Belhaven Best Logo
|Location||Belhaven, near Dunbar, East Lothian
Belhaven claims to have begun brewing in 1719. In that year the burgh of Dunbar levied a local tax on brewers to fund civic improvements. Since Belhaven's site is immediately outside the limits controlled by the then Dunbar Council, and hence would be free of the 'impost' or tax, it is possible that the 1719 date records the relocation of an existing business. In the first half of the 18th century Belhaven had more than 24 small and large competitors nearby in Dunbar, Belhaven and West Barns. Only three, the Dunbar, Belhaven (then called Johnstone's and later Dudgeon's) and West Barns breweries survived until the middle of the 19th century and only Belhaven lasted through the 20th, in part due to its small scale of production and its much larger malting capacity.
The manager's house (which sits to the west side of the approach lane) was built c.1790 but extended several times. It has been detached from the brewery for at least 50 years and is currently under private ownership. Its grounds include a small pedimented folly screening the brewery from the house. Its entrance gates were previously the jaw-bones of a whale (as also found on nearby North Berwick Law) but these have eroded to stumps.
By 2005 Belhaven had become the largest and oldest surviving independent brewery in Scotland. In August 2005, the Suffolk based brewery Greene King announced a £187 million takeover bid for Belhaven. This offer was accepted and completed by November 2005. Greene King has stated that Belhaven will retain its brands and brewery following the takeover.
Domestically, in 2006 Belhaven distributed only four brands of beer: Best, Best Extra Cold, St.Andrew's Ale, and 80 Shilling. In the past there were many others: regulars like stouts, porters, brown ales, 20/- to 110/- ales (rising at 10/- increments) and even lagers as well as periodic specials celebrating anniversaries and royal events. Even further back harvest ales and 2d ales were the brewery's standby. Now Best Extra Cold is claimed to be the United Kingdom's first non-stout extra cold dark beer. St.Andrew's Ale and Scottish Ale are exported, primarily to the United States. As well as its own brands, Belhaven also bottles and distributes beers from other breweries, including Tennents and Stella Artois.
Belhaven sponsored Dundee United for six seasons between 1987 and 1993.