There is a world of difference one can find apparently, between the beers of England and those of their neighbor to the north, Scotland. Wherein the average English pub ale will be creamy, Scottish ale seems to tend towards the sweeter, slightly bitier side of the flavor spectrum. This of course, is by no means a standard reality in the beer world of the UK, which may be a truth but one I am otherwise unaware of due to my not being in the UK, nor being able to afford to visit at this time.
However, from what I have noticed, the Scots in general seem to have a greater appreciation for weight, texture, body and punch than their southern counterparts. Thus do we come to this beer, the Belhaven Scottish Ale. Effectively a straight ahead Scottish red, this beer shares many properties and elements in common with another Scottish brewery, who happens to be one of my favorites, Innis & Gunn.
I’m tempted to say that what I have here is a Scottish lager, given its red color, its smooth and crisp general texture profile and the somewhat bolder center palate flavors which I find. It is honestly only by virtue of the absence of defined lager yeast strains (that I’m familiar with) and the heavier total texture to the beer that I hesitate in saying such. However in respect to its comparison to Innis, I would have to say that it is largely the mere absence of oak aging that carves that line.
Here we have a red, sweet and robust ale that it equally nutty, while also offering up notes of caramel, toffee and even the most subtle hints of coffee. Most intricate and complex than many more standard offerings in the red ale world, there exists here a sort of sweetness that, while reminiscent of many a barrel aged wee-heavy, stands alone in the midst of this lighter and less imposing overall body. Being the product as it is, however, of a brewery which dates back to 1719, it is rather easy to imagine how they’ve managed to get this brew just right.
At 5.2% ABV it is not so grand that one would serve to destroy its drinker, making it eligible for multiple rounds. Yet in the weighty aspect to it, the richness of flavor and the sheer presence it has on the palate as well as in the gut, this beer is such that whereas 3-4 rounds of a lighter, yellow lager might carry one through the night leaving them with a respectable buzz, this is such that 2-3 rounds will slowly serve to keep a good beer in front of you while still requiring a patience and pace that will keep your wits about you, if only just a little more effectively.
It is in this sense, a perfect pub pint, being both delicious, while light enough to a point where such can be enjoyed responsibly at a slower and therefore cheaper rate. However this aside, whether you wish to indulge in one or many, it does a fine job of delivering on all the right notes in just the right sequence.
So to Belhaven, to the glories of Scottish brewing and of course to you, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
Read more beer reviews from Goroff by clicking through the gallery below.