Friday 20 January 2012

Beyond the Darkside: Hart & Thistle

We're well aware that opinions on the matter differ, but we love Dartmouth. We live, work, brew, and do most of our drinking in Dartmouth. But sometimes, to experience the best craft beer in HRM and beyond, we need to venture out... beyond the Darkside.

Last Friday saw fog blanketing the streets of Dartmouth and obscuring the view across the harbour. Drops of afternoon rain added their hollow voices to the gloom. From our office windows, though, the drab vista was inviting, bearing the promise of the weekend and post-work pints. A short ferry ride and soaking hundred-metre dash from the terminal later, we were seated by the fire at the Hart & Thistle, looking back across the harbour, our typical perspectives reversed.

Oh, Hart & Thistle, you are an attractive establishment.
We each tried a pint of the Madman IPA to start. Described by its creator as being 'hoppy as balls,' we learned immediately that this statement wasn't hyperbolic. Most likely due to dry-hopping with Citra hops, the nose on the Madman comes across as bright grapefruit. Citrus notes predominate through to the finish for the first few sips, and are accompanied by a pleasing mouth feel. Once your palate starts to acclimatize to the bitter hop onslaught, the grapefruit tones down, and a slight maltiness and notes of passion fruit emerge. This is a great beer, which we both really enjoyed.

Pints of 'hoppy as balls' Madman IPA. It seemed appropriate to show them as a pair
Resisting the urge to order another round of Madman, we moved on to the Rocketman Double IPA (DIPA). This beer was made with Cascade hops, a variety we have both really enjoyed using in our home-brewed IPAs. We expected solid citrus notes on the nose from the Cascade, and were somewhat surprised by their absence. Overall, the flavour profile wasn't really what we had expected, and came across as a bit subdued after drinking the Madman. This could, of course, reflect the fact that this DIPA was more balanced and less hop-focussed, using the bitterness to effectively offset the additional alcohol. We're also willing to admit that our taste buds may not have recovered completely from the Madman... not to mention the nachos. We recognize that nachos don't really function as a palate cleanser... but we were really really hungry! I think that the only thing we can do, in the interest of scientific sampling, is go back and have another pint (sans nachos). I love science.

Imperial ESB!! How is this still available?! Didn't people read our review? (Crickets.)
After the Rocketman, we were completely blown away when our waitress told us that they still had the Imperial ESB, a collaboration with Propeller, on tap. We had very fond opinions of this beer, and were excited to get the opportunity to try it on tap. It tasted amazing, exactly as remembered.

Overall, our trip to the Hart & Thistle was excellent - the beer and wait staff were outstanding, the atmosphere was low-key, and the fire was warm. We're eager to try the Madman IPA again, to hopefully get another crack at the Imperial ESB, and in the interest of good science, to try another round of the Rocketman DIPA. Which is why we plan to go back again this Friday. (Please remind us to eat nachos after sampling.)


  1. There is still IESB left?!
    I'm gonna have to make my way back over there and clear out the taps!

  2. I know! I haven't heard anything to indicate that the keg has run out, but it was over a week now since we were last there. Also, I heard that Bishop's Cellar had ~ 30 or so bottles earlier this weekend, but those might well be gone by now. Still, could be worth a call to check, if you're interested.