Darkwater | Swamp Head Brewery

very good
23 Reviews
no score
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Brewed by:
Swamp Head Brewery
Florida, United States

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.80%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Jdmpolk on 03-05-2011

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Reviews: 23 | Ratings: 125
Photo of dbrauneis
4.04/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

A: Pours an opaque yet still clear jet black in color with moderate amounts of active visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and moderate cola brown and garnet red highlights. The beer has a three finger tall foamy tan head that reduces to a medium to large sized patch of thick film (made up of larger bubbles) surrounded by a mottled very thin film covering the majority of the remainder of the surface of the beer and a thick ring at the edges of the glass. Significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of dark roasted malts and citrus/grapefruit pith + pine hops. Hints of cocoa.

T: Upfront there are slightly stronger than moderate flavors of dark roasted malts with a light amount of charred malts. That is followed by light flavors of cocoa that fades quickly to a moderate hop presence - citrus/grapefruit pith and pine. There is a moderate amount of lingering bitterness both from the roastiness and the hops.

M: Medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly thin/watery.

O: A very enjoyable beer in a style that I might not have chosen myself (gift from my in-laws that they brought back from a wedding in FL) - probably one of my favorites beers in this style. only drawback is that it is a little thin in the mouthfeel.

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Photo of Resuin
3.81/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into an enlarged snifter.

Appearance: Pours black and leaves a finger of fluffy, light tan head that lingers for a long time. (4.25)

Smell: Mild spruce, roasty malts, dark chocolate. (3.75)

Taste: Light piney hops, toasted malts, light cocoa, light citrus. (3.75)

Mouth-feel: Low carb with a medium, creamy body. Smooth. (4)

Overall: A solid black IPA. Fairly light flavors but well integrated. (3.75)

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.35/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to Earlycsquid for sharing this one at the monthly bottle share held at Flask Fine Wines in Studio City, CA.

Pours a murky brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, and citrus zest aromas. Taste is much the same with roast, char, and slight herbal hop flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast and hop 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 with a solid smell, but the flavors are a bit watery and boring to me.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of bricksandivey
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%

Enjoyed in a 10oz snifter at The Craft Bar Destin, Fl. Poured a dark brown to black with about a finger of off white to tan head. Subtle notes of roasted malt. Kinda of a light porter IPA hybrid to be honest. Pretty good. Overall subtle beer. Worth trying for sure.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.33/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pour is black with lots of tan head. Nose is light roast, hint of marshmallow, citrusy hops. Taste is sweeter, roast is very light, notes of dark malts, a good bit of citrus and notes of candied sugar. Gets a little sweet, strong carb and a light body. Flavors are a bit muted.

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Photo of mverity
3.81/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Opaque deep brown with a thin tannish white head. Good lacing and very thin collar. Aroma of dark caramel and chocolate. Taste is very chocolatey, but of dark chocolate. Also dark malt. Medium body and low-medium carbonation. Decent beer. Damn I hate this character limit.

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Photo of macrosmatic
3.87/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes. Poured from 750 mL bottle into a Russian River pint glass.

A: Very dark brown, and pretty hazy. More than a finger of off-white head but just a bit of visible carbonation.

S: Not a big aroma here. Roasted malts, grapefruit and pine hops...not too exciting.

T: Roasted malts with subdued coffee character, pine and grapefruit pith hops. This isn't particularly complex but has a nice flavor. A restrained bitterness in the hang, seems to be a combination of hops and roasted bitterness.

M: Heavy body for style, moderate alcohol presence, and the carbonation sensation stays on the low side.

O: This was pretty good, and I wouldn't hesitate to drink it again if I found it on tap somewhere. But probably not something I'd go out of my way to have again. There are some more easily available and superior black IPAs around.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.62/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

If there's a line where IPA meets Porter, then Swamp Head's Darkwater Ale is dancing across that high wire with ease.

A billowing head rises from the depths of the milky, dark brown ale underneath. Sandy in its froth, the mix of large and small bubbles is confident in its retention and laces equally as impressively. Its a fantastic looking ale that's easily mistaken for Porter.

But there's no such mistake as the first whiff reveals an unexpected sharpness from hops. White grapefruit, oranges, a pep of lemon and an array of earthy notes reveal its deviant hoppy side. What starts of piney turns grassy, bark-like, and with a toasted smoky-chocolate note.

