The Halftime Pint: Belhaven Scottish Ale

20120407-173524.jpgOne of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, areearly in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.

The Beer: Belhaven Scottish Ale, Belhaven Brewery– Dunbar, Scotland, United Kingdom

The Pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC

What You Need to Know: Scottish ales are a product of the climate of Scotland. As hops don’t grow in the cool Scottish weather, they’re used very sparingly.  Also, the cool climate affects the yeast.  Where an English ale yeast will ferment quite quickly and settle out, Scottish yeasts take longer, and the beers themselves are treated more like lagers.

Belhaven Brewery was founded in 1719 by John Johnstone; according to Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table, the Belhaven site was originally the site of a brewing monastery, where beer had been produced dating back to the 1300s. The brewery was, until its late 2005 sale to Greene King Brewery of Bury St. Edwards, the oldest independent brewery in Scotland.

So, About This Beer: Belhaven pours on nitrogen in the States, so much like Guinness or Boddington’s, the beer pours with a cascading, creamy head. In this case, it’s a beige head over a deep, clear copper beer.  The aroma is mainly straw and a little floral note.  Toffee and tart plum notes dominate the initial taste, before being underpinned by light hop bitterness and mineral tastes.

The Verdict: Belhaven is a nice in-between beer for the perceived heartiness of Guinness and the lightness of a pale ale.  That said, it’s unsurprisingly more suited for Autumn and Winter than mid-spring.    It’s a tailor-made beer for a wet, windy Wednesday night in Stoke.


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