02 March 2011

KOTBR #122 Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 3.edition

What do you chase a three-quarter block of cheese and a bomber of BrewDog Hardcore IPA with? We choose Dark Horizon 3.edition from Nøgne Ø. Three of us met at Goose the Market in one of my favorite spaces in the city downstairs at the Enoteca. I've heard they make other sandwiches, but I always go for the Batali and a bottle of beer downstairs. What I really like about the Enoteca is that you can grab some food from upstairs and sit downstairs, or you can order some food directly downstairs. You can also browse the beer or wine selection and then have it cooled down for you and drink it on the premises. It is just a great and inviting space that is very conducive to conversation and having a good time with friends. This beast of a beer we reviewed doesn't look intimidating; it came in very nice packaging, but you only get 8.5 ounces of beer. It might look small, but once your read our reviews you will understand that 8.5 ounces is more than enough.

Think back about the beer the got you into craft beer? It was a great moment wasn't it? That moment of thinking, "Wow, this is really something different." Many of us from that moment were hooked on trying everything under the sun and chasing the craft beer dragon. As you keep going further into your own craft beer adventure, that feeling gets harder and harder to find. But the great thing about craft beer is that you do get to find that great beer that really makes you take a step back and go, "Wow." Dark Horizon v.3 is one of those beers for me. We each got thimble-sized sample split between the three of us. This beer pours a dark brown color with a very small head on it, but it has huge scents on it of coffee, chocolate, smoke, and roasted grain. I wasn't really prepared for the flavor profile. I was greeted with very sweet initial hints of raw brown sugar, but the coffee flavor quickly comes in followed with chocolate and caramel. I even get smoked cedar wood out of this beer. This beer is a sipper in every sense of the word. I know for a fact I would feel much different about this beer if I sat down with just one by myself, but between the three of us my sample was the perfect size. If you spend the money on this beer I would recommend sharing it. Don't say I didn't warn you. 4.80 Mugs.

A $15, 8.5 ounce bottle of beer? You've got to be kidding. In this modern era of ever increasing beer prices, I'm becoming more and more disappointed by the lack of increased quality to match the inflated prices. That said, I was quite intrigued by the packaging effort by Nøgne Ø and decided I wanted to give this beer a shot. I would either walk away astounded, or perhaps turned off of Nøgne Ø forever. As we divided the small amount of beer between three glasses, I threw caution to the wind and raised my glass.

This is certainly an imperial stout. A big one. Thick and almost syrupy. The bottle says 15.5% ABV and I'm getting a little bit of that in the nose. A heavy molasses character is most prominent, followed by hints of bourbon, cocoa, and cedar. The last molasses-heavy imperial stout I had, I did not care for. I was starting to get worried. I took my first sip. The molasses came back through, but was balanced by a surprising cherry and date fruitiness. Muscovado sugar rounded out the edges with an almost candied ginger-like sweetness. I picked up a bit of licorice as well. At this point, I was fairly shocked. This beer had an amazing depth of flavor that I did not see coming at all. I took another sip and started to note a roasted coffee background with balanced elements of wood smoke and vanilla. The 15.5% was there, but had a dark rum alcohol flavor to it. With many big stouts, I'm looking for the flavors to drown out the alcohol, but with Dark Horizon the alcohol seems to bring even more out of the beer. As I continued to sip on Nøgne Ø's third rendition of Dark Horizon, I became very comfortable with the burnt sugars reminiscent of creme brulee, the alcohol that kept the sweetness from becoming cloying, and the wealth of complex stout flavors such as smoke, dark fruits, molasses, vanilla, and coffee. Amazingly, everything was in balance.

I think I see now why this beer is in such a small bottle. You simply don't want a huge amount of it, but not because it's bad. This beer is a high alcohol sipper, one that brings out new flavors each time it visits your tongue. By the time we finished the bottle, I was thankful for the experience. It's not often you go in to a beer with lowered expectations and walk away with an eye-opening revelation of beer. Well played, Nøgne Ø. 4.75 Mugs.

Mike and Gina sampled the same beer, but it was a different bottle in a different setting.

Bought this beer on a whim - I'll admit that the metal canister packaging suckered me in. So when Rod noted that he, Jess, and Matt had roundtabled (and fell in love with) it during the first secret meeting of the HBG/Goose the Market Beer and Cheese Club, I wanted to make sure I weighed in. We can't have Rodney just throwing out high scores without a little common sense to balance things out.

Dark Horizon version 3 has a nose that's heavy on the BBQ, with a strong Worcestershire sauce note that runs right up the nostrils. There are also elements of plum there - the nose might be the best thing about this very complex drink. I'm pretty sure I spent more time smelling it than actually sipping from it.

And it is a sipper - sweetness hits first, and then the BBQ and Worcestershire show up again. There's a whole lot going on here - it's a beer that doesn't sit still, greeting your tongue with different flavors at every nip. It's also an insanely rich beer - we shared a 12 oz. (?) bottle among six people, and everyone had enough to be quite happy.

I'm not as impressed as the rest, possibly because the complex flavors within aren't exactly my favorite flavors in a beer. But I can definitely appreciate what's going on here. 4.41 Mugs.

Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 3.edition
Matt: 4.80 Mugs | Rod: 4.75 Mugs | Mike: 4.41 Mugs | Gina: 4.90 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.72 Mugs (currently a HBG KOTBR Top 10 Beer)


  1. Interesting that I seemed to get something completely different from Rod and Matt.

    Probably should have bought a bottle or two of this before we put it in our top ten?

  2. This is one of Val's and my favorite beers. We shared with several people a bottle of the 2nd edition on NYE this year.

    I'm glad that Nøgne Ø has decided to size down the bottles of their bigger beers. The 16.9oz bottle was quite a beast to get through. But we soldiered on.

    Can't wait for her birthday at the end of April to bust into the Red Horizon.

  3. Nice notes, Knights. Enjoyed your reviews! By the by...at the time of typing, the Goose has one bottle of Dark Horizen left. Is there more in our future? The horizen isn't looking so dark!