Old Engine Oil Black Ale | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.

1,737 Ratings
Old Engine Oil Black AleOld Engine Oil Black Ale

Brewed by:
Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: English Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 09-10-2001

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,737 |  Reviews: 812
Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.83/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

When I saw this on the shelf, I gave it a try because it was available via the single bottle and the name gave me the impression that it would be like the stuff that comes out of my 13 year old car when it gets a lube job. While this was not certainly a bad beer, the title of it is a bit of a misnomer as this turned out categorically not to be a Stout nor was it as thick as that type of beer. Once I saw that it was an Old Ale, it made a lot more sense to me.

The pour, aside from being thin, was pretty much what I expected from this. A very dark brown, with some head, and just a little bit of lacing. The mouthfeel is just like the thickness of it, with the taste of peat, scotch, toffee, and bitter chocolate all competing to stand out. The nose is that of a roasted beer while the aftertaste is just a bit creamy and bitter. Nothing really stands out about this but it goes down relatively easy and for a dark beer, this is about as light-tasting as it gets.

At 6% ABV, this beer is not a session beer but just misses that by a notch. As others have alluded to, this seems like more of a Scotch Ale than anything else and is a good drink to have during these cold winter months. It doesn't have the bourbon-barrel aftertaste to it but nevertheless, it's a worth a shot once since this isn't a style that one comes across every day. In my opinion, this resembles "new engine oil" more than anything else...

 1,417 characters

Photo of elgiacomo
3.5/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Jul 10, 2009

Bottle. A little let down by the name Old Engine Oil...maybe I'm spoiled by Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, but this is no used motor oil in comparison. Pours dark brown with a good-sized tan head that retains well down the glass. Good lacing.

Aroma is subdued, some roasted malts and a little hops.

Flavor is very roasted, coffee, some chocolate and smoke and bitter hops on the finish.

Medium carbonation. Mouthfeel is nice, a bit on the thin side with a dry finish.

 480 characters

Photo of OneDropSoup
4.12/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at 6 & Save in New Kensington, PA.

Poured into a tulip glass, black with a thin white ring & just a slip of white dusting. Deep ruby highlights, very slim lacing.

Smell is definitely in Flanders territory: tart & fruity, like an Oud Bruin, sour fruit & peels (cherry, apple). Surprising.

Contrasting taste: mild malty caramel, roasty bitterness. Only a slight sourness, & a grassy hop presence. Again, surprising bitter for its color.

Mouthfeel is medium-full, a tad chewy. This one threw me for a loop with the smell & taste combo. Fortunately it was not overwhelming in any aspect, & I had a real good time alternating the smell & flavor -- smells like a Flemish Brown, tastes like a Schwarzbier. Very interesting indeed. Not sure it lives up the name: "Old Engine Oil" conjures a thick, viscous brew a la "Ten Fidy" or "Old Viscosity." Throw it on the misnomer pile with Chocolate Indulgence. Very enjoyable, moniker aside.

 937 characters

Photo of ShadesOfGray
4.09/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into my Allagash tall snifter. Pours very dark/black...not as thick as engine oil. Not much head to speak of...even with a straight hard pour torwards the end. A very, very small light brown head rises for a few seconds...but then dissapears quickly. Lacing is thin, but lasting.

Aroma is very strong. Resembles a stout. Lot's of chocolate/coffee. Toffee notes, rosted malts. A slight bitter backside.

Flavor at first is light and bland. Mild to higher carbonation. Beer is at fridge temp. I know this beer has more potential, so I'm going to let it warm up a bit and continue...

...(continuing)getting a lot more bittersweet chocolate now. Roasted maltiness, even a licorice. Not boozy at all. Has a great aftertaste that lingers in your mouth for a while. Mild complexity, nice and tasty!

 820 characters

Photo of Vengeance526
3.8/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark black color with a small tan head that slowly fades away leaving minimal lacing.

Aroma of chocolate with roasted coffee.

Lots of malty flavors dominate the taste. Starts off with bitter chocolate followed by roasted coffee beans and lighter notes of caramel and licorice. A little bit of smoke can also be detected toward the end.

Light to medium body with light carbonation. Seems to be lacking somewhat in body. This was fairly enjoyable but a little light for the style and not one of my favorites overall. Good to try but I probably won't come back for more.

 578 characters

Photo of kegger22
3.88/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Black Ale is very dark brown, almost black color, with a moderate, tan head that dissipates to a self sustaining collar.

The aroma is roasted coffee.

