Name - 80 Shilling
Brewer - Belhaven
Classification - Classic Scottish ale. (In other words - it's an 80 shilling!)
Strength - 3.9% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye - Deep, sci-fi red. Martian sunset. Lovely.
On the nose - Autumnal forest floor. Spicy, rich, bold and fabulous.
On the tongue - Remarkably bold and complex. A bitter, sweet, spicy conflux.
On the subject - Dunbar's Belhaven have this brew to compete among the many other Scottish ales know collectively as 80 Shilling beers. There can surely be few better examples of this iconic style.
On the market - Speaking as an Englishman, availability is unacceptably rare. I protest! By all accounts, this situation is greatly improved north of the border. All problems can quickly be solved via the brewery's own online shop.
On the whole - 8.5/10
This beer made me growl.
For many of you, this alone will be enough of an accolade to get you sprinting out of the door in the direction of your nearest stockist. (Though, if you don't live in Scotland - you may want to jog rather than sprint because you may be running for a good old while...)
The reason some of you may consider that opening line to be enough information, is because you know that any beer which gets you doing animal impressions simply has to be a good one.
However, as this is a beer review site - I do feel compelled to venture into a little more detail as to exactly why this ale produced such a primal reaction.
Well, the short answer is that this is a very special drink.
Packed with flavours - of the traditional and exotic kinds - it is every bit as aggressive, brutal and dynamic as it is refined, delicate and nuanced.
In fact, there's almost a multi-personality disorder at work here - in the most delicious sense of the term. For every dark ale element - such as those twangs of liquorice and eastern spices - there is are equal measures of contradictory golden ale fruit and floral themes to bewilder and beguile you into the most blissful of stupors.
"It's sweet," I thought to myself for a moment, until the next moment arrived bringing with it the thought "No, it's dry and bitter."
As you might imagine, this is hardly the sort of territory in which a beer reviewer feels entirely comfortable...
But the fact is that in whatever way this beer plays with your reactions, there's little doubt that it is an enormously enjoyable drink experience, made all the more enjoyable by this intriguing element of colliding characteristics.
In some ways, though, the most remarkable thing about this beer is it's alcoholic content. I have to admit that I searched around a bit for confirmation that it was indeed only brewed at 3.9% ABV, because it is so powerful, vivid and present in the mouth that for a good while I simply refused to believe it.
All in all, this really is a little marvel of an ale.
It's a unique beer. One which confounds, delights, and would stir into excitement even the idlest of souls.
It's a beer that gets you growling.