For over three weeks now, I’ve been thinking about beer, drinking it, reading and writing about it. I try to sound smart like all the seasoned reviewers at Beer Advocate, and I think I’m getting a little better at it. And one day, I hope to be able to speak as eloquently about beer as Michael Jackson (not the one you’re thinking about). I’ve come to learn that most dark ales have roasty malt aromas and hoppiness really comes through in pale ales. Lagers and pilsners can often feature wheaty, citrusy notes. But the more complex, almost exotic notes are still a bit beyond my grasp.
Tonight I ordered Orkney Brewery’s Dark Island. The presentation was beautiful – a nice, chunky bottle with a striking label. My friend Alyce ordered Monty Python’s Holy Grail, from Black Sheep Brewery. Alyce noticed that the back label of my beer had aroma and flavor notes, and promptly started quizzing me. Her challenging me was a familiar feeling that took me a couple years back when she and I worked on the same team. I thought of Alyce as my reluctant mentor and I learned so much working by her side. “What do you smell in the beer?” she asked. “Well, some roasty malts, a little bit of dark fruit…” She looked up from the label and replied, “Did you already read this?” “No,” I exclaimed proudly. “Do you smell fig, toffee…?” “Um, yeah, sure…no, not really.” It was so good to get together after so much time.
The Dark Island is a Scottish Ale, and so is one of my very favorite beers, the Belhaven. They are quite different though, and while I quite liked the Dark Island, I believe the Belhaven has a linger and body that I find much more pleasing. Nevertheless, The Dark Island is a substantial, complex and plenty respectable brew. Our beers, much like our conversation, were very enjoyable and over much too soon.