The same roasted coffee shows up in the taste, along with chocolate, but you want to wait for the Oil to warm a little first.

The mouth feel is medium bodied and modestly carbonated.

Drinkability is pretty good because the 6.00 ABV and respectable flavor.

I was hoping to have my socks knocked off by Old Engine Oil, because I just bought a bottle of Ola Dubh 16. Old Oil wasn't bad, but I'm not sure I justified the purchase of what is basically an aged Old Oil for 9 bucks. Oh well.

 671 characters

Photo of Hawthorne
3.95/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Was fortunate enough to have this great beer on tap at the Lions Pride in Brunswick. The beer has a strong head off the tap with a good smoke and hints of chocolate on the nose. The taste has a nice smoke to it with a slight coffee quality. I thought the beer was beautiful!

 274 characters

Photo of Travlr
4.2/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black color like 10W30 with a small bubble tan head that settles quickly to leave good lacing.
S: Aroma of milk chocolate and alcohol, background of burnt espresso beans.
T: Flavor starts with milk chocolate and progresses to roast coffee with a sourness permeating through it.
M: Great body, as expected.
D: Overall a nice beer, more roasted and more chocolate than the style would suggest, closer to a stout than an old ale.

 429 characters

Photo of TheManiacalOne
4/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass. This one has been cellared for approximately two years, if my memory is correct.

A: The beer is a deep black color with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of dark chocolate, bourbon, roasted malts and some alcohol despite the relatively low ABV.

T: The taste starts with strong flavors of dark & milk chocolate along with a touch of dark fruit and some creaminess to it. The malt character is as hearty as you would expect from any big stout. The hops presence is likewise very mild as it usually is in this type of beer. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and very smooth, heavy body, light-to-medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, slightly filling, decent kick, good representation of style, most of the Old Ales that I've had have been more like barleywines, but this one is more stout-like, which I expected since the label reads "Viscous, Chocolaty, Roasty". Overall it was a very good beer and seemed to handle the age quite well.

 1,104 characters

Photo of morimech
3.97/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I could see the correlation with a Scotch Ale. It has a roasty, smokey, peaty, and slightly burnt flavor. Not quite old engine oil in color and viscousity unless it is somewhat fresh and hot engine oil. Very small head forms and quickly settles to a thin cap. Very little lacing is left on the glass. The aroma is likewise that of a Scotch Ale. Maybe it has something to do with the region it is brewed. Roasted malt is the dominant aroma along with some smokiness. Not overly complex in aroma or flavor. Medium body with nice carbonation makes it pleasant to drink. I was a bit let down by this beer. I was expecting something much more complex. Without the benefit of barrel aging, Harvieston's Old Ales lack the little extra something to take them to the next level.

 769 characters

Photo of rvdoorn
2.88/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle directly from Scotland. Poured into a the Molen sniffer. The beer pours a very dark black color with a short-lasting light brown head, leaving a messy lacing.

Smell: Dark chocolate, roasted malts, leather, coffee and some hints of red fruit.

Taste: Roasted malts, dark chocolate, liquorish and bitter coffee. Very short and bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-low carbonation. Beer has even less body than a European lager.

Overall: Disappointing beer. Feels like drinking bitter water. What a shame. Highly overrated in my opinion.

 547 characters

Photo of beerwolf77
3.85/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First off, great name for a beer. The old car on the bottle just brings it home.

Poured into my pint glass the beer is black as night with no other colors to be seen. Even when holding up to direct light. The beige head is thick and full. It reaches at least an inch and a half before settling to leave a moderate amount of lace.

The aroma is dark an mysterious like the apperance. Roast malt, coffee, light chocolate, dark fruit and a hint of smoke.

The flavor is very smokie. Bitter black coffee with a hint of chocolate. Some dark fruit but mostly just smoked malt.

The body is a little thin and life less for my taste. Not a whole lot of carbonation.

Overall a decent beer. A little too smoked and bitter but worthy of drinking for sure.

 749 characters

Photo of CaptFrothy
2.76/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Was purchasing Harviestoun's twisted and bitter and the clerk talked me into this. Looks good, black and lacey. Smells interesting, dark and mysterious. Taste is heavy on the smoke, really dominates and pushes everything else aside. Too much black patent malt for my t-buds, doubtfull I'll indulge again, tho it's impressive they've packed this much flavor into a 6% tipple, it's all smokestack.

