The Orkney Brewery - Dark Island - 4.6%
Tall, Dark and handsome
by Andy
30-January-2018 at 09:18

I don't believe in fate. I don't like the idea that every single thing you do, no matter how small, has already been predetermined by ...someone. It's a ridiculous idea, made up by people who want to step back from their actions and any blame that might be given. "Me? Wasn't my fault - it was fate". I like to think that we all make our own fate, that we all take responsibility for the choices we make, good or bad. To (mis)quote Terminator 2 (the best of the Terminators and I will fight anyone who says otherwise) "No fate but what we make". I guess that makes me a bit like Linda Hamilton then, except less manly and with bigger (man)boobs.

Sometimes though, it is difficult to argue against the fact that there might be some larger controlling force at work. I don't think it's fate though - more like Sods Law or serendipity - like when you're thinking about someone and they call you, or a song pops into your head 5 seconds before it comes on the radio. Or you decide to stick a fiver on a football team, who can't lose, only to find they end up three down in five minutes, the bastards. That last one might just be me though - seriously, ping me a message at the beginning of the day to see what bets I have on and go for the exact opposite. You can buy me a Ferrari or two with your winnings at the end of the month.

And after that early morning philosophy lesson, we finally get back round to the task in hand; beer. On Friday past, myself and a couple of guys here in work were talking about beer. Inevitably, that's what happens. It's either beer, football, or Xbox games. Oh, there are a myriad of other topics we talk about, but those are the three we always end up at. Whilst discussing the latest beers we'd had, one of the guys mentioned that if he was in a pub that served The Orkney Brewery's Dark Island, he would drink that all night without a second thought. The other agreed that it was pretty special. I felt a little left out, as I couldn't remember if I'd ever tried it before. I cried a little inside.

I went home that night, thinking nothing of it, until I decided I was going to have a beer. Heading out to the beer shed (yep, a whole shed for beer), I scrabbled in the dark a little until I felt two bottles brush against my hands. Grasping for them, I clutched them closely and made a hasty retreat into the house. It was only when I was safely back in the kitchen, blinded by the house lights, that I noticed what I was holding in my hands...

Want to take a guess at the beers I'd picked up?

That's right... fucking Tennent's lager!

Ha! Only kidding - it was a bottle of Orkney's Dark Island (and one other that isn't important just now, so I don't even know why I mentioned the fact that I'd picked two bottles up. Just ignore that bit. And this bit. Sigh.)

Must be fate eh? Talking about it in work, then get home and there's a bottle just waiting for me to try out. Ha! No! Fucking fate?! My mother-in-law bought me them for Christmas and I'd forgotten they were there until that conversation in work. Fate! Idiots.

But after that conversation in work and knowing that that bottle of Dark Island was sitting there, it gave me something to aim for as far as my next review was concerned. And it gave me a challenge - find out if Dark Island was as good as my two esteemed colleagues said it was.

The answer: oh yes. And then some.

So if you're a regular reader here - if not, why not? - then you'll have noticed the Beer of the Year article we posted at the end of last week. Why bring that up here? Well, here's the thing - we're only a month into 2018 and honestly, Dark Island is already a contender for Beer of the Year 2018. Seriously.

I wrote in my notes while drinking this beer that it was "the most complex beer I'd ever tasted". A couple of days on and in a more sober state, I stand by that remark. It sounds like a bit of cliche, but every sip gave me something different.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the start (good place, I suppose). Dark Island is an Orcadian beer, which means it's made in Orkney, not by killer whales (although that would be fucking AWESOME!). Brewed using four different grains - Maris Otter pale malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt and malted wheat - as well as two different hop varieties - first gold and East Kent Goldings - Dark Island is a (well deserved) two times winner of CAMRAs Champion Beer of Scotland.

As the name suggests, this is a dark beer. And this is where I'm ever so slightly confused, for three reasons. One - I'd already had a couple of other beers before this one, so my sight was a little blurry. Two - I was in a dimly lit room when I was drinking this. And three - I'm a bit colour blind. So to me, on pouring, this looked black. As black as my own black heart. Except when it didn't. Confused? Yep, me too. It looks black, except when you hold it up to light, when it then actually looks red. Really, really dark red. Ruby red. So black. And red. Maybe... It was probably purple or something.

If you can resist the urge to just dive in and guzzle the whole lot and stop to take a sniff, you're rewarded with an equally complex bundle of aromas. It's earthy; it's peaty. I get a woody smell there too. Dark chocolate, treacle, caramel. I even wrote 'leather' in my notes, but it's true - it's like Ron Burgundy's apartment full of leather bound books.

Finally diving in and taking a long sip, I'm rewarded with - as I said above - the most complex blend of flavours I have had so far in a beer. Unlike some beers, where you might smell orange or something, then taste the beer and get no orange flavour, Dark Island is different. Everything you can smell, you'll get a taste of. But not all at once. It's not some muddy, dirty flavour. You might get the peaty, malty flavour to begin with, that mellows into something akin to dried fruit. Then the next time, you'll get the bitter, dark chocolate taste. Then the woody, earthy flavour. Then there's a bright, almost sweet fruity flavour - like plums or something. It's just mind-blowing. And then you might take another sip and get a different combination of flavours again. And before long, you'll be at the bottom of your glass and cold and alone again, wondering whether the closest off license will have any, or if you can cadge a lift from someone to the closest place that will.

Just to finish here, I'm not one for hyperbole. I don't go over the top for every beer I drink (Seriously, just go back and read some of my reviews). I'm a grumpy bastard. I'm a glass half empty kinda guy. So for me to write what is probably the longest review I've ever created for the site this morning, you know that this beer is something special. And the good thing - it's fairly easy to find in all the normal places. I know of at least three supermarkets around here that have it, so there's no excuse not to try it.

Remember though; if you decided to go and buy it, it's because you made the decision yourself. Not because some omnipotent being of great power told you to. Unless you're referring to me, but I'm not omnipotent - the blue pills help these days.

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