Sunday, November 21, 2010

Belhaven Scottish Stout - Drink it up fast, lads.

Beer: Belhaven Scottish Stout
Brewery: Belhaven Brewery (Dunbar, Scotland)
Type: English Stout

At the end of what has been an unusually warm November week, things have finally cooled down somewhat.  By this I mean it's getting fucking cold and I don't much care for it.   As usual, the remedy for cold is booze and plenty of it (scientific evidence pending).   The LCBO fall release has been far from uniform thus far, with different centres receiving different product at different times, if at all - fortunately, Waterloo seems to be among Big Liquor's favoured towns, so I've been blessed with the entire fall lineup in a somewhat staggered fashion.  Yesterday was the first day I came across this hearty cherub of a brew from the good folks at Belhaven in East Lothian, Scotland.   I've had fantastic luck with Scottish brews - lots of unique pale ales, ales brewed in scotch barrels, and that delightful set of Historic Ales of Scotland I raved about this summer.   I've also had a successful first run from Belhaven; their St. Andrew's ale (a salute to the Old Course of the British Open golf championship fame) was a delightful little pale ale. 

A quick visit to the Belhaven website alerted me to the fact that their 'Scottish Stout' is only available for export (i.e., us and the U.S.), and has also received some high accolades from the brewing community.   That, and it happens to be cold out and the brew in question happens to be sitting pretty at 7% alcohol, so let's start drinking already!

English stouts are typically less bitter and tart than their American counterparts (certainly more so than the dreaded Russian Imperial), so I'm expecting a creamy, sweet overtone to counteract the roasted grain and coffee flavours.

Poured into a nonic glass.  Nearly-black, with only the faintest hints of chocolate brown when held to the light.  Solid mocha head, recedes into a sturdy ring.  Packets of lacing grace the glass throughout the tasting session.  Looks about right.

Nose is cream, roasted grain, coffee, chocolate, figs, cherry, spice. Very delectable, smells about right for the style.

A fairly tasty stout, lots going on here. Coffee and roasted grain at the forefront, overlain with a creamy, dark fruit palate.  Finishes with a slightly sour bite, but this is challenged with a long chocolate-caramel finish.  Unfortunately, the flavor gets somewhat weaker as the beer is allowed to sit and ponder its own diminishing existence. This is a bit surprising, as many brews benefit from a period of air and warm temperature exposure, but Belhaven seemingly does so.  Nevertheless, this is a sweet, flavorful stout.

Mouthfeel is thin for a stout, with decent carbonation at first, but things flatten considerably over time. Somewhat gritty near the finish.

Despite any detractions I might have said about the mouthfeel and such, I'm very much enjoying Belhaven Scottish Stout. There's so much flavor here that, even after things weaken after a while, there's still enough going on to satisfy the discerning beer palate.  To avoid this problem in the future, I might have to drink this one faster next time. Fine by me.

Worth a pickup. Good addition by the LCBO. (Grade: B)

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