 395 characters

Photo of merryjoulton
3.5/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Served very cold with a dark black appearance and hardly even a hint of a head, but some spatterings of deep tan film were apparent. Smell was a little roasty, a little sweet, a little smoky, not much of anything in particular. Taste was about the same. Mouthfeel was very light and watery, not impressed with it. Drinkability was fine.

 336 characters

Photo of yuriruley
4.38/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - black, forgot to hold it up to the light, but I assume it stays black. With a decent darker colored head that went down pretty fast, but hung around.

Smell - Roasted malts and some coffee, wasn't picking up much else, but my head is a little stuffy today.

Taste - Coffee with a nice roasted flavor, reminds me of a porter or stout in a lot of ways. It was very well balanced.

Mouthfeel - excellent, not to heavy.

Drink - Easy drink, could drink several.

Good beer wasn't what I was expecting at all. Was only the second "old ale" I have had and it was nothing like the first I had. Reminded me of a really good stout. Would definitely buy again.

 663 characters

Photo of Tim2000
4.85/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

330 mL brown bottle.

Dark brown, almost black brew with a thin collar of white foam.

Smoky, charred aroma with some burnt sugar.

Molasses and burnt toast with hints of dark chocolate. Hops pick up towards the end and linger with bitter charcoal notes. Silky mouthfeel with low carbonation.

Well balanced beer that manages to get tons of flavour from the roasted malts without any unpleasant acidity or astringency. One of the best stouts that I've tried.

 458 characters

Photo of Lldeegan
4.48/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a beautiful inky black brew, impenetrable to light with a one finger mocha color head with a mix of both large and fine bubbles. There is minimal head retention, that gives way to an even blanket of fine lace. This Old Ale style gives off a nice roasty chocolate smell, with some caramel sweet malt and alcohol. The taste is pretty unassuming, almost subtle. First up, roasted malt flavors, and some dark chocolate. Dark fruit is released on the palate as the beer warms up. Some plum, vinous qualities and raisin give way to a bittersweet finish. This beer has a surprisingly lighter body than I expected from the look of the beer. It had that deep thick black appearance that an Imperial Stout has, but this beer was relatively light and creamy, with minimal stick on the palate, and only some heat in the finished, which perhaps has mellowed with age. This beer was a very nice drink, it has that thick beauty to it, without the heavy follow through on the palate. I would describe it to someone as a more roasty, robustly dark chocolate Guinness; which is never a bad thing!

 1,084 characters

Photo of Arbitrator
3.73/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Chilled bottle into a glass. Split with a friend.

A: Pours a light brown-black that reveals itself to be clear and ruby-tinted under a bright light. The head is beige-colored, with moderate retention and some spots of lacing.

S: Roasted malt, chocolate, coffee. Hints of plum. My friend remarked that it reminded him of Guinness, and I can see that. It has a very good porter aroma. None of the earth / tobacco / leather I'd love from a really complex old ale.

T: Again, porter-like flavors in roasted malt, chocolate, coffee. Tinted with plums throughout, but nothing that manifests itself as a huge flavor. Mostly on the sweeter side, with a decent burst of flavor. Pretty tasty for something that's so low in ABV.

M: Medium-bodied. Goes down quite nicely. I wish it were a bit thicker (with lower carbonation), but it's hardly bad right now.

D: I don't know if this is the base beer for the Ola Dubh series, but on its own it's a pretty tasty beer that seems well-suited to the whiskey casks they foist upon it. My buddy seemed to be less impressed than I was, but as a drinkable porter deal, this certainly satisfies. Not exactly outstanding in the old ale category though.

 1,187 characters

Photo of eljefe21
4.13/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Thick, dark brown, almost black brew. Single-finger light brown head rises from the top. Fine lacing clings to the sides of the glass.

S: Decent, but not spectacular burnt chocolate, coffee, malt smell. A deep inhale makes the mouth water.

T: Roasted malt taste with slight hints of chocolate. Flavor lingers nicely after the liquid leaves the mouth.

M: Thick and viscous. Tiny sharp carbonation bubbles add to the feel. Coats the tongue with flavor.

D: Warming, satisfying beer that's perfect for tonight's cool weather. Not a huge beer, but filling and warming enough. I wouldn't have too many in one sitting. Certainly not something I'd reach for on a hot day.

Served: in an imperial pint glass.

Review from notes taken on: 10/2/09.

 745 characters

Photo of JOaikido
3.91/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 ml brown bottle.

A- Pitch black. Nice light mocha coloured head of small bubbles. Slight amber and red in the corners when held up to the light.

S- Touch of coffee. Burnt note. Slight alcohol and dried plum.

