Aah, Scotland, a country long noted for smoky, foggy peat bogs, highland moors, castles, barley fields, Scotch whiskey, and Scotch ales. The Sphagnum moss that becomes peat is used in fires to dry barley, and to give Scotch whiskey its distinctive smoky taste.
The barley is also used to create thick bodied, robustly flavored ales - generally without much smoky peat.
Scotland’s climatic conditions make for an abundance of great malted and roasted barley, but a dearth of hops. So what did the Scottish brewers do when faced with the choice of importing expensive hops for their ales? They created their own style of ale - Scotch ale - low in hops and big in barley.
There are four types of Scotch ale, but today we’re looking at the Strong Scotch Ale, or “Wee Heavy.”
Scotch Whiskey and Scotch Ale
“I’ll have a Scotch on the rocks,” James said to the burly bartender.
Peering through the thick smoky haze from the constantly swirling cigar and cigarette smoke, the bartender asked, “Single malt?”
Seeing a nod, he turned around quickly, flipped the cap on the pourer, and expertly poured a perfect 2 oz. single malt Scotch whiskey over squares of ice.
“No, on second thought, make that a ‘Wee Heavy’.”
Turning back and tensing slightly, he told James, “Hey man, will you make up your mind, please?”
Well, it’s winter now and I need to make up my mind which of the four types of great Scotch ales I’m going to brew. Don’t want to upset the bartender.
Strong Scotch Ale - aka, “Wee Heavy”
ABV: 6.5 - 10%
This is a high gravity ale - or as it’s affectionately known, a “Wee Heavy”.
Generally less than 6% is the norm, but - what is normal? I read some time back that “normal” is a setting on your dryer! LOL
IBUs: 17 - 35
Fairly low IBU’s gives us a hint that this is a malty, malt forward beer.
The low IBU number reflects the origin of the Scotch ales as being birthed in a country where, due to the short warm growing season, few hops are grown.
SRM: 14 - 25
Our friend, the Standard Reference Method, signals that this brew is in the mid-range of potential color values. Expect it to look like...
FG: 1.018 - 1.056
“What is this code for?”
FG = final gravity.
The final or terminal specific gravity tells us what kind of party the yeast that fermented the beer were at.
Ouch. ..."were at”?
My copy editor will have a... “Wee Heavy - please.”
Yes - at. As in, what party were they at that made this a great malt bomb? They were at a high FG party, of course.
A low number on the final gravity scale tells us that more of the sugars have been used by the yeast, giving us a light bodied beer, and giving the yeast a “sugar high.”
“How low can it go?”
Now, do you really want a low FG? The minimum FG is 1.000 - water. I’ve heard of watered down beer, but that is a wee bit much.
Great work if you can get it!
Scotch yeast are specialized. Get ready - yes, they work best in Scotland, or at least in Scotch ales.
Brewing Yeast and Banana Bubble Gum
The yeast that ferment beer are tasked with some important objectives.
Depending on the style of beer, the yeast may be asked to ferment a “clean” or “no yeast-added flavors” beer. Or they might be told that in order to report for work again, they must make it smell like Bubble Gum, or bananas or plums or licorice...
...Oh, my. Oh - my.
What if I just want a great beer?
Then you need to grab a "Wee Heavy" and read John Michael Brinson’s short story about Bigfoot and the Wee Heavy. Keep on reading and you’ll see it soon. You might see Bigfoot, too.
Strong Scotch Ale - Wee Heavy
It has a certain smell to it:
Malty, earthy or peaty
Hops not generally discernable
Caramelization of the wort may be noticed due to the long boil in the kettle.
The same characteristics of malt and caramel are evident in the clear light copper to dark brown colored ale when tasted, plus...
Roasted malt or smoky flavor may be present
Notes of plums, raisins, licorice, or dried fruit
Malt forward and sweet with low bitterness
Pale Malt & Roasted Barley Grains
Grains used are generally Scotch pale malt, along with a few percent roasted barley.
