So, there I was in the middle of Total Wine, and I have to say, I got really excited by the bottle of Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA I saw. It certainly wasn’t the clear glass bottle that got me all worked up. And definitely not the price of $4.99 for a half liter bottle. No, Belhaven beers have been a favorite of mine since the mid-eighties, when the owner of my local beer store turned me on to Belhaven Scottish Ale. And an IPA from Belhaven? That was novel.
I read the back of the label:
A refreshing example of an India Pale Ale from the master brewers at Belhaven. The blend of Cascade and Challenger hops combine to produce an abundance of fresh hop aroma that preludes a bitter-dry taste explosion. Created from nearly three centuries of brewing heritage at one of Scotland’s oldest breweries, this ale from Belhaven will have your taste buds tingling.
Cascade hops in a Scottish-brewed IPA? That was what really got me excited. Challengers I could understand; those are English hops. But American Cascades? Interesting. Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA is slightly low on the alcohol content for an IPA at 6.1% by volume. At least my bottle says 6.1% by volume anyway, the brewery website has this pegged at 5.3%.
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA pours to a bright orange color with a medium sized head of creamy foam and a faint butterscotch nose with the very faintest hint of herbal hop aroma. Taking a sip, I get a very buttery malty, flinty tasting, treacle laced base beer, which I like a lot. But what about the hops? That’s what I’m missing. To be fair, I do get a very respectable grassy-minty hop bitterness in the finish, which is perhaps more aggressive than in most of the English IPAs I’ve tried. Still, the beer is really lacking in hop aroma.
As the beer warms, I do get more of the herbal dry hop bitterness and a little grassier hop aroma. I’m going to take off my American beer geek hat and throw away my preconceptions about how hoppy an IPA should be. I know IPAs brewed in England these days are less hoppy, but this one really grows on you as you sip it. The bitter-butter combinations are truly delicious.
I will balk at the price, and the beer gets rated down a bit because of that. Double dumbass on Belhaven, too, for warning “Store Out of Direct Sunlight” on the bottle, but packaging in clear glass. Still, I’d have been hard pressed 25 years ago to imagine a beer like this from Belhaven. I might buy it again even at the high price, but not on a regular basis.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.