Sorry for the long absence in posts. With the kids going back to school, family visiting from out of town and the near-organized chaos, I have not had much opportunity to post. Also, I am way
behind on a batch of beer for some friends. That being said, I will slowly get back into the swing of things by posting this week's Beer Style of the Week. This week's entry is the Scottish Strong Ale or Scottish Wee Heavy.  This is one of those beer styles that is very high in alcohol, has robust malt flavors, and is very restrained in hop flavor and aroma. I am posting this style this week because I have only one bottle left of the award winning Scottish Wee Heavy I made a couple years ago. It has me thinking about adding this beer to my upcoming brewing schedule. As always, I will give you the published guidelines first, and then give you my thoughts and
impressions of some I have consumed. First up, the guidelines:

Here are the stylistic guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) 2008 Style
Guidelines publication.

9E. Strong Scotch Ale

Aroma: Deeply malty, with caramel often apparent. Peaty, earthy and/or smoky secondary aromas may also be present, adding complexity. Caramelization often is mistaken for diacetyl, which should be low to none. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are often present in stronger
versions. Hops are very low to none.

Appearance: Light copper to dark brown color, often with deep ruby highlights. Clear. Usually has a large tan head, which may not persist in stronger versions. Legs may be evident in stronger versions.

Flavor: Richly malty with kettle caramelization often apparent (particularly in stronger versions). Hints of roasted malt or smoky flavor may be present, as may some nutty character, all of which may last into the finish. Hop flavors and bitterness are low to medium-low, so malt impression should dominate. Diacetyl is low to none, although caramelization may sometimes be mistaken for it. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are usually present. Esters may suggest plums, raisins or dried fruit. The palate is usually full and sweet, but the finish may be sweet to medium-dry (from light use of roasted barley).

Mouthfeel: Medium-full to full-bodied, with some versions (but not all) having a thick, chewy viscosity. A smooth, alcoholic warmth is usually present and is quite welcome since it balances the malty sweetness. Moderate carbonation.

Overall Impression: Rich, malty and usually sweet, which can be suggestive of a dessert. Complex secondary malt flavors prevent a one-dimensional impression. Strength and maltiness can vary.

History/Comments: Also known as a "wee heavy." Fermented at cooler temperatures than most ales, and with lower hopping rates, resulting in clean, intense malt flavors. Well suited to the region of origin, with abundant malt and cool fermentation and aging temperature. Hops, which are not native to Scotland and formerly expensive to import, were kept to a minimum.

Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt, with up to 3% roasted barley. May use some crystal malt for color adjustment; sweetness usually comes not from crystal malts rather from low hopping, high mash temperatures, and kettle caramelization. A small proportion of smoked malt may
add depth, though a peaty character (sometimes perceived as earthy or smoky) may also originate from the yeast and native water. Hop presence is minimal, although English varieties are most authentic. Fairly soft water is typical.

Vital Statistics:

OG: 1.070 - 1.130

IBUs: 17 - 35

FG: 1.018 - 1.056

SRM: 14 - 25

ABV: 6.5 - 10%

Commercial Examples: Traquair House Ale, Belhaven Wee Heavy, McEwan's Scotch Ale, Founders Dirty ****, MacAndrew's Scotch Ale, AleSmith Wee Heavy, Orkney Skull Splitter, Inveralmond Black Friar, Broughton Old Jock, Gordon Highland Scotch Ale, Dragonmead Under the Kilt

Here are the stylistic guidelines from the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

83. Old Ale or Strong Ale

B. Subcategory: Strong Ale

Light amber to mid-range brown in color, strong ales are medium to full bodied with a malty sweetness and may have low levels of roast malt character. Hop aroma should be minimal and flavor can vary from none to medium in character intensity. Fruity-ester flavors and aromas can contribute to the character of this ale.

Bitterness should be minimal but evident and balanced with malt and/or caramel-like sweetness. Alcohol types can be varied and complex. A rich, often sweet and complex estery character may be evident. Very low levels of diacetyl are acceptable. Chill haze is acceptable at low temperatures.

