Donkey Venom
Bellwoods Brewery

Donkey VenomDonkey Venom
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American Imperial Porter
Ranked #261
Ranked #11,575
3.98 | pDev: 9.05%
Bellwoods Brewery
Ontario, Canada
Donkey VenomDonkey Venom
Notes: Who knew the venom of a magical donkey would taste so good? Aged in barrels with Brettanomyces and other bugs for 6-12 months, what was once a strong porter has emerged anew. Donkey Venom presents a well-rounded range of flavours, balancing roasted malt and tart characteristics. Deceivingly drinkable for its high ABV, this tart porter is among our more unique offerings.
Reviews: 19 | Ratings: 71 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Hat_Fulla_Beer
4.08/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into tulip. I didn't know what a haskap berry was, so I looked it up. It looks like a blueberry made love to an eggplant and produced these.

Pours a very dark cabernet red with one finger of blushing cappuccino head that leaves sheets of gothic architecture lace as it recedes.

Smells of black cherries, pomegranate juice, chocolate cake, coffee grounds, barn loft, oak staves and dried vanilla.

Tastes of red wine vinegar, sour cherry candy, some juicy berry fruitiness, faint coffee, shaved milk chocolate, barrel wood, more barnyard brett funkiness and soft vanilla.

Feels rich and pillowy. Full bodied with frothy carbonation. Finishes long and vinous.

Verdict: Highly recommended. You get a lot more sour than porter out of this one, though.

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Photo of octortus
4.04/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

500 mL Bottle. ABV 8.5%.
Appearance: Opaque dark brown, One finger of thin creamy caramel coloured head, Dissipates quickly, Thick collar and complete cap remains.
Aroma: Tart dark fruit, Prune, Cherry, Brett funk, Roasted malts, Vinous, Reminded me of an olive press at first.
Mouthfeel: Above medium body, Slightly sticky, Dry finish
Flavour: Tart coffee (wow, didn't think that was possible), Cherries, Vinous, Roasted malts, Licorice.
Overall: This is very unique (!) and threw me for a bit of a loop on the aroma and taste. The porter base is definitely there but it hits with more of the Brett yeast.

Review: 29

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Photo of BGDrock
3.23/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Pours very dark brown with a full, frothy head the colour of cappuccino foam; several minutes retention.
Aroma is on the lighter end, of tart fruit (sour cherry), with a hint of earthiness and roasted malts.
Taste is intensely sour upfront, with a compliment of roast coffee that makes for an odd combo - they conflict with each other rather than blending harmoniously; the sourness is that of a granny smith apple, puckering and mild flavour, not juicy fruit; feel is light carbonation, medium/light body, a touch watery.

After enjoying the haskap version, I can't say the same for this one. They are right to say this is one of their most unusual beers, and personally I find the experiment didn't work out. The flavours don't pair well, it's like a carbonated, really bitter espresso, or like 1/2 a sour beer and 1/2 a porter were just thrown in a vat together. Worth trying for the experience, but you'll enjoy the haskap more.

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Photo of Lone_Freighter
4.23/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured this into a tulip.
The appearance was a dark rugged brown close to black color with a small stifled white semi-foamy head sliding off fairly quick. Not much lace.
The aroma had some red wine, dark fruits, roasty coffee notes, light vinegar with sour and tart puckering red cherry notes. Woody barrel on the back end. Bretty character.
The flavor meshed in the sour to the tart to the sweet and dry barrel woodiness. Slight dark chocolate, somewhat bittersweet with dryness and then roasty coffee ending with some dark toast. Not much of an aftertaste but seemed like a nice red wine sweet to sour tone to it with dark chocolate and dark fruits.
The mouthfeel was about medium bodied with a very nice sipping quality about it. It's a soothing sipper running through vinous sour edges without being puckering. Good carbonation and ABV. Red wine and red cherry with Bretty sour-like finish, some dark chocolate.
Overall, a very well Imperial porter with Brett. Absolutely wonderful for this time of the year.

