Suggested Glassware: Pint Glass or Mug (clear or opaque)
This is considered one of the benchmarks of the "Scottish Ale" style, due both to its long history and its impressive quality. Scottish Ales have traditionally been more malt-oriented brews than the typically more hoppy English ale styles, and this is a prime example. This ale pours a crystal clear, deep amber-brown color, with a moderate head that reduces to a permanent collar and leaves good lacing. Strong toasty, nutty aromas are apparent immediately, merging into an impression of coffee grounds. Hops are very mild, but provide an earthy and lightly herbal impression. On the palate, we loved this brew’s silky smooth and creamy flavor and mouthfeel. There’s a soft, round impression from the start, with a mild buttery note. Toasty caramel flavors come forth amidst light residual sweetness, a hint of smoke, and a slightly peppery quality. Some pairing suggestions: lamb chops with gravy, flame-grilled chicken and veggie skewers (a little bit of char on these will really marry the smoky elements in the beer) or a well-done, pepper-seasoned London Broil.
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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