Beer of the Week – Orkney Dark Island

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Beer of the Week | 4 Comments

The weeks must be getting faster – May is here and it really doesn’t seem like seven days since the last Beer of the Week post. But there you go, we are now into the eighteenth featured unsung Scottish beer for you to try if you haven’t already, and the long lazy days of the Scottish summer can only be just around the corner. But before we all kick back with pale ales and crisp lagers, it’s time for another dark masterpiece.

Before we get to it, time for the elephant in the room. Of all the ‘unsung’ beers I have featured so far surely this one is the most sung about to date. Twice champion beer of Scotland, only this morning it was announced as champion old ale/strong mild at the 2017 Paisley Beer Festival. How can this beer fly under the radar? Well, all of those awards are for the cask version of course, and the bottled version – often surrounded by dozens of contemporaries on the shelves – is every bit as good and should in no way be overlooked. I’m talking about the mighty Orkney Dark Island.

18. Dark Island (4.6%)
Orkney Brewery, Orkney
Style: Old Ale/Stout
500 ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Orkney’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)
At Beers of Europe (as a case of 12x500ml bottles)

If I’ve learned anything relating to the numerous awards and beer judging I have attended over the years, it’s that there’s no smoke without fire. Anything given multiple gongs is the real deal, whether you appreciate the style or have heard of the brewery or not. Dark Island is very much the real deal – a classic Scottish stout in every respect. It’s another that is not referred to as such (see also: Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve) but however you care to slice it, it ticks every box you would want to find in a stout.

For a start, Dark Island is the roastiest beer I have ever tasted, I think. I’ve had German rauchbiers and the like where it seems like the roasting process is continuing as you drink it – but in terms of the quintessential flavour profile for stout, this beer has it utterly covered. The roasted malt comes to the fore and rides over the dark fruits and chocolate that also ends up on the palate. Although this is the first entry for May it would be the perfect beer for late-September, as the leaves start to fall. But we have a lot of beers to get to before then – at any time of year Dark Island is the perfect companion.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge


  1. Ross
    May 17, 2017

    I know these lists are personal by nature, but you couldn’t be more right on this one. But a stout? I love Dark Island, but generally not stouts and porters. I’d say it was too light for that – perhaps a very dark , very malt-forward 90\.

    Either way, a brilliant beer, from a brewery who do really good-quality “old-fashioned” scottish ale – which, welcome and wonderful as all the brilliant new styles and hop-forward beers available across Scotland now are, is still a wonderful thing.

  2. Richard
    May 19, 2017

    I know what you mean Ross, one of the things I’ve learned even in doing twenty of these so far is the amount of cross-over in styles of stouts/old ales/scotch ales/shilling beers. Many are simply called ‘Dark Ales’ and that’s that!

  3. Ross
    May 19, 2017

    … and ultimately who cares what style they are when they taste this good! Oh i see Black Cuillin’s up now – another belter of a[insert dark beer style preference here] 🙂

  4. Ross
    May 19, 2017

    I should clarify – in my fridge…

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