This cool fermented ale is medium-full to full-bodied
Desert-like with complex secondary flavors
A hint of smoked malt may add depth and there is a smooth warming effect from the alcohol
OK, I’ve decided which Scotch ale I’m brewing. Just don’t tell the bartender - in case I change my mind.
BBB Classic Brew, Testing -1-2-3 -
Traquair House Ale
Traquair House Ale
Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland
Called the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, this estate also contains the brewery that gives us one of the most revered ales known in the world. Having Traquair House ale is considered by some to be more than just drinking a brew, it is an experience.
Deep reddish-golden in color; full, velvet-like body; medium dry and powerful, with an earthy hint of the peat character. Experience Scotland in a glass.
A recipe for this “Wee Heavy” is being brew tested by me and I’ll have the results shortly - in about 6 months. Yes, it requires a long conditioning in order to bring out the best of its character. Look for it soon.
Bigfoot Meets Dirty Bastard
By John Michael Brinson
“Really! I’m not lyin’!” Ben said defensively, having halted just inside the front door on his way in.
“You mean to tell me you actually saw Bigfoot?” Grant was incredulous, disbelieving his roommate, and who could blame him? Everyone knows that Bigfoot is merely a legend.
“That’s what I’m sayin’!” Ben slammed the front door behind him in a huff.
“That’s a good one, Ben! Next you’re gonna tell me you saw Elvis Presley down at the bakery orderin’ some jelly donuts!” Grant laughed, not realizing just how serious and determined Ben was.
Ben threw his hands in the air and stomped off to his room. Grant paused a moment, considering what he had just heard, and the serious tone of Ben’s voice. Admittedly, there had been fresh videos of the creature on the internet, but everyone presumed them to be either bears or some moron in a big hairy suit. He followed Ben to his room. Ben was gathering his camera equipment into his college book bag.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Grant tried to break the ice, knowing he had offended his friend.
“Damn right I’m serious!” Ben fired back, not even glancing at Grant.
“So, you’re getting your camera?”
“Of course! I know right where to go, I’m gonna take some pictures of him. Prove Bigfoot’s existence once and for all!”
“Okay, okay, Ben. I wanna go too.”
“Oh, so now you’re saying that you believe me?” Ben rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he zipped his pack.
“Yeah, sure... I guess. I mean, you’ve never said anything crazy until today. I think maybe that gives you some credibility.”
Making a quick detour to the kitchen before heading out the door, Ben grabbed a six pack of craft beer from the fridge, Grant following right on his heels.
Grant’s eyebrows rose. “Whatcha gonna do with that?”
“It’s for the wait,” Ben answered. “Now do me a favor and grab a couple of mugs.”
The drive out to the mountainous site where Ben said he had seen Bigfoot was long with plenty of twisting turns and ear-popping. Finally Ben pulled off the road and jumped out, gathering his camera gear. “Quick! Grab the brews and mugs!”
Grant unquestioningly obeyed, and together they began a hike up a rocky incline covered in slippery pine needles and the crunchy dried brown remnants of autumn’s maple leaves. “I can’t say I’ve ever been this far out in the middle of nowhere!”
“Yeah, I know. This is what you miss when you’re a geek. I was scoping out some trails for mountain biking when I saw him.”
After a while Grant stopped to catch his breath. “How much farther?”
A few hundred more feet of climbing, and they arrived at a fallen fir tree, its sharp, dry, brittle needles still clinging to the limbs. Ben climbed over the massive trunk and through the spiky limbs and dead foliage, Grant following tentatively, not noticing the heady scent of rich earth and evergreens.
“This is it!“ Ben said, setting down his book bag.
Grant looked back down the slope they had climbed. “One thing’s for sure...” he said between breaths.
“I’ve worked up a thirst for some of this beer.”
Ben nodded with a grin, “Whatcha waitin’ for, then? Let’s pop a couple of these babies!”
Grant pulled out two bottles, inspecting the labels. “What we got here? Picture on it looks kinda like Bigfoot.”
“Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale.” Ben didn’t look up, replying as he twisted a telephoto lens onto the camera.
Grant popped the cap off the first bottle and slowly poured the dark reddish gold brew into a mug. He handed it to Ben as the thick tiramisu-hued head grew to overflowing, and then filled the second mug. “Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale, huh?” Grant’s nose dipped to his foamy mug, deeply drawing in the heady aroma.
“Nice! I’m smelling roasted malt and...”
“Yeah,” Ben agreed. “I’m getting that, too, but I think there could be some caramelized brown sugar or something in there.”
Grant took his first sip, Ben following suit.
Ben swirled the potion over his taste buds, then noisily swallowed, giving an annoying smack of his lips. “I’m not really picking up an over-abundance of hops like so many other craft beers. What do you think?”
“Yeah, but it’s nice, real nice. I really like the full body.” Grant offered, and then took another sip.
“Mmmm, that’s a full bodied beer, alright.” Ben said, once again holding the mug up and admiring the deep shades of rubies and bourbon. “But it’s not so full that you could tar and feather someone with it.”
Grant almost lost his mouthful as he suppressed laughter. Then after a hard swallow, he looked over at Ben with watery eyes.
“Heck, if I was gonna be tarred and feathered, I think I’d want this rather than tar!”
Ben took a mouthful and gulped it down. “Mmmm... moderate carbonation on the big swallows, but no burn.”
“This is a good sipper, but,” Grant snickered, “I don’t have the patience right now for all this taste-testing baloney. I’m thirsty.” And with that, he slammed the rest of the mug’s contents. Head tilted back and in mid-swallow, his eyes suddenly grew round, practically bulging as he spotted a huge, black, furry form coming out of the underbrush no more than seventy-five feet up the hillside from them!
Swallowing hard and coughing, Grant pointed in the direction of the beast. “Bi…Bi… Bigfoot!! RUN!!!” he finally managed to yell, dropping his mug as he began a madcap run down the hillside and back to the car. Slipping, stumbling, falling, and rolling, covered with forest debris, he continued his mad dash to safety, getting back up and falling, rolling, and sliding again.
Ben stood and watched his friend as he slalom around bushes and trees in a sheer panic run, until he was out of sight. Feeling the 8.5 ABV from the Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale, he calmly turned his attention to the furry behemoth standing before him.
He carefully set his mug down in the crunchy leaves and picked up Grant’s dropped mug, casually cleaning the leaves from it with the tail of his jacket. Ben pulled another bottle from the six-pack, and popped the cap, carefully pouring it into Grant’s mug. A big smile crossed Ben’s face as he lifted the mug up to Bigfoot. “Dude, you’re gonna love this stuff!”
Grant hoped against hope that Ben was right behind him. But as he rolled, still energized by the adrenalin of fight-or-flight, into the ditch alongside the road, another jolt of terror went through him as he realized that Ben was not with him! His eyes tried to peer through rhododendrons, fir fronds and scraggly gray undergrowth, but to no avail. Ben was not to be seen, even up the hill! And he couldn’t hear the sound of Ben coming through the forest, either.
“Oh God! Ben!” He yelled fruitlessly up the steep slope, panicked visions of his roommate being mauled - or worse. He quickly looked around for a weapon of any kind, something that he could beat the monster off with. Choosing a long, thick, cut-off maple branch that had fallen from a passing logging truck, he began to climb back up the embankment toward the trail they had taken.
Minutes felt like hours as Grant struggled up the steep hillside, fear gripping every movement, all the while straining to see any glimpse of his friend. Finally, he heard Ben’s voice. Ben sounded normal. What was going on?
“Ben! Ben! Are you ok?” Grant kept his voice low, just in case the huge, abhorrent creature was nearby.
There was no answer. Grant crept closer, hiding behind the large downed fir tree, trying to peer through the sharp, dead needles for his friend.
“Stop! Hold it right there!” Ben’s voice implored from the other side of the wall of thick fir needles. Grant, terrified but now curious, held his large stick like a baseball bat at the ready, and crept around the tree until he could see Ben - and the Bigfoot.