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Really dark brown color with mocha head. Aroma has tart dark fruits, some balsamic vinegar and wood barrel notes. Taste is sour with dark fruit notes and roasted malts on top. Really well balanced and easy drinking.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.41/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This one pours a fairly dark black, with a small head, and not much lacing.

This smells super interesting- there's lots of tart cherry on top of the porter base- almost like a chocolate-covered cherry, with roast, slight coffee, and red wine.

This is really complex, and honestly confusing, but it's really good. There's a lot of cherry, red wine, and oak, and just a hint of funk, and it's on top of a really creamy and excellent porter- classic dark roast, some coffee, and lots of chocolate. It gives off the impression of really weird chocolate-covered cherries.

This is medium bodied and creamy, but a definite slow sipper due to the intense flavors here.

Bellwoods makes pretty amazing beers. This is really unique and really tasty.

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Photo of JonCorbett
4.04/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: Red hued very dark brown with a creamy looking sepia head that rises like expedited fresh dough and has a moderate retention, gradually dropping into a wafer of tight light bubbles that coat the surface, and not much for lace other than the cute foam ring, but nothing is really left behind to mar the glass.

Aromatics: A combination of a mild red wine and yeasty bread dough. The date and fig fruits take second stage along with some soft chocolate kisses and caramel.

Taste: hmmm... not like any porter I have had before. A zingy tartness almost like sour cherries and wine grapes have been rolled around with charred oak and cedar chips. The chocolatey notes making a touch down on the palate here and there with a bit of roasted walnut flesh.

Mouth: The carbonation is present, but stays behind the scenes for the most part an lets the slick thinner-medium body to pass through without too much interruption. What I absolutely love in this beer is it's finish - or lack there-of. It just wanders off at some-point and you don't realize it is gone except for the fact that there is nothing stimulating the palate.

Overall: A super easy-to-drink porter. And I doubt I would have know it was 9.5% if I didn't look at the label. I like the clean and dry finish, it seems to end at the right interval to allow for another sip. Kinda like a really good measuring stick.

Pairing: I'm on the fence for this one. I'm thinking this is a good beer for when company is over. It's sophisticated enough to hold its own with the wine drinkers, and so it will undoubtedly match well with the meat and cheese tray, gourmet crackers, artisan bread chunks, and smooth creamy spreads (like spinach/artichoke, country style mushroom pâté, or a spiced up hummus).

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a black color stout with a nice large brown color head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt with nice funky Brett notes also observable. Taste is a mix of roasted malt with some funky Brett notes and a dry finish with some vinous and oak notes also noticeable. Body is about average with good carbonation. Nice level of complexity while retaining some drinkability.

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Photo of Bunman3
4.03/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The last bottle of a CANBIF trade. Lovely taste, feel and appearance. Deep dark, with a substantial brown head. The overall mix of roasted malt, dark chocolate and tart cherry make this an extremely unique beer. It is very substantial - the sort of thing you would want to save for special occasions.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.08/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from the brewery. Date October 2015. Served in a wine glass.

A - A dark mocha foam settles to a thick collar and near-complete cap, leaving behind minimal lacing. Very dark brown that approaches black, but reveals some transparent mahogany at the edges of the glass.

S - Roasted malts, baker's chocolate, some biscuit, hints of vanilla, and notes of tart cherry and musty funk. Perhaps a hint of some grape-based beverage; definitely not aged in whiskey barrels, and fairly low in wood presence in general. Well-hidden alcohol.

T - Taste has more of the tart cherry and vinous fruit notes, with a slightly plasticy brett note late. Base porter is less present here, providing notes of roast, char, and dark chocolate. Less sweetness than the aroma.

M - Hearty, medium, body with surprisingly zesty carbonation. Dry, roasty, and laden with tannins. Again, well-hidden booze.

D - Split a bottle with the wife and had no problems. Wild porters and stouts are generally my favorite style, but this is one of the best examples of the style. Would happily drink again, just not often.

