Belhaven Scottish Ale | Belhaven Brewery Company Ltd.

very good
899 Reviews
Belhaven Scottish AleBelhaven Scottish Ale

Brewed by:
Belhaven Brewery Company Ltd.
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Our signature Scottish Ale is the beer we've brewed the longest and is our best-selling bottle world-wide. We brew it from 100% Scottish Optic and Crystal barley malts for a nutty, biscuit character, balanced with a subtle spiciness from Challenger and Goldings hops for an all-around satisfying beer.

George Howell - Master Brewer, Belhaven

Added by Mitchster on 08-07-2001

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Reviews: 899 | Ratings: 2,047
Photo of BeerManDan
1.54/5  rDev -59.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Bought a six pack and after popping the cap on the first bottle, I poured the rest down the drain!

Poured a nice dark golden brown with very little foam. But, then after that, it was all downhill. The smell was a sort of sour aroma with a hint of malt.

The taste was awlful. The first and second sips had the flavor of this beer being brewed in a vat full of vinyl or a vinyl vat. I swear that this beer had a sour vinyl flavor. What a waste of beer and my money for a below, sub-standard beer.

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Photo of xxxcjbcxxx
1.75/5  rDev -53.8%

(Canned; Draught)

Tastes awful; like a less salty, more sweet, watered down Guinness, with a strong flavor of smoked tobacco/cigarettes.

It pours dark brown, with a nominal foamy head, and smells "good." Unfortunately none of that goodness translates into taste.

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Photo of MadeInOregon
1.8/5  rDev -52.5%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

If this is one of the best examples of a Scottish ale, then I definitely do not dig this style. After trying Belhaven's Scottish Ale I'm also thinking that the beers I've had which I thought were "Scottish ales" were probably wee heavys since they tasted nothing like this...but, hey, this is how ya learn.

The Belhaven Scottish Ale that I had came in their very nice 500ml bottle. Clear glass, nice clean label--really classy stuff. Poured out, it is a clear, brownish bronze color with a nice 1.5" sea foamy head. It looks nice and crisp. So far so good.

THE SMELL, however, instantly ruined this one for me. As others have mentioned, this beer has a VERY strong vinegar aroma to it. I suppose this is a result of this style's brewing process, but, man, this is a bit overpowering. I hadn't even had a sip yet and was still about 2 feet away from the opened bottle and cup and all I could smell was a rather awful odor of leak, pickles, sauerkraut, etc., filling my kitchen. In other words: semi-rotten vegetables. Holding the cup up to my nose, the smell was still vinegary but also that of a cheap, adjunct lager. Interesting, but unpleasant.

THE TASTE, to me, was basically of a bad brown ale. That vinegary smell was the first taste to hit me, then transitioning to a light smoky chocolate malt quality, and finishing with an admittedly nice hoppy bite. Unfortunately the mixture of all these very different flavors resulted in an overall flavor of vinegar + ashtrays. This is truly an acquired taste!

THE FEEL is just OK. It's probably the highlight of the actual drinking experience. I don't really have much else to say about that.

CONCLUSION: I was expecting something rich and sweet so I was quite disappointed with this one. I'm not sure if this is how a "Scottish ale" should taste so I can't rate it too low, but I can say that I really didn't like this. After the initial disappointment I tried to take it for what it is, but just couldn't get into it. This one was a waste of $3.79. Bleh.

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Photo of Sammy
2.06/5  rDev -45.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Not much taste, didn't like it, couldn't finish it. Rich scotch colour. Tried to warm it up to room temperature, but didn't help. No aroma. Mettalic and other off-tastes, and aggressive carbonation. Taste could have faded with age, though we don't think so. Thanks Radek, originally from OKbeer.

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Photo of emmasdad
2.13/5  rDev -43.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Tried some of this one last night at Fresh Craft, and was thoroughly unimpressed. Poured a clear copper color, with a decent white head on top. Aromas of toffee, nuts and sweet malt. On the palate, this one was thin and watery, and really lacking in any distinctive flavor. The ABV listed on the menu was 3.9%, so I am left wondering if the draft version is watered down for the Guinness crowd. Not good.

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Photo of JDV
2.13/5  rDev -43.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Reddy brown pour with offwhite head that hung around for a bit. Not a fan of the smell of this at all, and was different from any other "bitter" style beer. Wasn't bitter at all, but smelled and tasted kind of sour and sweetish at the same time. Almost a sour and sweet chocolate-ish flavor but not in the way a stout is chocolately. All in all this was slightly drinkable but I wouldn't do it again on purpose.

