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Hopefully by now you get the idea that there is a long history behind the beers we like to drink. Scottish Ale is no different. This beer has a long history starting in Scotland and is based on the most well known alcohol from there, Scotch. Let’s take a look at this beer style and what makes it up.
1. All About The Malt
Scottish Ales are all about malt. These beers feature very little to no hop character, which is right in line with their history. Barley is grown in large amounts in Scotland, mainly for the production of Scotch. It is this high-quality, abundant crop that led this style to be so malt-focused. Scotch ales tend to have longer than normal boils to caramelize the sugars in the malt, giving the beer a deep amber to brown color. This also gives the wort a high amount of un-fermentable sugars, which lends a sweeter taste to this style of beer, which is very much the opposite of, say, an IPA.
You may have seen odd names attached to Scottish-style beers. These are actually based off of the old taxing and currency system for Scotland. The monetary unit used in the past in Scotland was the Shilling, and the beers were categorized based off the taxation value. Here is the breakdown:
- Light 60 shilling- (2.5% – 3.2% ABV)
- Heavy 70 shilling- (3.2% – 3.9% ABV)
- Export 80 shilling- (3.9% – 5.0% ABV)
- Ale , or Wee Heavy 90+ shilling – (6.5% – 10% ABV)
As you can see by the breakdown, it’s all about the ABV.
When you taste a Scottish-style beer, you should expect earthy, smokey flavors with a distinct lack of hoppy or fruity flavors. These beers are fermented at a lower-than-average temperature for an ale, which keeps the fruity esters out of the beer. This, combined with the remaining sugars we mentioned help to impart a sweet, earthy flavor to this style.
Here are some great examples of this style of beer you should be able to find.
Oskar Blues Old Chub
- Scottish Style Ale
- 8% ABV
Three Floyds Robert The Bruce
- Scottish Style Ale
- 7% ABV
Belhaven Scottish Ale
Thirsty Dog Twisted Kilt
As you might notice from these examples, it’s hard to find a good lower alcohol Scottish-style beer. Most are higher ABV, and even at that, there are few great examples of this beer. Beer styles tend to go in phases, and this seems to be a style that is out of style for now. But if you enjoy a nice, malty beer, I strongly recommend you find a good Scottish-style ale and enjoy!