Grant froze, his jaw dropped; Ben stood, camera in hand, snapping shot after shot as the Bigfoot posed with Grant’s mug of beer dwarfed in his huge hand. Lying around on the ground were all six bottles, empty.
“Show me some emotion, Dude!” Ben directed. “Yeah, like guys without Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale are encroaching on your territory!”
The Bigfoot bared his teeth and roared, displaying the mug of beer as the autodrive of Ben’s camera clicked away like a silenced machinegun. “Perfect! Dude, that is money in the bank!”
The Bigfoot stopped his roaring and posing, and pointed to the mug, grunting, his eyes clearly questioning.
“Yeah, yeah...” Ben assured him, “When the check comes in I’ll come back up here with some more brews. I promise.” Smiling, Ben began casually repacking his camera equipment and gathering the empty bottles as Grant remained frozen and bug-eyed.
The Bigfoot smiled back, and then belched a belch that shook the dried needles from the fallen fir tree that Grant was hiding behind.
Grant blacked out. He hadn’t realized that, in his terror, he had been holding his breath.
When he came to, he was in the car. Ben was cranking the engine, waving and saying “thanks for helping my friend to the car” to someone. Who? Grant peered back as Ben pulled into the road and saw, walking away from the road - the Bigfoot!
Black Bucket Brew is very pleased to have yet another short story / beer review from the talented and imaginative author, John Michael Brinson. Read more about John on this page of Black Bucket Brew.com.
BrewPub That Rocks!
Scotch Ale Salted Caramels
It’s the Holiday Season, time for some delicious candies and other great treats. Black Bucket Brew’s contribution to your Holiday sweetness - these delicious caramels made with Scotch Ale, and then topped with flaky sea salt. Here's the recipe - enjoy!
What you need:
2 C brown sugar
1/2 lb butter
1 C corn syrup (or substitute 1/2 C agave nectar if desired)
8 oz cream (~10 oz if using agave)
12 oz Scotch ale (~14 oz Scotch ale if using agave)
salt for topping
cooking thermometer that reads up to 240 F
Note about agave nectar: While agave nectar can take the place of corn syrup in most recipes, it can be tricky in sugar work like caramel. The measurements for other liquids present are an estimate. Keep in mind that agave nectar browns faster than other sugars.
Pan size: Depending on the carbonation and variety of ale you add to the caramels, keep in mind that boil-over in the early stages is a strong possibility. Use a pan which has a volume double that of your cooked product, in order to give you some room.
What you do:
Melt sugar and butter together over medium heat until fully incorporated.
Add ale and syrup, then slowly whisk in cream.
Cook to 240 F (stir constantly, be patient. This part takes a while).
When mixture reaches 240 F, pour it into a parchment-lined baking dish about 2" deep.
Sprinkle salt on the caramels while they are still hot.
Allow to set at room temperature for an hour, then chill for two hours.
Before cutting, bring up to room temperature for about 30 minutes, to prevent candies from cracking when cut.
Yield: about 24 squares
Help Us Grow!
Please forward this issue to a friend who you think may enjoy it.
Share Black Bucket Brew FREE InBox Magazine!
*"PubFood That Rocks!"
*Life With Beer - Original Fiction
A broad flavor palate of interesting, craft beer related topics is coming in future issues. Every article - even if it's not your fave - will have lots of interesting and informative info about what makes delicious craft beer or home brew such a great beverage!
Topics will broadly include:
Craft Beer and Food: Beer & food pairings, original healthy recipes using craft beer, entertaining with craft beer.
Home Brewing: Extract with steeping grains, to all-grain techniques, equipment, tested and approved original recipes, recipe development.
Breweries: Tours, Brewery owners, brewmeisters & their unique stories, business beginnings.
Disclaimer: Black Bucket Brew recommends products that we've either checked out ourselves, or that come from people we know and trust. For doing so, we may receive a commission. We only recommend products that have a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee.