Close followers of Brew Blog (thanks, both of you! No, no, kidding) will know that Scottish beers are never far from our hearts, nor are stouts of most kinds. So it was a cheap thrill for us to spot Belhaven Brewery's "Scottish Stout" on the shelves at Central Market recently.
Many others around the Information Superhighway seem to find this offering exquisite. The beer averages an A- from 105 reviewers on BeerAdvocate, while an Examiner.com guy in Dallas labeled it "Guinness' worst nightmare.
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We're not so sure. To be fair, (1) we were foolish to fall for a stout in this season, (2) we'd had a small glass of wine much earlier in the evening, with much water in between, and (3) we were recovering from a nasty canker sore.
But still. We weren't in a vegetative state. And look, to be clear, the first 75 percent of this beer was excellent. The pillowy, copious, caramel-colored head correctly foretold a smooth, creamy, vaguely chocolate-tinged beer. Carbonation was low, adding to the smoothness; this beer can be savored and drunk slowly (and the flavor was appropriate to hold in the mouth). It finished sweet without ever becoming syrupy.
But the finish, the last 25 percent, wasn't always welcome. On good sips it finished sweet, smooth, then faded to reveal a bit of roasted charcoal. Fine. Many sips didn't play out that way, however. There was too often a lingering bitterness we chalked up to the ashy, charcoal bitterness of the roasted malts (three malts, they kept telling us on the bottle). Regardless of precisely what made up that flavor, however, it wasn't all that pleasant.
It's possible we've miscalled this one. And it's not awful, it's not bad. But we don't feel wrong labeling it mediocre. Pass on this, folks, at least until the temperature drops quite a bit.