To taste, the drier-than-usual Porter taste is toasty and with a hint of campfire and bittersweet chocolate. Roasted pecans, burnt embers and freshly sawn pine gives the beer a heft that's uncommon to IPA. But all that hop character that rises in the middle palate sure does. Less juicy and sweet, the sharper varieties of charred white grapefruit, orange peels, light lemon and juniper and stemmy sassafras close in on its accute resinous bitterness to finish.

Medium-dry in texture, the beer struggles to capture the full dryness of IPA with all that dark malt flavor and weight swirling about. Still, the ale achieves a mostly toasty-dry body with the assistance of hop dryness and warming alcohol late. But coming along also is some hop and grain derived astringency that gives the beer a palate sensation of tannin-rich wood spices.

Darkwater is a fantastic beer. But there's a difference between "Cascadian" or American Black Ale and a hoppy Porter. I'd love to see more vibrant (juicier) hop aroma and taste with a drier Karafa-lead IPA.

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Photo of ox1574
3.25/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

750ml poured into a Burial Brewery snifter
ABV 6.8%

A - Poured a very dark brown/amber. One finger tan head that quickly dissipated.

S- grassy/nutty/piney aroma when first opened. As the beer warmed up to 55 degrees or so, malt/caramel notes came out.

T - LIghter than expected due to its color. Piney hops and more bitter than I anticipated.

M - Low carbonation made the mouthfeel very light and watery.

O - Decent dark ale, easy drinking, I definitely wouldn't turn down another one!

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 6.8% ABV, per the bottle label.

Appearance - Pours a dark brown with a khaki head. A couple fingers of head. Murky dark brown. Looks kinda icky, maybe that's just the association I make with the name of the beer. I just can't get the image out of my head of Swamp Head filling the boil kettle with scummy water drawn from some stagnant pond in the dead of Florida summer. But at least the head retains nicely.

Smell - Grassy hops, some grapefruit. Nutty and chocolatey. Equal parts hop and dark malts.

Taste - Hops at the start. Very grassy tasting. The roasted malts are more prominent. Less nutty, more coffee and roast. Combines with the grass hops to give it a bit of a harsh taste, but it's good.

Mouthfeel - As I said, it gets a bit harsh. Bitter from hops and roast. Thin, too.

Overall - This Black Ale category has so many variations, but I think this fits pretty well. Roasted malts, lots of hops, and not sweet. It's not an easy marriage of flavors to accept at first, but I quite enjoyed it.

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Photo of maximum12
3.27/5  rDev -17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks to the best human being in Florida, moose3285 for this extra that came clanking along with a truckload of other FL goodness. Dark glass 750ML bottle split with my wife.

True to the name, this beer is both dark & mostly made up of water, though there's red highlights in there, too. Carbonation is on the high side. A sniffle brings forth that typical odd clash of a 'black ale': heavy roast duking it out with citrus & pine hoppiness. Touch of smoke, chocolate as it warms. Strangely appealing.

Darkwater can't quite break the mold of a black ale. Heavy, heavy roast emerges immediately & goes toe-to-toe with a heavy hand of citrusy hops, with a quick lash of bitterness. Tastes like weak coffee with a handful of tea leaves thrown in (or hop leaves, I suppose). Vanishing chocolate & malt in the middle is washed away in a flash flood of bitterness on the end that tastes unfortunately like the dregs in the coffee pot. The weak coffee metaphor swells as the beer warms. Half a bomber? Well, OK, since it's here by my left hand.

Yet another beer where the aromatics don't translate well onto the taste buds. This one had real promise, but fizzled out; the combo of overpowering roast & thin mouthfeel left me wanting. Decent enough, but I'm more disappointed because I feel like this one was close. Something was lost in the translation.

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Photo of JReites
4.34/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A-Nice dark drown color with 1-2 fingers of khaki head. Looks just like the swamp waters it describes on the side of the bottle.

S- Nice piney hop smell, but not too overpowering. Malty, carmel notes come through after the initial hop presence.

T- Very nice piney, floral hip bitterness up front that lasts until well after the last sip. Subtle hints of roasted and caramel malts complement and mellow the bitterness very well. This is superbly balanced and a pleasant flavor for a darker beer. Taste leaves with a slight drying finish.

