Belhaven Brewery - Belhaven Black
- ABV: 4.2%
- Bottle Size: 500-ml
- Serving Temperature: 50-55° F
- Suggested Glassware: Pint Glass or Mug
- Hops: Challenger
Belhaven Black certainly lives up to its name, presenting an impenetrably dark color capped by a nitrogenated, tight-bubbled head of creamy, light brown foam. In the aroma, look for luscious notes of chocolate, brown bread, and deep caramel, along with touches of roasted coffee and molasses, overlaid with lightly spicy and woody hop notes. We're big fans of beers on nitro, especially stouts, and the first thing we noticed about this beer on the palate was how slick and silky it is, an impression augmented by the nitrogen which lends incredible smoothness. The aforementioned aromas translate to the flavor as well, but with a bit more of a coffee impression. There's plenty of roast here, but with less acrid bitterness than some other stouts, and the chocolate character remains prominent amidst the complementary coffee notes which linger on the palate. That woody spice note comes through here too, with perhaps a bit of tea, while the hop bitterness remains low but easily providing balance to the hint of residual sweetness. For food pairings, try oyster chowder, grilled meats including venison or other game, glazed ham, smoked brisket, ribs, or pulled pork, or try a chocolaty dessert or a plate of cheddar-style cheeses. Cheers!
The oldest surviving brewery in Scotland (and one of the oldest in the whole U.K.), Belhaven Brewery’s roots as a commercial brewery go back all the way to 1719. However, it’s widely believed by historians that brewing operations have been going on at the site since at least the Middle Ages. Two wells and some of the brewery’s cellars are definitely at least as old as the 15th century, and there is reliable evidence that the wells were created in 1415 by Benedictine monks. The monks had been given the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth by Scottish King David I in 1150, and it was here that the Benedictines began the brewing legacy that would become Belhaven.
Over the next few hundred years, the monks colonized Fife and the Lothians, and eventually received lands near Dunbar at the harbor of Bele, known today as Belhaven. The Benedictine, or “blessed” order, was indeed quite gifted in the art of brewing ale. The monks lived and worked for centuries at the Belhaven property, and so enduring was their presence that the site upon which Belhaven Brewery now sits became known as “Monk’s Croft.”
Brewing was well-established at the Belhaven site by the middle of the 16th century, with records even documenting that their ale was supplied to the Franco-Scottish army in the 1550s while it was garrisoned at Dunbar Castle, bent on invading England. Brewing for commercial sale began in 1719 when Belhaven came into the ownership of Mr. John Johnstone (the date was commemorated by being carved into a wooden support beam, which is still present in the brewery). The brewery remained in this one family’s hands for over 250 years while they solidified the styles, recipes, and legacy of this famous beer lovers’ (bel)haven. If you'd like more information about the Belhaven Brewery, check out www.belhaven.co.uk.
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