BEER REVIEW: Whisky, haggis, kilts... and a cracking beer

IF YOU close your eyes and think of Scotland, what do you see?

Sunny skies, cheerful people singing in the streets and going out of their way to assist you...hang on, that's Disneyland, not Scotland.

Grey skies, grey buildings and a population devoted to passionately following Rangers or Celtic is probably where many people's thoughts would drift.

There is the rugged scenery, Rabbie Burns, thousands of years of history and of course the whisky. Ah, the whisky!

Surely one of life's simple pleasures is sipping away at a glass of something made in the Highlands, Lowlands or Islands that is wonderful to drink and difficult to pronounce (yes, Auchentoshan, Caol Ila and Bruichladdich single malts - I mean you!).

What you don't tend to think of during a flight of Caledonian fancy is beer.

In what came as a surprise to Hugh the Neighbour and to me, you can actually buy Scottish beer in our local Chapel of St Daniels. And cracking beer it is too.

The Belhaven Brewery is about 32 kilometres east of Edinburgh at Dunbar on the coast of Scotland and has been making beer since 1719, although the region traces its brewing heritage back to some monks in the 1100s.

HTN and I tried the Twisted Thistle IPA and it is very drinkable. With a full strength 5.6% alcohol content, it pours cloudy in the glass, is full of hops in the American style of IPA, and you get a noseful of citrusy grapefruit when you take a sniff.

The hops is there in spades. However, as Hugh pointed out, you get real bitterness in the mouth but it doesn't linger as an after taste, unlike some of the American IPA that for mine can be almost over-hopped. This gives the beer real sessionability, and you could enjoy more than a couple on a hot day.

And more importantly, in keeping with the Scots' reputation for, shall we say, looking for value when they spend, surprisingly good value. Again, a note of caution...

As with the last brew reviewed in this column, this one too was older than the "best by'' date on the neck of the bottle, which I would hate to think was becoming a common occurrence on liquor mega-mart shelves.

That said, it was a great drink and I shall certainly be going back for more, albeit after peering at the date on the neck of the bottles.


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