M- Low carbonation with a lighter mouthfeel than expected for the look of the beer. Overall nice and easy drinking, slight dry quality at the end.

O-This is overall a very good beer for the style. I would not hesitate to drink this if offered. Very smooth and easy drinking. I would recommend this to any BA who has not tried it but has the chance. Wish I had more than one 750.

Serving type: Bottle

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from Gator Beverage. Black/dark brown pour with a nearly one finger tan head, looking pretty creamy. Huge dry pine aroma, some wood, sweet malt, spicy grains. Flavor is up front pine, chocolate, and a dry spicy finish. Medium mouthfeel, lingering spice. Medium carb. Pretty smooth beer and very nice. Relatively easy to drink. Solid beer and now one of my favorites from Swamp Head.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to G311 for sharing this one. Served in a mini tulip.

Pours a very dark brown color with a nice off-white head and a good bit of lacing on the way down. The nose carries a good dosage of pine and light roast plus faint citrus in the background. Flavor is also roasty with a nice hop component. Light-medium body and good carbonation. Very solid.

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Photo of jgagne
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Pitch black, cant get much darker than this beer. Nice large brown head.

S-Smokey wood and coffee.

T-WOW! This beer packs a punch. Great bitterness with roasty, espresso flavors.

M-Sits medium with medium carbonation

O-Swamphead is amazing, they just keep on making some of the best beers around. Once the rest of the country starts to find out about this place, they will become highly demanded. Great work!

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this one on tap at Tippels Bottle shop

A: dark, very dark, not even that reddish ting of light, half finger head

S: grassy, pine

T: smokey and mildly roasty. Dark fruit, grassy notes. This beer is offset by sugar notes a a tolerable degree of bitterness.

M: mild carbonation, medium bodied and very smooth.

Overall: I think this is one of their best. The flavors though different coalesce to be a both drinkable and complex brew.

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Photo of One2Remeber
4.62/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: A caramel, tan head that shows hints of creamy white in the middle signaling it is not a stout, or at least not one that I've seen. Extremely dark body with hints of light brown on the edges while holding up to the light. Carbonation looks spot on, with a quick shake the head retention becomes as thick as desired (common in the heavy molasses tasting brews).

S: A hop head would fall over in his chair after a whiff of this beautiful bouquet of hops jumping out of the glass. Heavy citrus hops with hints of grapefruit telling me I'm really going to enjoy this interpretation of an IPA. A lot more going on in the smell but my amateur nose can not decipher the subtle differences.

T: WOW! There is some major flavor going on with a couple transitions. Starts off soft, mild with a light alcohol presence that quickly goes away and does not come back. Middle of the taste is an explosion of citrusy hops and low acidic fruit that go easy on your pallet. Finishes with hints of chocolate malts that linger without all the bitterness common in stouts. For as much flavor going on, Blackwater is extremely balanced.

M: Way too drinkable. Makes me sad this is a limited release brew. I could really get use to making this my go-to-brew. From the hop profile, to carbonation, to mild malt backbone, this is an extremely impressive Black IPA that will set standards for the relatively new style.

D: I'm glad I moved down to Florida:) Between Swamp Head and Cigar City it seems I have a new favorite every couple months. Blackwater, being an off the wall IPA, far surpasses my expectations and I'm looking forward to trying more of their creations.

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Photo of nickfl
4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - The beer pours with one finger of light tan foam, resting on top of an opaque, dark brown body with no light showing through. The foam settles fairly quickly and leaves moderate traces of lacing on the glass.

S - A pungent aroma of pine and citrus hops with notes of grapefruit, pine tar, sweat, and shallots. Dark malt characteristics lurk in the background with brown sugar, caramel, and a hint of coffee.

T - Dark sugary notes of caramel and brown sugar up front. Some more dark caramel and even a bit of molasses in the middle as orange and grapefruit hop flavors join the party. The beer finishes out with an equally matched tug of war between the dark, sugary malt and the bright, citrus and pine hop flavors. Moderate hop bitterness lingers on the palate in the aftertaste with a bit of chocolate and smoke.

M - Medium body, moderate carbonation, and a balanced finish.

