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Ola Dubh! Oh My!

I have admitted before that I am quite good at stashing away quality cellaring beer, but that not so great at taking those beer out again to drink. Which means I have too many beer in my cellar.

But I am trying this summer to pull some bottles out and actually drink them. The latest is a a bottle of Ola Dubh 40 from Harviestoun Brewing. For those of you not in the know, the beer is Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, a porter-stout hybrid which is aged in scotch barrels. Ola Dubh is Gaelic for Black Oil, by the way. The Ola Dubh 40 was aged in barrels that held Highland Park Scotch for 40 years, hence the name.

This beer has been in my cellar for about three years, meaning the it should have nicely mellowed without going too far the other way. Ola Dubh is always a nice example of how barrel-aging can alter a beer. I use it often alongside Old Engine Oil in beer education sessions to isolate the impact of barrels. So, you can appreciate I was looking forward to trying this beer.

As expected it pours an inky black with not much head to speak of at all, just forming a thin dark tan ring. The aroma is whiskey and coffee, accented by dark berries, chocolate and a light alcohol character.

The first sip presents a light chocolate character with some wood and brown sugar. There is almost a cola-like feature to the taste. The middle draws out more chocolate and some light roast notes. The finish is soft with a noticeable whiskey flavour alongside standard dark beer qualities such as chocolate, coffee, nuts, dark fruit and toast – all quite in balance.

It is a remarkably balanced beer. The scotch character still rings through but doesn’t overpower the base beer. A classic example of how to barrel-age a beer. Add features and flavours without taking away from what the beer had to offer originally.

Even after three years or so, the beer finds a way to maintain its balance. I can tell this is a beer aged in a quality barrel – the whiskey notes are complex and soft. But it still remains a beer. Lots of malt flavours and soft alcohol.

It clearly is not Old Engine Oil, but it is its more refined sister. Soft, boozy and moderately sweet. You can see where the beer came from, but hanging out with 40 year-old whiskey has changed its personality.

And that is a good thing.


2 comments to Ola Dubh! Oh My!

  • Brady

    Every rare beer review that I read, without a source reference, is essentially dead to me.

    • beerguy

      If you mean where I got it, I believe it was in a beer store in Halifax, but my memory may be wrong. However, that seems irrelevant. The main point is it has been in my cellar for three or so years. Are you doubting it is a REAL Ola Dubh???

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