Belhaven Scottish Ale

Total Score: 7.9/10 Caramel1Nut1Bread1Nonicpint1

Happy New Beer! Now that we’ve got that out of the way our first review of the new year is this fine Scottish Ale from Belhaven, a brewer from East Lothian that I became well acquainted with while living in Edinburgh (Lothian being the region Edinburgh is located in and Belhaven being a brewer that you can find on most taps in the city). Scottish Ales are renowned for their full malt profile, and I love a good malty ale, so hopefully old pros like Belhaven have nailed the style, as I’m certain they have, air do shlàinte!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Classic Scottish Ale clear caramel body which could almost be mistaken for a whiskey except for: bubbles and a thin off-white lace blanket on top. Pretty spot-on to the style. More head would be nice [wouldn’t it just?] but otherwise this is a fine looking brew. 8/10.

S: Nutty malts up front and smeared all over my snout like a beery peanut butter. Following this are caramel/toffee notes, a hint of fresh baked bread, and hops? A touch of earthiness in there must be hop related because there is naught much else. So a big malt driven ale as warranted given the style, nice! 8/10.

T: Sweet, creamy and nutty. In that order. The balance is skewed invariably towards sweet with almost overbearing caramel/toffee notes – however that is the Scottish Ale way – you will either love it or hate it [I luv it]. 8/10.

M: Mid to light, almost medium bodied, with a light UK pub carbonation… this beer would be awesome on nitro tap (or even in nitro can). 7/10.

D: This is a total trip down beer memory lane going back to 2001 Edinburgh, the Fringe festival, the many ales consumed whilst The Proclaimers blared out over the tavern PA, Flower of Scotland sung out by proud pub patrons – what a time and place to be alive – this beer nails it (probably because it was one of the brews I drank over there). Nostalgia out of the way – if you’re looking for a classic representation of the Scottish Ale style, which is a sweet malty ale with near non-existent hops, then this should be at or near the top of your list. O Fhlùir na h-Alba, cuin a chì sinn an seòrsa laoich! 8/10.

Food match: This brew would go great with a cheese platter or hearty Cullen skink followed by a roast beef or lamb dish.

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Orkney Brewery Dark Island

Total Score: 6.55/10 DarkFruits1 Earth1 BrownSugar1 Nonicpint1

Like every Orkney Brewery Ale: Dark Island conjures up a great image, one of stirring sea tales of a sailor in a rickety boat fighting against crashing waves, jagged black rocks and temptress sirens (the ancient mariner ones, not the alarm sounding ones). Here’s hoping this Scottish Ale will live up to its brethren, including the mighty Skull Splitter (which is currently #11 on my all-time list of reviewed beers). Do not disappoint me Dark Island!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into nonic pint.

A: Presents a fearsome almost opaque deep cola red/brown body with a 1 cm light tan head that sticks around well. Certainly suits the name quite well here. 9/10.

S: Dark fruit forward in the aroma with notes of dark plum, date and macerated figs. There are earthy undertones that suggest a traditional brew with fresh or organic ingredients, along with a solid brown sugar/molasses malt base. Overall the aroma of Dark Island is very much a Skull Splitter lite, and I have absolutely no problem with that [not at all Sir!]. 8/10.

T: Dark fruits present upfront in the flavour with an intriguing sour presence throughout… it’s not Gueuze sour, just a lingering sour touch in the background, however it also isn’t overly as sweet as expected and along with it having a light bitter finish the sourness tips the balance… I checked the BB date and it says ‘APR 16’ so it should be fine, but I am definitely getting a slight sourness which I suspect is unintentional. Hints of brown sugar round out flavour. 6/10.

M: Along with the flavours not being as bold as expected there is some watery mouthfeel that detracts overall from this mid to light bodied light carbonated brew. 6/10.

D: I will get this one again as it may have turned in the bottle a bit, heat damage perhaps? Well it’s the middle of winter here in Canberra and the mercury rarely tops 13 Celsius (or 55 in the old money) so heat damage is out of the question. Infected bottle? Who knows, is it Pasteurized? If so then also likely not. In any case I’ve had a bad run of soured brews lately and I’m hoping my luck changes soon. Overall I imagine a good bottle of Dark Island, a twice CAMRA champion beer of Scotland is a much better brew than the one I just had. 6/10.

Food match: [pairing to what a good bottle of this would match] game meats, beef stew with crusty bread and aged cheddars.

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