D - Another really excellent beer from Swamp Head. I continue to be blown away by the consistently great beers that this little brewery is putting out and this one is a perfect example of just how and why their beer is so successful. This beer has an aggressive, interesting hop profile and a dark malt backbone without becoming over the top of resorting to strange ingredients for shock value. It is well made and well balanced in a way that makes it memorable and at the same time unusually drinkable.

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Photo of CampusCrew
4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

appearance: deep dark brown nearly black, nice dark brown head retention

smell: coffee, loaded chocolate, pine citrus

taste: tons of dark raw chocolate, pine/citrus

mouthfeel: medium bodied

drinkability: sorta of a sumblimely clone. love to try side by side. also had on cask.

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Photo of babaracas
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From growler filled on 4/30. Pours a murky dark brown, near black in the glass with two fingers of khaki foam that slowly settles into a thin cap, leaving a couple of rings of delicate lace. Citrus and pine punch to the nose with hints of powdery chocolate, dark brown sugar, slightly oaty. Taste: pulpy grapefruit, pine, leafy, dark brown sugar and milk chocolate in the back. Something about the sweetness (it's not really sweet) makes me think of dried tropical fruits. Medium+ bodied, creamy feel. This is a top notch black IPA that's begging for a bottled release and year-round tap status. 4/4/4.5/4/4.5 (5/13/11).

On-tap: On-tap at the tasting room. Very dark brown with thin tan head. Smell is leafy with sweet citrus and a little toffee. Taste: juicy white grapefruit, leafy, a suggestion of something tropical, dark caramelized sugar. Creamy feel. Spot on for the style with nice fresh citrus flavors. 3.5/3.5/4.5/4/4 (4/9/11).

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

On tap at Kickbacks, thanks Steve! Its always nice to walk in and have a beer you've never had before, much less one you never knew existed. So when I saw this offering from Swamphead, I had to have one. And away we go...

A-Pours black with no hints of light peeking through. 1/2" khaki colored head has good retention and leaves spotty lace.

S-Citrus and piney hops lead with a slightly sweet caramel malt backbone. Not terribly complex, but pleasant. The nose is understated, though. I more pronounced nose would easily bump this up to a 4, possibly a 4.5

T-A pleasant bitter hoppy bite greets me-citrus and pine with maybe a floral hint. The hops carry all the way through from front to back here, but the middle comes through with hints of roasted malt. The finish has a nice balance of everything and is slightly dry.

M-Just on the light side of medium body with the carb level on the lower side of the spectrum for other beers of this style (which suits me just fine!). Its nice, definitely slightly above average, but I would have liked a more luxurious mouthfeel here.

O-This is a good beer from an up and coming brewery. I can't say its world class, but its definitely worth a try for any BA.

Edit: I noticed the abv info above is just a ? but the board at Kickbacks said the abv was 7%, fyi.

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Photo of mullenite
4.34/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours with a black body with red-brown highlights at the edges. A thin tan head caps the beer and leaves very little lacing on the glass.

What this beer lacks in appearance is made up for in every other aspect.

The aroma is chocolate, dark malts (not roasty), and lots of American hops.

The taste follows the nose to a T. The hops are floral and fruity and very bright which matches nicely with the mild, milk chocolate and dark fruit flavors provided by the malts. The bitterness is very smooth and balanced nicely with the flavor of the hops.

Medium bodied beer with a nice mild carbonation that accentuates that body and the chocolate flavors.

Overall I really enjoy this beer, it is right up there with the other Black IPAs that are out there, albeit a bit different as you can actually taste the "black" part of the name.

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Photo of Jdmpolk
4.27/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The body is black as midnight with an explosive amount of chocolate tan foam.

Aroma nice and hoppy citrusy and grapefruity. In the background is a hint of caramel. As the bee warms hints of pine can be noted.

Taste smooth for a black ipa, there is a nice balance between the tart and bitter hops, and the chocolate roast of the grain. There is almost a nuttiness to it. Caramel makes itself known on the back end, along with a red grape dryness.

M- smooth on entry, like silk. The richness hits next, but quickly transitions to a mouthwatering bitterness.

D- next to anything Swamphead makes with chipotle in it this is in my opinion their best offering to date. Also, an excellent representation if a black ipa

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Darkwater from Swamp Head Brewery
3.94 out of 5 based on 125 ratings.
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