T- Nice smooth stout taste, but with a fairly sharp bitter aftertaste that lingers for quite a while. Some bitter chocolate and coffee notes. Tiny touch of burnt flavour.

MF- Nice and smooth. Full bdied but not to the point of "chewy" which is too bad.

D- Decent oatmeal stout (how I would class it based on flavour and oats in the ingredients), but not as complex and smooth as my beloved St-Ambroise.

 619 characters

Photo of NightINgale
4.37/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Very dark brown body, with loads of small bubbles and a thin brown-coloured head. I was using a tulip glass, for the lack of a snifter, so the head retention was nowhere near impressive.

S - A very robust coffee/chocolate roasted smell, with some herbal hoppiness and a hint of dark fruits. Very inviting so far.

T - Starts out with a powerful and complex roasted malt kick, bringing loads of coffee and dark chocolate notes, as well as some grape-like qualities. There is just enough sweetness; it's very balanced.The finish is one of a lingering bitter-sweetness and you can taste the alcohol a little more than one would expect from a 6% ale. It definitely opens up more as it warms up, making it very easy to savour and enjoy the complexity of the malts combined with the yeast strain.

M - Medium-to-full body to it. Not as viscous as I would have imagined, but still chewy enough. The mouthfeel is very pleasant, the carbonation is moderate.

D - Quite good, since it's not that strong (compared to imperial styles or barley wines, for example) though very full-bodied.

 1,082 characters

Photo of sisuspeed
4/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a bottle at the Farmer's Market in Woodstock, VT. Seemed like kind of a random place to find a beer like this, but the market actually had a decent collection of rarities, so go figure.

Poured this into a snifter. The color is black. All black with a light brown head that thinly skirts across the top of the beer and foams up around the sides of the glass.

The aroma is malty, grainy, slight popcorn smell followed by a hint of chocolate malts. Pleasant.

The taste is malty, mostly on the dark side. Black malts heavily contribute to the flavor and leave some bitter earthiness in your mouth. Very roasty, some dark chocolate in the background. This beer is very black malt driven.

The mouthfeel is smooth, almost creamy, but then the bitterness cancels that sensation. Ample carbonation, nice body. In terms of drinkability, I would say this is very drinkable for the style. I would probably only want a pint or two of this, but I'm not having any trouble putting it down.

All in all, this is a well done old ale. Roasty, bittersweet. Enough elements to keep it interesting. Would pick up another one of these if I were in the mood for the style.

 1,163 characters

Photo of abuliarose
4.23/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, revealing black body with a decent-sized coffee-colored head. Smells alcoholic and fruity with undertones of aged dark malt.

Tastes nice and roasty with a lot of chocolate malt character but not any fruitiness like the smell gives off. Medium-bodied carbonation is not too sharp, but enough to accentuate the slight acidic mouthfeel. After all of it, the taste is quite bitter. The beer consistency is borderline heavy with a smooth, slightly drying finish. For sure this is something I would enjoy again.

I think this marks my first in the old ale category, but I am excited to go out for more. This one hits my mark.

 644 characters

Photo of mountdew1
4.1/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an imperial pint glass. Color was a completely opaque black with a thick dark red head. The head clung to the sides nicely, and left a thin layer on top. Aroma was sweet, akin to a dark chocolate with a small bit of oatmeal. Taste was sweet, slightly milky. Melt a bit watery in the mouth, but yet still had body and texture. Pleasant to drink, but the ABV hit surprisingly fast

 390 characters

Photo of zoso493
3.65/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 330 ml bottle into a straight-sided pint glass

Appearance: Pours a very, very dark, opaque brown that allows no light to get through with a thin brown head that doesn't last too long. Leaves some faint traces of lacing.

Smell: Smells pleasant, with some dark fruit and malts really coming though and a hint of sweet sugar and molasses.

Taste: The smell misleads the taste a bit. Dark fruits come out firstly and then finish with a slight hop bitterness. A bit of complexity as you're left with a sweet taste in your mouth.

Mouthfeel: Fairly chewy and not much in the way of carbonation. Leaves your mouth feeling a bit dry after awhile, though.

Drinkability: Low enough ABV but due to the after-effects on your mouth, I'm not sure I'd want to drink a lot of these.

Overall, this is not a bad brew and it's definitely worth a try. I'll definitely seek out some other offerings from Harviestoun while I'm in Scotland.

 938 characters

Old Engine Oil Black Ale from Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.
4.1 out of 5 based on 1,737 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.