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Photo of DaveBar
3.6/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Purchased at the Bellwoods bottle shop for around $9.00 or so for a 500ml bottle. Pricy to say the least

A- Opens well and pours a 2" high brown head that films out in a minute. Very dark brown

S- Lots of brett. Sour

T- Sour. This is a confused porter. Does not have the undertones of a porter nor the malt backbone. Not a good blend at all. Mismatched flavors.

M- Dry and tart

O- Not very good. If this was the LCBO it would be returned. Not a good blend at all and am glad I didn't buy two

Food Pairing

This ok brew went well with.... Pad Thai


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Photo of mick303
4.14/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from the brewery, probably about a year old, no date. Pour is a dark brown near black with a solid initial head and good retention of film.

S - of the start there is a nice kick of brett, horse blanket, hay/barnyardy, lemony notes with a slight acidity. With a dry roasty malt character, dark roast coffee, woody, with some sticky molasses notes, coffee and molasses in a barn loft would sum it up well.

T - similar profile with a bit bretty character, gentle acidic feel w sour lemon. Also coffee beans and a woody dark malt character, Roastiness is actually quite mild but the considerable spiciness, and maybe smokiness? cigar tobacco?, also sour cherries, play really nicely into the bretty barny character which melds with the deeper flavours. Gentle tartness but with a nice horsey/hayloft character. Balance is quite nice and satisfying.

M - very nice, big but the strength is hidden. Also while this substitutes a creamy porter for an acidic brett touch, I find it works well and adds a uniquely refreshing aspect to this beer. Moderate carbonation. Pleasant, with a robust profile.

Very enjoyable and balanced beer, all the flavours are there, don't overwhelm each other and play off very nicely, it does have a significant brett character and acidity so be warned if looking for a traditional porter. It does have a nice dark malt, coffee, licorice spice to it though with is complimented by the fruity and spice notes off the yeast. One to try and I would recommend it. Very unique, and very delicous

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Photo of byronic
3.81/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours quite dark with a nice head. Definite red wine presence on the nose with chocolate and a hint of Brett. Quite smooth with a lot of grapes and Brett even a nice bunch of sour cherries. Not really noticing any classic porter flavours. Wished for a nice malt backbone. A nice lingering tartness in a semi dry finish.

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Photo of mmapes
4/5  rDev +0.5%

Wow, what an interesting beer! (Thanks to Andrew for the trade.) I'm not usually a fan of Brett beers, but this one doesn't have any of the dirty aftertaste of a brett-forward beer. In addition, the flavor is dry, a little tart, a lot like a red wine. Interesting stuff, without the barnyard taste I dislike about bretts.

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Photo of CAMRAhardliner
4.34/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours opaque black with a modest coffee colored head that lasts a good while. Foam and chunks of lace drape the glass. Tartness, acrid black malt and coffee mix with a bit of barnyard funk in the nose. The taste is an interesting mix of lactic tartness and brett funk and roasted malt and coffee flavors. Berry and citrus fruityness shows in the background. A strong bready malt balast keeps any tartness from getting out of control. Hops are basically awol throughout – just a bit of requisite bitterness. The mouthfeel is full bodied and mouth coating with a moderate carbonation level. The finish is roasty and dry with a bit of tartness. The alcohol is very well hidden for 9.5.

This is a very interesting Baltic Porter. Lots of brett flavor and barrel aging funkyness. Highly recommended for a unique experience.

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Photo of peensteen
4.01/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Nearly jet black, ring of tan head, some spots of lace as well. Smell is quite funky, cherry and vinious oak jump out, lemony and a bit of musty brett, chocolate is in there as well with a bit of roast. Taste is tart and funky up front, more of that lemony-cherry from the nose, oak and wine like flavours, washes away with chocolate and coffee, some roast flavours, oaky aftertaste, more porter flavour as it warms. Medium carbonation, drying medium body. Pretty good stuff here, similar to No Sleep Til Brooklyn with a bit more funk but still good in its own right.