Original Gravity: (Plato): 1.060-1.125 (15-31.5 Plato)  Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (Plato): 1.014-1.040 (3.5-10 Plato)  Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5.5-8.9% (7-11%)
 Bitterness (IBU): 30-65  Color SRM (EBC): 8-21 (16-42 EBC)


Now some of my tidbits of information, opinion, and recent tastings. I am a fan of this style of beer. This is one of those nearly over-the-top beers that are fun to drink. Very malty, rich, and not too hoppy, traditionally served in a brandy snifter, this beer will definitely make you
feel it. Grain bills for this style often approach 20 pounds per 5 gallons (normal strength craft brews tend to be about 10-12 pounds per 5 gallons), but after first sparge a second running can be collected and turned into a lighter session ale. Also fermented cool, this beer has low sulphury components, unlike cool fermented lagers. This rich ale pairs well with hearty fare, or is best
served as an after dinner drink with a wedge of very ripe blue cheese (and maybe a cigar if you like them). My award winner clocked in at about 12.5% and was described as "a malt bomb" and "a rich, warming beer". I also throw in an additional step in brewing to help develop the rich intense caramelization of the beer.

I have not tried any of the commercial brands listed above. I tend to look for these ales specifically at craft breweries or brew pubs. Occasionally, your favorite local craft brewery may have one on tap or sell them as special seasonal bomber bottles. They are twice as expensive to make as traditional ales, so cost is generally pretty high. They are definitely worth the time and money for a truly special beer.  


On to NFL news:

Denver Broncos linebacker stud, Von Miller, was suspended for 6 games for violating the league's substance abuse program. That is not going to help a team that has looked mediocre at best during the preseason. I have read too many conflicting reports about the violation that I cannot
speculate but a suspension of 6 games (rather than the traditional 4) makes me wonder what all is going on. Also, he was arrested recently for outstanding warrants. Get it together Miller. Bronco fans can be a fickle lot! 

With the NFL preseason half over and the first cut-downs occurring this weekend through next Monday, I need to get in gear and finish up my previews. This week, I am headed down south again. This time, the NFC South.


The Atlanta Falcons should win this division again this year. Their additions of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora offset the losses of Michael Turner and John Abraham. Loss of cornerback Dunta Robinson is a small blow but I see this team pretending to be the 2011 Green Bay Packers...score, score, score. What defense? They won't have much of a challenge as long as they stay healthy.

The Carolina Panthers went into the offseason with salary cap issues. They stayed fairly quiet during free agency and with young players and inexperienced coaches (not too many years with the team), it is going to be another struggling year for quarterback Cam Newton. Some are calling it a make-or-break year for him. I think if he can make it through this season and gain some much needed poise and maturity as a leader, than the 2014 season looks to be a potential breakout year for this team. They just have to suffer through this year's nightmare.

The New Orleans Saints are not the same team that won the division many years in a row and were perpetual contender for the Super Bowl. Nor are they the Saints from history that were bottom dwellers in the NFC. This team is paying too much to a quarterback with not much left in the tank (my opinion) and has overspent recently, strapping them with an unmanageable salary
cap. While having the coaching staff back after their suspensions last year will make them a slightly better team, it will not get them back to competing with the Falcons for the division title.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the more aggressive teams in the offseason. Signing Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson helps shore up the defensive secondary, the lack of movement on the defensive front still makes them vulnerable to pass happy Matt Ryan and the Falcons and Drew Brees and the Saints (as well as run happy Cam Newton). Will Josh Freeman mature enough to lead this team? Will Greg Schiano finally implode as head coach? I just don't see this team making enough noise and getting enough wins to make it to the next level. 

The NFC South still belongs to the Falcons. I don't think any of the other teams in this division makes the playoffs in 2013. Prediction for records:

Falcons 12-4 (division winner)

Saints 9-7

Buccaneers 6-10

Panthers 5-11

Enjoy the rest of the week and upcoming weekend! Enjoy a couple of beers! And enjoy some preseason football. This week's games are when we should see the starters play the most (hopefully an entire half). Only a couple more weeks until regular season football!

Just my opinion...


August 22, 2013  09:48 PM ET

Do like the brews that aren't hoppy and are high in ABV.. may have to try some of those listed next time I make a trip to our nearest brew hub


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