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Photo of MichaelBigbone
2.25/5  rDev -40.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

color: light orangish brown, very clear
head: whitish/light brown, decent lacing
smell: skunky, malty
taste: surprising after that skunky smell (which may be due to the clear bottle), after a second sip or three the malt really is distinct. the mouthfeel is a little watery and you can almost taste the alcohol eventhough it's not a super strong beer.

Overall: average, I like my ales a bit heavier

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Photo of TheAlamoWrocker
2.26/5  rDev -40.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Reviewed December 15, 2011. Poured a nitro-can into a Pint glass.

A: I have no clue on where to say this head actually was, it did an amazing receding type move filling up the entire glass and them coming to. Where it actually stopped at was an a nice creamy thick white one fingered head . This carries an extremely clear amber appearance.

S: Those malts are pretty nice here. It also had a nice toffee aroma as well.

T: Toasty Malts are easily what come up first with some back of caramel.

M: The lasting head gives it an extremely creamy taste, but I know it's not true it's just that nitro-can's head. The thinness of the body is atrocious though.

O: I have no clue why this is rated so hghly when I've had Oktoberfest that have the same taste to it. The thinness is the true killer here because it feels like water and with it's taste this just isn't appealing.

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Photo of Weizenmensch
2.37/5  rDev -37.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 3

Within date, not my favourite style but I tried it because it's cheap. I almost never like Scotch ales but I thought I'd give it a go... more or less against my better judgement.

A: Not bad, very thin head, lots of circle-lacing - not a proper spread but fairly good for the style. Colour is dark amber-nutbrown. Carbonation low.

S: Probably fairly average for the style. I hate this style so I haven't drunk any in a few years, but this is OK - not particularly offensive because I'm being friendly to a style I'm not so fond of. Fond is a Scottish word so fuck it, it's getting a 3.0.

T: Mostly tastes like bad water. There's hops, some kind of fucked-up malt they don't use in civilised countries that makes it taste beer-flavoured, but otherwise it's pretty miserable, like your average Scot. Perhaps it tastes like a really hoppy, sour shortbread. What do you think?

M: Mouthfeel is just like pure water. Even my girlfriend who doesn't know better, agrees.

D: Well, it's cheap, I'm a tightarse so whatever, it gets a three.

Overall: This reminded me to avoid anything Scottish, apart from Macallan, Highland Park and Aberlour.

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Photo of derryd
2.38/5  rDev -37.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Got this in a 22 bottle from the local liquor store. Clear bottle sitting on a shelf. Upon opening smell has skunky right away, this beer had gone bad from sitting too long and being exposed to too much light. The taste was no better than an average pilsner or lager. Reminded me of the skunky Hienken I use to drink thinking it was good beer. Live and learn.

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Photo of Thorpe429
2.38/5  rDev -37.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

On tap at Pizza Paradiso - Georgetown.

Pours a moderately light toffee color with an off white head. Tiny bits of lacing. Nose brings forward toffee and caramel with a bit of butterscotch. Taste is overwhelmed by butterscotch and toffee without any particular amount of sweetness. I am not actually sure whether this was any amount of diacetyl, as it was not off putting in that particular manner and did not have the off buttered popcorn-type flavor. It might just be that this particular version of the style really does not suit me. Feel is light with fairly low carbonation. I just couldn't get past the taste on this.

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Photo of artdob
2.41/5  rDev -36.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

A: Decent head with some staying power. Copper with mild carbonation visible.

S: Malty. Yeasty bread. Caught a bit of an distracting odor in the mix.

T: Really caught something not quite right - almost a sourness that emerges too quickly after an initial sweet sensation. Really distracting. Maybe the clear bottle didn't help the shelf-life for this beer?

M: Fizzy carbonation - light mouthfeel.

O: Not enthused with this one. Would be interested in another sample - maybe the can version.

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Photo of Albertv05
2.41/5  rDev -36.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle.

Poured a nice dark copper color with maybe a few hints of reddish-orange. Nice head that remained with some lacing. The smell is minimal; smelled faintly of malts with no hops.

The first sip gave way to some sweet malts as I was expecting but then was followed up immediatly after by an overwhelming flavor of peatiness/earthiness/smokiness/and burnt flavors. These flavors would have been okay in the background but they are on the foreground so much so I was having a difficult time drinking it. It makes me wonder if I got a bad bottle. As the beer warmed up a bit, the flavors blended together a bit and it was easier to drink. Still, too much of those flavors I described.

