Name – St. Andrews Ale
Brewer – Belhaven
Classification – Premium Scottish Ale
Strength – 4.6% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Deep cherrywood. Eye-catching carbonation.
On the nose – A sumptuous clash of sharp hops and buttery malts. Very nice.
On the tongue – Bold, rich, dry and fruity.
On the subject – Over the centuries, Dunbar's Belhaven have learned to keep things simple, choosing to stick with a small range of high quality ales rather than brewing themselves into a semi-stupour and announcing 'exciting' new labels every other day - as so many breweries seem obliged to do these days. The results are elegant and impressive.
On the market – Can be tricky when looking 'beyond the borders', but Belhaven's online store will be happy to oblige.
On the whole – 8/10
Those of you who know and love golf will doubtless know and love St. Andrews. Considered by many to be the home of the game, it is about as highly regarded as a place can be.
So, to name a beer after such a venerated location is a pretty big deal, and Belhaven must have known the risk they were taking by doing so. It inevitably places a heck of a lot of pressure on the drink – before it has even been poured – and one just can't help but expect something altogether 'legendary' from it.
But does it deliver?
Well, I'd say it probably took me about a sip and a half to stop worrying about such trivialities as legends and comparisons, and from that point on I just knuckled down to the merry business of enjoying myself enormously.
This is a very drinkable ale, and it is imbued with enough character, charm and charisma to suggest it wouldn't give a damn what you thought of it.
Scottish ales are seldom afraid to make an impact on you, there is often a warrior-like quality inherent in these brews – and there are few warriors more noble and elegant than St. Andrews Ale.
The fruits are bold, tangy and robust, but they are countered by a deliciously salty bitterness which, along with the softly nutty malt base results in a nice sense of balance and enough overall complexity to keep you guessing throughout.
That guessing game will throw up all manner of delights including apple, apricot, elderberry, watermelon, cookie dough, wood chips, burnt toffee and faint spices. There's a lot to it, but it never feels like it's trying overly hard to bedazzle – everything feels measured and carefully controlled.
It's a commanding and assertive beer, but also a refined and satisfying one.
Whether it's worthy of a legend or not hardly matters.
It's a very enjoyable beer, and that's enough for me.