Drunken Speculation

#32 White Rabbit Dark Ale

white rabbit dark aleProbably one of the biggest differences between ammo and myself in beer terms is which of the White Rabbit beers we prefer. Ammo prefers the White Ale. I’m all about the Dark (but that doesn’t mean I dislike the White).

I still recall my very first impression of the White Rabbit Dark Ale. It was mid-winter in ’11 at the Coronation Hotel. The Coro does $5 stubbies on Friday nights and has a decent range, including the likes of Little Creatures and 4 Pines. Not really knowing what I was doing, I started picking beers at random, just to get a bit of diversity in my diet and get away from the novelty of cheap Hoegaarden.

White Rabbit caught my eye. While I didn’t take too much notice of the White Ale, when I got the Dark Ale, I think my eyes were then properly opened to the craft beer world. I was rewarded for my bold and completely random pick with a subtle, dark, interesting and unique beer. My reaction: “Hey, it tastes like tea”, an opinion which was later concurred.

The White Rabbit website is, as ever, verbose and florid:

An intriguing dark ale that moves to its own beat, our minds set about creating a beer that contradicted itself. Rich, dark and flavoursome but at the same time ever refreshing. Malt driven but with the aromatic lift of generous doses of hops.

With the help of traditional open fermentation tanks we let our Dark Ale yeast play… and it likes to play hard. Yeast normally does its thing in closed tanks that tends constrains it work, but with open tanks (that are just like a big soup tin without the lid), the yeast is allowed to run wild.

Raisin like esters bind a balancing act of flavour with a malt bill that rewards the parched palate and delivers a rich, dark colour.

Passed through a hop back laden with whole hop flowers prior to a liberal dry hopping regime during open fermentation, this is a dark ale with a generous amount of reassuring bitterness…

There’s not much in the way of head but there’s enough carbonation to let you know you’re drinking a proper beer. The Dark Ale is a gorgeous deep brown, maroon or, deep ruby colour, depending on your lighting conditions. The mouthfeel is silky, smooth and has a generous body. Not stout-like but certainly more body than the typical Aussie lager.

The ale is an almost dizzying array of complex malts and tannins. Yes, there’s a hint of tea in the beer. There’s also toasted, roasted notes that give the Dark Ale its distinctive taste and ruby red colour. I feel the open fermentation process adds something indefinable to the White and Dark Ales but perhaps I’m a sucker for marketing. Nevertheless, the Dark Ale is an especially good beer.

If, for some godforsaken reason, you haven’t had this beer before, then go buy some but be warned that it is not that sessionable. I think maybe three is the upper limit before the syrupy sweetness builds up and you feel the need to change to something fresher and dryer. I think it “cloys”. That’s really the only downside to what is a fantastic beer. That said, if White Rabbit engineered it out, I’d be terribly disappointed.


  • Website
  • Genre: Dark ale
  • Regionality: Healesville, VIC
  • Strength: 4.9%
  • Rating: 3 / 3 taste + 1.5 / 2 ancillaries = 4.5 / 5
  • Plus: Both great and personally important.
  • Minus: Cloying, too much cloy.


  1. I hope they’re able to keep the quality of ingredients since the sale of Little Creatures for years to come. That beer always seemed slightly different year to year but always delicious, I’m praying they get a few more good years before the big wigs start trying to force them to use cheaper ingredients

    • I’m sure if Lion wanted to, they could put White Rabbit on the shelf at First Choice for $50/case instead of $70 and still make a healthy profit. It’s been a while since the sale and it looks like they’ve left well enough alone. Of course, that’s just my opinion…

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