Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
The Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy brew style has a long history, emerging in Scotland roughly 5,000 years ago. Temperatures in this region were cool enough to where early brewers were able to ferment and age their beers longer without the side effects of brutally hot summers. Although these beers could also be categorized as Scottish Ales, the Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy is different enough that it can be considered its own brew style. Traditionally the term ‘Wee Heavy’ was given to the strongest of the 4 Scottish Ale sub-styles along with the numerical symbols ranging from 90/- to 160/-. These numbers correlated to the price, in shillings (/-), for one cask of that particular beer. While these prices are no longer valid, they are still used when ordering this brew.
Since hops are not native to Scotland, other additives such as herb and spice mixtures were used in their place to give the finished beer their distinct flavor composition. These beers are also brewed stronger than other Scottish Ales and have deeper caramelized qualities due to their long fermentation. They can range from light to dark brown in appearance and have a robust tan head. Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy beers have strong malt aromas with notes of smokey or earthy elements and should not have a high hops presence. The palate mimics the nose with deep, rich malt and caramelized flavors without being overly sweet. You may find suggestions of smoked peat which was not traditionally used but has now become acceptable for this style.
The mouthfeel can be described as creamy and soft with a slightly viscous, dry finish. Carbonation is moderate in this full-bodied Ale and could have an additional warming sensation due to the higher levels of alcohol. A typical ABV is between 5.5-6.5% with IBU’s of 7-10%, however, breweries in the US have a tendency to give this style an ABV between 7-10%. For the best taste and presentation, serve this beer in a “thistle” glass.
Our monthly Craft Beer Club members received Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Scotch Ale, which was given the title of 2009 National Grand Champion by the U.S. Beer Tasting Championship! More of this unique style will be featured in future shipments to our members.