Barley Mowat 

VIB Absolute Darkness

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This will be my last BC Beer Review for a few weeks. Adventure calls, and this time it takes the form of South America. I might live-blog about crappy Bolivian beer from a dirty La Paz warehouse during some downtime after being kidnapped, but I’ll likely save it all up for one big complaint post when I get back.

In the meantime, though, I stumbled upon some VIB Absolute Darkness this weekend and decided to give this more recent entrant in the growing BC CDA category a go. Sure, the label says “India Dark Ale” but “India Dark Ale” and its cousin “Black IPA” are just code words for the more contested “Cascadian Dark Ale.”

However, expect things to get significantly less confusing from here on out since Steamworks has graciously agreed to let everyone use “Cascadian” in a beer’s style name so long as they don’t use it as the name of the beer. Seems fair to me, and hat-tip to Steamworks for doing the right thing. Had the labels for this beer been printed last month instead of in December, it likely would have been properly labelled.

Anyways, enough political background. This is a beer review, and review beer I shall. VIB’s bomber series has had a few hits (Flying Tanker, Iron Plow) and a few misses (Dough head), so where does this guy fit in? Hit or miss? Well, slots in solidly in the miss column.

Slap “CDA” on a bottle and you expect certain things from the beer. Like hops, hops would be nice. Sure, there are some hops there, but not the big PNW aromatics or structured bitterness one expects from this style. The roasted malt of a CDA is also not quite there, as instead of a satisfying toasted oat flavour we get burnt molasses with a solid chemical punch.

Okay, fine, but surely that thick high sugar body that defines a CDA has to be there, for all that roasted molasses to be present? Nope. Somehow they got all that malt into there and still created a thin watery body.

If you ignore the label, and really love burnt malt, then you might enjoy this as a slightly strong (6.5% ABV) stout, but other than that its just a mess. Pick up a Howe Sound Gathering Storm instead. I’m disappointed, but at least VIB seems to be trying. If you don’t produce an off beer once in a while you’re not challenging your brewing team hard enough. Keep trying guys.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Burnt molasses, tobacco and a bit of leather. Capped off with an unpleasant chemically finish.
APPEARANCE Opaque black with a thin, quickly dissipating tan head. (Textbook CDA)
TASTE Roasted, nay burnt, malt. Body is watery and thing. Hops are there, but hidden behind the ash/charcoal of the malt, with no aroma or lingering bitterness to attest to them. Mmm… ash.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Nope. Lots of better CDAs, stouts, or just other beers out there.

Coles notes:

Brewery Vancouver Island
From Victoria
Name Absolute Darkness
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential Not a cellaring ale
Drink Don’t.
VIB Bomber Batting Average 0.500 (2/4). Good enough to try #5 on sight.
Availability Widely available at LDB
Cost $5.50 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm (out now), GIB Ltd Release CDA (out this summer)

Written by chuck

March 18th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Beers

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