but that just might be the sulphur.

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Photo of aracauna
3.5/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The body is nicely dark. The head is sluggish and short-lived. There's a nice dark maltiness in both the aroma and flavor, but the flavor suffers from being a bit thin. Nice chocolate and charcoal in the flavor, a little cookie. A bit sweet but not cloying.

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Photo of Brent
3.58/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

In a blind tasting, I would have been hard-put to pigeonhole this beer. Some nice roasted malt notes, with a touch of peat, suggest the Scottish origin, but there was a bit of thinness to the beer with some tart astringency and fairly dry finish that would have made me suspect a black beer. Overall, a quite tasty beer, but not something that really grabbed my attention.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this puppy in the States in the bottle and was fortunate enough to try it in Edinburgh on cask-AMAZING.Poured a beautiful deep dark burgundy with a slight head about 1/4 inch thick.The aroma was mild malt and hops.A great malty flavor prevails with hints of caramel and some slight vanilla.Just a kiss of hops comes thru.Smooth as silk and an overall very drinkable brew.It dragged us back to the same pub twice in 2 days.Well worth seeking out if and when visiting Scotland.Would like to get to the brewery someday..sigh..............

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Photo of Jarod
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picture of an island on label, kind reminded me of Easter Island.
Presented in 11.2 oz. bottle

This beer poured in the glass a deep chocolate brown color that had ruby red highlights when held to the light. It was crystal clear and few carbonation bubbles were noticed. The foam that sat atop of the beer was a medium to cocoa powder tan that when poured aggressively produced a decent head that was thick but not long lasting. When it subsided it left a thick ring around the edges that helped leave a decent lace behind. The aromas that came from the glass were at first big chocolates, followed by sweet and roasted malts, vanilla bean, coffee, light smoke, sweet dark fruit, and licorice. The flavors that rolled across my tongue were of roasted malts, chocolates – bitter and creamy milk -, dark fruit, slight citrus, a dry cocoa powder, tobacco, and some peat. It left a roasted nut feel behind that had a hint of sweetness to it as an aftertaste. This beer was surprisingly smooth and very drinkable. I wish 2 things from it 1) More alcohol, and 2) a bigger bottle. A really good drink.

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Photo of jreitman
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown with some red highlights, I would call it a rusty brown. A light brown bubbly head sat on top of the beer. Overall the flavor and aroma were pretty with biscuity grain and hint of coffee coming through. Nice malt sweetness. Not much hops to speak of.

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Photo of Reidrover
4.41/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I must say this is one of the most beautiful beer bottle/label i have seen..very good lookin 500ml brown bottle with ancisnt standing stones in the sunset on the label.
This beer is beautiful as the bottle deep slightly murky brown with a massive creamy head..wonderful.
Smell is ok but not exceptional some maltiness.
the taste is great so smooth yet very complex..veery malty ..smoky even..great.
Very smooth on the tongue not much carbonation..
For me a very very drinkable beer.. i will be buying this again guaranteed.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Cocoa colored head, dark black body. Nose is fruity, vinous, sensations of cherries, grapes, other dark fruits, but mildly, plus some spiciness, cloves, etc. Medium carbonation. Solid malt, and minimal hop presence. Thick and full, a perfect fit for a damp, cold, dark island, an ideal comfort for a gloomy atmosphere. Finish is bitter, but overall, if a bit too light in body and lacking in hops for my taste.

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Photo of Dogbrick
2.88/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Courtesy of Hollingshead Deli in Orange, CA. I didn't really enjoy this one very much. Pours a dark ruby color with a thin beige head and thin lacing. Aroma is faintly sweet malt and toffee. Very fruity flavor without the maltiness I have come to associate with the better Scottish Ales. Finish had some hops but was too sour. A little disappointing but I have had worse.

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Photo of JISurfer
4.52/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This is one badass beer! At first smell, it smells like steak sauce, so that should clue you into what kind of food goes well with it. The initial part of the taste is one of steak sauce, but not too overbearing that it's bad. The finishing taste is nice, dry and fruity, which goes down nice and smooth.I had my girlfriend try it, she likes light beers, and she really liked it. I had to fight her to get it back. That should tell you that this beer should be tried by most. Had a little head to it, but nothing super crazy or anything,

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Photo of yen157
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When I was pouring this into the glass the smell made me think "Scotch".

Poured moderately dark brown but with brilliant flashes of red. Very nice. The only thing that was lacking was a nice head. Instead, there was a ring of foam and some patchy lace. The beer smelled of fresh, raw dough along with some sourness and a tiny bit of smoke. On tasting, the sourness I smelled was tasted and reminded me of cherries. There was also a thin malt flavor and a nice earthy, peaty smoke. The body was thin and when taken into consideration with the sourness, the beer was percieved as a bit vinous. The thin body and light carbonation didn't bother me a bit.

I liked this offering from the Orkeny better than their Skullsplitter.

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Photo of cokes
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very deep scarlet brown. Milkshake-like tan head fades to a 1/2" then doesn't budge.
Powerful nose of peat smoke, black liquorice, and mild roastedness.
Smoky up front in the taste, then drops to molasses and liquorice flavors. Smoke still lingers (or reenters) at the midway point. Tobacco leaves and slight earthiness are present. Finishes with a dash of leafy hops.
Light to medium bodied. It seems on the thin side for having so much going on. Tiny, subtle carbonation.
A nice little guy here. Much bigger profile than the 4.6%ABV would indicate.

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Photo of ADR
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown with some light transmission at the bottom of the glass. Pale and nice creamy head. Aroma is mostly of black strap molasses. Lighter-bodied than I expected, malt is weighted toward a gingerbread sense with a little impression of coffee. Then, the flavor thins a lot and gets more candy-like and stifling. Interesting, but a weak closer in the flavor department, to me.

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Photo of brakspear
4.07/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A very complex beer. Dark brown/ruby color with slight tan head that drops to a collar throughout the drinking session; lacing well. The smell is a wonderful chocolate and malty nose. The taste is a bit vinous, very malty sweet, with good notes of bitterness and chocolate and roasted malt blending in. I understand they use Golden Promise malt as a base malt and Challenger hops, which may account for the fruity undertones. Overall a nice beer in the bottle that only hints at its full potential as a cask-conditioned ale....

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.44/5  rDev +12.7%
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 marc77
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Slightly hazy deep garnet hue topped by a light beige head that recedes into a thin but dense lace leaving layer. Treacle and dark fruity esters reminescent of prune dominate the aroma, with dark caramel malt and roasted barley secondary. Very enjoyable aromawise. Roasted barley and hop bitterness is well offset by a dark caramel sweetness. Slightly tart fruity esters combined w/ residual sweetness lend a subtle sweet/tart note that integrates well with the prominent dark caramel. Lightly bodied, but not at all weak considering the low gravity. Finishes abruptly clean and a bit dry, w/ light residual sugars quickly fading. Dark Island has deep flavor for a beer of low relative strength. An ideal session brew.

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Photo of John
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wonderfully rich, dark appearance. A nicely pulled pint, with a creamy, dense head. Sweetish, light molasses, raisin bready aroma. Fruitiness, hop and some very mild peat interplay to make this a bittersweet treat. I thought as I quaffed, that this could be catagorized as a dark mild as well. The body is substantial enough without being too heavy. A fine brew.

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Dark Island from Orkney Brewery
88 out of 100 based on 253 ratings.
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