Amanda and I were in Scotland back in March of 2009 to visit her relatives near Edinburgh and in the Highlands near Inverness. Scotland in March can be a dreary place, which was immediately evident by the slushy mess that was covering the ground as we landed. But we found our bright spots.
We were picked up at the airport by her cousin Ian and driven to the town of Linlithgow, some 20 miles or so West of Edinburgh. Linlithgow is famous for having been the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots. The town’s coat of arms in that of a black female dog and locals are lovingly referred to as, well, I’ll let you figure that one out. Amanda and I giggled every time we drank at or passed by Ian’s local with the nickname in large white print above the door. It’s still amazing to me that one of the only things that separate us from the British is our language.
Ian was very keen to invite us down for a pint of two with his friends, but was especially excited to have us down for poker night. The buy-in was £10 and Amanda, Ian and I were split between two tables. Now, I’m pretty bad at Texas Hold’em, but I’m especially miserable when playing with a group of people I don’t know very well, so I was a little apprehensive at first. What transpired was probably one of the most memorable parts of our two-week trip to Scotland.
We drank and played and talked with the locals. The winners from each of the tables were then placed together and a final round was played, all the while we sipped our drinks and laughed as the last players duked it out until, literally, the “wee” hours.
It was getting quite late and the pub downstairs was closing, but we finally had a Linlithgow Texas Hold’em World Champion. The £10 buy-in from each player was given to the winner who was benevolent in victory and bought a round for the whole lot of us.
Do I remember what beer I was drinking that night? It was most likely Belhaven Best, a light draught beer that clocks in around 3.2% ABV, what the brewery calls “a pint for all occasions.” You probably won’t find it here in the US, but you will be able to find their export ale on draught (mostly nitro), in bottles and in nitro cans. A supremely smooth (especially the nitro versions), creamy Scottish ale with hints of caramel malt and a very mild earthy hoppiness. Every time I drink this beer I think of the attic of that pub and that wonderful night.
A lot of people ask me what’s the best beer I’ve ever had—what would appear to be a very difficult question for someone who has tried so many. I always answer that the best beers I’ve ever had are in moments like the one in this story. As long as the beer is as good as the company, I’m a happy man.