The Halftime Pint: Belhaven Scottish Lager

One of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink.  This is the first post in a series that discusses exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.

The beer:Belhaven Scottish Lager, Belhaven Brewery- Dunbar, Scotland, United Kingdom

credit: Belhaven Brewery, http://www.belhaven.co.uk

The pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC (this is my “home pub” for most Villa matches, so you’ll see them here a lot)

What you need to know:  For most Americans, “lager” is exactly the kind of beer you grew up on, and lager is indeed the quintessential “cold one”- it’s fermented at 40 degrees rather than 65, and it’s meant to be super clear and crisp.

Lager is also the “entry beer” for most people who take the step up from American Light Lager (your Buds, your Rolling Rocks, your Rocky Mountain Runoff), as both the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) and Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn Lager) have become the standard “upgrade beer” at most sports bars.

Beyond those entry points, lager is a very diverse style, which Belhaven bear out in their approach to this beer.

So, About this beer:  The beer pours a pale gold (think Notre Dame helmets, not clear yellow), with a quickly dissipating head.   The aroma is bready, as you would expect from a brewery more known for their ales.  The mouthfeel is crisp, with a little bit of body (though it’s not a thick beer, per se).  The taste is rather interesting.  This is a sweet lager, though not so much as a Helles lager.  You really taste the toffee flavors of Belhaven’s malt mixture, and there’s just a slight hop snap on the back end. This is really refreshing, and I could imagine it being a nice go-to for a Summer day, or as a beer to recommend for the friend you bring to watch the match who “doesn’t like beer.”

Verdict: While it’s not my favorite beer of all time, it’s very, very good.  I’d recommend this for anyone, if you can find it Stateside; the Vic claims to be one of a handful of pubs in the country that imports it.

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8 responses to “The Halftime Pint: Belhaven Scottish Lager

  1. @Keith: You homebrew, too? I’ve got a porter I need to bottle that’s flavored with bourbon-soaked orange peels–I’m trying to replicate those chocolate oranges that come out at Christmas. I’m just a couple of months late.

  2. I’m going to enjoy this column.
    “The mouthfeel is crisp, with a little bit of body” is this one of Orr’s bewbz posts?

  3. @Goat: I hate those chocolate oranges soooo much. But that beer actually sounds really good.

  4. @Goat: Nice! I actually did the same thing just before Thanksgiving (only I didn’t bourbon soak the orange peels)- for my porter that I bottled half straight-up, and then put the other half into a secondary with cacao nibs (which gave more of a woody taste than I wanted). I also backed it up with Citra hops to really push the citrus aromas.

  5. @Lorbs: You’re wrong. Those chocolate oranges are fucking awesome. Did you have the Sweetwater Festive Ale this year?
    @Keith: Looks like I’m going to bottle this afternoon so I’ll let you know how it turns out. I dialed back the hops to let the orange flavor come through but should have dry hopped with some Cascade or Citra for some more citrusy aroma. If I do it again I’m going to use some nibs, too. Also, Great Lakes is in DC. You should advise your bar to get some toot sweet. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. @Goat: I actually have some in my fridge still. But I’ve never been a big fan of Sweetwater. Since I live in Atlanta, I feel like I’m supposed to like it. But they all have funny aftertastes to me.

  7. @Goat: I know all about Great Lakes. The Vic won’t stock it, though, as they do only UK beers; they ARE bringing Brain Brewery from Wales over sometime soon, so do watch this column for those when they go on tap.

    Though next week, I’ll be having a bit more standard fare.

  8. I’m transferring it right now and I’m a little disappointed. It’s not nearly as orangey as I wanted. There’s a hint of it in the aftertaste but it’s not quite what I had hoped for although it still stands on its own as a decent porter.
    @Lorber: That funny aftertaste you’re getting? It’s ‘arry’s nuts.

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