Overall, I'd try this again and give it another shot but I really was not impressed.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.42/5  rDev -36.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Clear glass (for feck's sake!) bottle with standard pressure cap served into a generic hefeweissbier glass in low altitude Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. I really enjoyed this beer from the tap and can, so I'm excited to finally officially review it.

First off, as a general note the clear glass bottle is inexcusable. If there were a presentation category, I'd take huge points off here. No self-respecting brewer would allow this sort of irresponsible bottling. Leave this nonsense to Corona.

A: Pours a three finger head of decent cream, good thickness, and okay retention. I'm deeply disappointed that this doesn't live up to my memory of the creamy head of the canned version; perhaps it was a nitro can? Either way, I'm disappointed. The colour is an auburn/dark copper. I'm excited to try it.

Sm: The aroma is quite strong. Toasted malt and nutty hops are all I detect, however.

T: A toasted malt body with stale horribly handled cream and some strangely handled nutty hops. What a damned disappointment. Badly balanced and built. The stale cream needs to go. Why not nitro-bottle this shite, guys? Come on, now.

Mf: It's smooth, wet, stale, and creamy (but only properly creamy right on the finish). Not too thick. It doesn't complement the flavours of the body.

Dr: I'll have to review this from the can, because I remember being dazzled by the head. This was a huge disappointment. It's drinkable, but I'd never buy it again - at least not the bottled form.

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Photo of shippos
2.43/5  rDev -35.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

poured with the typical dense nitro head and a clear brillant amber color. has a faint peated malt almost sour or acidic. aromas are very faint, either from bieng exceptionally balanced or just old. light body with an average mouthfeel. the sour/acidic character makes it's was through to the taste and is discouraging. you can drink the stuff but it tastes like it's a bad batch or just old, even though the can had a freshness date on of 2005. probably won't get it again, good thing it was free.

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Photo of WoodBrew
2.46/5  rDev -35.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a half finger white head. Deep copper clear body. Smells skunky with mix of carmel, yeasty bread, oak, toffee and some grassy metallic hops. Tastes like a mineraly English ale, Carmel, smokey, earthy hops, some metallic over tone. Medium thin body, light carbing. Lingering metallic bitter finish. Overall a bit too dry and some off putting metallic earthiness.

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Photo of ramrod666
2.51/5  rDev -33.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

belhaven scottish ale pours a translucent goldenrod color with a nice thick, compact nitro head. smell is smokey-woody with a slightly acrid hint in the back. taste is similar to the smell. the smokey-woody flavor of this ale was pungent, almost annoyingly so. the further i got through this pint the less i liked it. mouthfeel want bad with small carbonation and medium thick heaviness. this beer is like liquid forest fire. may sample again after a few months. just thinking of it now makes me kinda ill.

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Photo of Jmamay22
2.53/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a very creamy look no doubt due to the widget. Once everything has settles there is a thick inch of head that is creamy in color and consistency. The beer itself is a hazy caramel color with little bits of I'm not sure what suspended within the beer.

The smell seems somewhat muted. There a nutty sweetness and maybe a hint of smoke, but there isn't much to grasp.

Taste and mouthfeel are what I could only describe as lifeless. Sweet caramel in taste. The smoke that I thought was there is not and the nutty flavors are minimal. Somewhat metallic.

Very drinkable, but not for what I would consider good reasons. It is quaffable, but too bland. Maybe its the widget that turns me off.

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Photo of riversider76
2.54/5  rDev -33%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a rich gold color. Two finger foamy head. Good retention and lacing.For me the appearance was the best part of this beer. Smell is of weak malt. Body is thin and watery. Taste was like sugar water with a hint of nut flavor. Not a good beer in my opinion.

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Photo of magictrokini
2.55/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I am tired of companies naming their bitter a Scotch Ale. This is just a below-average English ESB in disguise. Pours dark amber with no head. Has the aroma of smoked malts and caramel, but that's it. Nothing even resembles the aroma in the taste. Flavor is flat, rotten, and above all, weak. Its also expensive. Avoid.

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Photo of PlutonowyManiek
2.6/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Color: dark amber, clear. Foam color somewhere between ecru and orange.
Aroma: caramel, sweet and bland.
Taste: caramel, toffee, and again bland.
Gentian: delicate. Saturation: average plus.

