Belhaven Brewery - Twisted Thistle
- Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%
- Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
- Suggested Glassware: Pint Glass or Mug
The British started the whole IPA thing a couple hundred years ago, and they do things a bit different than us crazy Americans with our increasingly massive hop bombs that deliver crushing citric bitterness along with a big dose of alcohol. Twisted Thistle is a prime example of how the style can be interpreted back on its ancestral home island. Pouring an attractive, lightly hazy, golden orange color with plenty of sticky foam, the beer offers up a different sort of hop aroma profile than the typical American IPA. Look for pleasant earthy and herbal hop notes with hints of spice, citrus, and even tea, bolstered by light caramel malts. On the palate, these malts come through with a nice biscuity character, while those British hops deliver some grassy earthiness and mild citrus with a certain woody edge. All told, it’s a wonderfully balanced, super drinkable brew that hits the spot anytime, particularly in concert with well-spiced Indian dishes. And, at just under 6% ABV, it won’t wallop you with alcohol. 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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