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Photo of biegaman
4.04/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I'd love to know how the brewery came up with the name 'Donkey Venom' - safe to say, you won't see any trademark infringement lawsuits over this one. Safe to say also that 4 months confinement in the barrel probably didn't turn this porter any darker or opaque than it already was; this is solid black, its only colour being the brownish tint of its head.

The aroma shares one or two characteristics with a wet dog. Barrel-aging the beer with Brettanomyces has accomplished exactly what it set out to do: funk-i-fy things. This porter smells like curdled chocolate milk (creamy and chocolatey but with a soured lactose twang) with the oak contributing a complimenting pinch of vanilla.

Barnyard 'funk' and malty remnants of coffee and black licorice are impressed immediately but it's the notes of sour cherries and over-ripe plums that prove to have the most staying power. Its faint rum cake-like flavour makes it slightly vinous tasting (overlooking the roast qualities, of course). It tastes like a cherry- and Kahlua-infused hot chocolate. Ginger or cinnamon too?

Despite an enthusiastic start the 'funk' proves surprisingly docile in the long run; warming brings more 'coffee and cream' sweetness and less 'farm animal funk'. As is typically the case with the big bad Brett, alcohol is less a factor than yeast; the texture is leathery and the finish tart like festering fruits. The bitterness of raw cocoa beans is dusted over the finish.

The only thing I've tried that compares to Donkey Venom (quality- and character-wise) is Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura. Considering that brewery specializes exclusively in sours and Bellwoods still merely experiments with them, that's a mighty impressive fact. It is an offering as unique as its name and as good as you'd expect from one of Canada's best microbreweries.

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Photo of ludachris
3.99/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A soapy cap of khaki coloured head rests on top of its nearly black body. Only a glimpse of its truly deep chestnut brown hue is revealed by light. Alcohol legs stick to where the head once was as it recedes.

The Brett is the dominating character in the nose. It's tangy, tart, and dry. Sweet cherry skin and even wet dog is there as well. Right behind it comes soft oaky vanilla. Underneath Brett's funky influence is the essence of a big Porter. Cocoa, dark chocolate, and sweet alcohol all manage to make an appearance. It's a little bit roasty and a little bit nutty as well. This is a very complex smelling Porter.

As soon as hits your lips you get the tingly pinch of Brett and its tart and dry ways. I find its character more akin to green grape skins in the taste with a wine-like dryness. The influence of the barrels encases everything with a soft and subtle sweet oakiness, helping to round out some of the intensity coming from both the Brett and the alcohol. The alcohol itself gives all the flavours a bit of punch and leaves a long warming feel in the chest. Its Porter quality is an underlying factor. There's some roastiness, some nuttiness, and a little bit of chocolate that becomes more apparent as it nears the finish.

A constant I've noticed in Bellwoods beers is how clean the feel is on all of them and this is of no exception. Its good drinkability is a result of this. The body is medium to full with a sticky dryness and a pinch of astringency.

In my opinion, the craft beer scene in Ontario and several other provinces are a few years behind our neighbours to the South. However, Bellwoods and beers like this are helping to close this gap. Their willingness to be bold, daring, and innovative, as demonstrated by their bottled version of a 9.5% barrel aged Porter innoculated with Brett not only legitimizes Bellwoods spot as one of the best in Ontario, but Ontario's craft beer scene as a whole and how far it's come in recent years. As much as I enjoyed this, I respect their effort even more. Well done Bellwoods!

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Photo of jrenihan
4.25/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On-cask during Cask Days. This is the Lost River Baltic Porter aged in barrels with Brett.

Beer is black with a minimally-sized tan head.

Nose betrays a slight tartness, along with cocoa and oak.

Taste is very nice. Moderately sour, with cocoa, cherry and oak. A bit of roasted malt. Yum.

Full bodied, low carbonation.

Overall, very nice stuff. Look forward to more of this when Bellwoods releases it properly.

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Donkey Venom from Bellwoods Brewery
Beer rating: 90 out of 100 with 71 ratings