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Photo of msemich
2.61/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Fair warning, I think I got myself into a relatively bad keg here, so my rating is a bit lower than it ought to be. Generally this is a great example of the style but as with anything you can run into a 'broken' beer. That being said, *every* brewery ships beer that isn't up to snuff sometimes, and I consider it part of the beer's profile to know how it breaks down over time and condition. So....on with the review of a bad Belhaven (hate to do it, but if you've ever wanted to know, here ya go).

First off, read the other reviews. Alright. Good. Now I'm going to tell you what we've got here.

Appearance : Serious chill haze, even counting for the double-stop nitro pour. I even made a comment as it was handed to me that it was quite cloudy. Great looking thick nitro head, but little if any residual carbonation past that, though it did stick around for the entire (happy hour size) glass.

Smell : High marks here, it really smelled great with no off notes, just that sweet malty scent you'd expect. A little hop residual in the nose, but mostly a sweet tang from the malt profile

Taste: Hollow. Thin. Not representative at all. It kinda had that homebrew extract bite going on with it, though not overpowering. Still quite drinkable and someone who didn't really know better may just think that's the way it was supposed to be, but anyone with experience would be disappointed. The hops tasted flat and thin, with a slightly musty character. Overpoweringly sweet to the point of cloying, though again just at the edge of acceptable.

Drinkability : For a 5+% beer, this one isn't a session style so you'd better enjoy what you get, and this one begged to be sent back for a nice can of the same. I have had this one many time and was quite excited to try it on draft but I think my timing was just horrible. At least I KNOW it wasn't normally representative, due to having had cans of it in the past.

Overall : Generally, this is a really great beer. At its worst though, it is still drinkable and would satisfy the less discriminating imbiber without comment. If you're going to have this one on draft, you may want to ask for a sample first, it is liable to be a bit variable

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Photo of damndirtyape
2.62/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Clear 12oz bottle (no date) poured into a shaker pint glass:

Appearance: Clear dark coppery orange color with an off-white head. Initial 1/2" foam died down to a thin skin across the top and a good ring. Good strands and islands of lacing noted.

Smell: Hmm....I wonder if this bottle had been out too long. Smell is predominantly skunked hops with a very faint hint of malt in the background. No, not good.

Taste: Skunked hops up front and at the end, with a malty middle. I can tell there is some sweetness and scotch ale trying to get out, but it's overwhelmed by the skunk flavor. It's not bad, but damn, it's not a good scotch ale either.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation but still spicy on the tongue. Beer really clings to the teeth. Thickness under the carbonation is slick and smooth though, but the skunked hop flavor smell I think is throwing off the mouthfeel also.

Overall / drinkability: This is now 2 for 2 in the past 3 months that I have been unable to get a good bottle of this beer that I had many years ago and loved. Either this stuff does not keep fresh or the clear glass is ruining it. I suspect it's the clear glass is ruining the beer in the store while it sits on the shelf. If I can find a bottle I know is really really fresh I'll buy it again and review again, but otherwise I think I'm going to skip this one.

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Photo of Xanax37
2.68/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

My brothers, I'm not going to give you a bull-shite review. This beer is (barely) drinkable, but you better have a damn sweet tooth. It taste so damn sweet it's nauseating to me. I keep trying to like this beer, but if I've a choice...something else gets my dime. I think these gents giving it a high rating also give peters...aka dicks...aka a penis...a high rating.

Fair notice...Guinness Stout and Sam Adams Double-Bock are my baseline standards to judge other beers.

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Photo of LPorter33
2.72/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Purchased a single can from Martignetti's

Appearance = great thick, milky creamy head that goes down to about 1/4'' and stays. Deep, clear amber. Very beautiful.

Smell = Strong scent of whisky/sctoch with a big malt backbone.A bit of sourness and smokiness too, like cured meat. I'm not a huge fan of this scent but I can apperciate it.

Taste = Taste follows the smell. Smoky, meaty taste like drinking smoked beef jerky or smoked turkey. Not that agreeable with my palate but I can see why others might enjoy it.

Overall = I'm not a fan of this style but I can appreciate this beer. It looks beautiful and I can see why some might like the taste. Personally though I did not enjoy it and would never try another one on my own.

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Belhaven Scottish Ale from Belhaven Brewery Company Ltd.
3.79 out of 5 based on 2,047 ratings.
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