Dunbar, East Lothian; 011-44/1368-862-734, belhaven.co.uk
The name of the in-house bar, Monks Retreat, refers to Belhaven's monastic beginnings. The more "modern" brewery is modern in the way the New Course at St. Andrews is new—it dates back to 1719, making this coastal classic the oldest operating independent brewery in Scotland. It's also one of the best, although not surprisingly given its age, the quarters are a bit cramped. Visitors may find themselves stepping over hoses while the brewing goes sweetly on.
On Tap: Our favorite is the St. Andrews Ale. This 4.6 percent–alcohol brew has a nutty, fruity palate. Bottles of it are available at the Links Clubhouse bar near the second tee of the Old Course, and rightfully so: The R&A clubhouse and Swilken Bridge are proudly depicted on the label.
On the Tee: With the much-in-demand links of Muirfield, Gullane and North Berwick all within striking distance of East Lothian, perhaps it's best to try the not-so-hidden gem right in town, the Dunbar East Links (dunbar-golfclub.co.uk). First laid out in 1850 by Old Tom Morris, it has served as a qualifying course for the Open Championship.
Edinburgh; 011-44/1313-371-286, caledonian-brewery.co.uk
Until a microbrewery opened recently, Caledonian was the last ale maker in a once-proud Edinburgh tradition. It remains Scotland's leading producer of cask ales, still firing up all of its open kettles by direct flame and thereby pumping out a seductively potent malt perfume. However, Caledonian has been a victim of its own recent success: It's so busy producing beer that tours of the brewery were recently suspended, although this policy will be reviewed this summer. For a good whiff and a taste, the nearby Athletic Arms (known locally as Diggers, due to its proximity to a graveyard) will serve nicely.
On Tap: The Caledonian 80/- is superb. Named for the beer's former tax rate—eighty shillings, based on alcohol content—this is a smooth amber beauty with a fruity nose and malty flavor. It's also mild in alcohol (4.1 percent).
On the Tee: Edinburgh abounds with golf, but go to the course the brewery favors for its outings, Craigmillar Park (craigmillarpark.co.uk), a 1927 James Braid layout that, naturally, has the 80/- on tap in the bar.
Perth, Perthshire; 011-44/1738-449-448, inveralmond-brewery.co.uk
The brewery's warehouse setting isn't much to look at from the outside, but Inveralmond is putting some fine ales in the glass. "Our motto is: 'We drink what we can and sell the rest,'" says Ken Duncan, the head brewer. "But we actually take our mission seriously, brewing great beers for a great people, trying to give them a taste of tradition." A visitors lounge may open as early as this summer. In the meantime, Duncan says, "people are welcome to call in and have a look around. We're good for a few pints."
On Tap: Go for the Lia Fail. A dark, traditional Scottish ale (4.7 percent alcohol), this brew is satisfyingly robust. It's fittingly named after the Stone of Destiny—the coronation stone of the Kings of the Scots, taken to England in 1296 and returned seven hundred years later.
On the Tee: Only a traditional course will do, so try King James VI Golf Course, named for the last king of Scotland, who is said to have played golf in these parts. Tee times have to be carefully planned, however, because the parkland course sits on Moncrieffe Island, surrounded by two arms of the tidal River Tay.
Kinlochleven, Argyllshire; 011-44/1855-831-111, atlasbrewery.com
Though seven hours apart, the Atlas and Orkney breweries
recently merged into the Highlands & Islands company.
Both breweries are quite small—the Orkney facility is
run out of a former schoolhouse, while Atlas operates in a
Victorian building that was once part of Kinlochleven's
aluminum-smelting industry. "Our office is quite pungent at
times, but I love the smell of the mash in the morning,"
says Jane Morrison, the customer manager at Atlas.
Visitors, she says, sometimes get a chance to help with a
brew cycle, "although you'd probably not want to come on a
day they're just washing kegs."
On Tap: Order a round of Three Sisters Scottish Ale. At 4.2 percent alcohol, this is an excellent "session" ale, meaning that unlike more alcoholic beers it can be drunk in a rather large quantity (over conversation, say) for an extended period of time. It's ruby in color, toasty and typically malty.
On the Tee: Little-known Traigh Golf Course (traighgolf.co.uk), a classic seaside nine-holer, is sixty miles away in Arisaig but worth the drive. Named after the Gaelic word for beach (and pronounced "try"), the course offers views of the Inner Hebrides, including the mountains of Skye.
Quoyloo, Orkney; 011-44/1855-831-111, orkneybrewery.co.uk
On Tap: The Skullsplitter is a must. Named for the seventh Viking Earl of Orkney, Thorfinn Hausakluif, or Skullsplitter, who ruled in the mid-900s, this assertive ale is aptly named—it carries an alcohol content of 8.5 percent.
On the Tee: The stark beauty of the Orkney Islands lends itself to spectacularly scenic golf. Play either the Kirkwall or the Stromness course (golforkney.co.uk) and breathe in a lungful of the pure coastal air.