Tag Archive: Scotch Ale


Fyne Ales: Origins Brewing – Kilkerran Wee Heavy (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose; Oily. Figs. Smoke. Raisins and fruitcake. Brown sugar. Fudge. Treacle.

Body: Smooth. Oily. Brown bread. Slightly thin. Medicinal notes. Light salt. Fruitcake and figs. Eccles cake. Malt chocolate. Smokey.

Finish: Brown bread. Oily. Slight charring. Figs and raisins. Malt chocolate. Smoked meat. Hop oils – nutty. Slight rocks. Slightly drying. Greenery. Toffee.

Conclusion: A beer of contradictions. That may be getting to be an overused term for me, but it is true here. It is an oily feeling Scotch ale that still manages to feel slightly thin at the same time. Even odder I am fairly sure that both elements come from the same barrel ageing. Odd again in that despite the thin mouthfeel it manages to pack some big flavours.

While smoothed out at the base we still have the familiar Scotch ale – the whole raisins, fruitcake, malt chocolate and such, though fairly restrained in delivery. What comes out more is an oily, slightly salty, smokey and lightly medicinal character. Having drunk Kilkerran I am surprised how barrel ageing in their casks seem to bring similar notes to what I would expect from Islay ageing. You do get more familiar campbeltown grassiness come out over time which is quite interesting to observe. By the end of the beer the notes become slightly dusty, and the salt becomes rockier but it manages to keep the more pleasant smoked meat notes

Chilled it is definitely too light a beer, but the flavours work well despite that. As it warms the body doesn’t gain much thickness but the rougher notes seem to gain more presence which results in a harsher experience. It is definitely interesting, and when chilled the whisky influence is fascinating, but it really needs a bigger body to work with it.

A tad too light for the rough edged notes it carries. A noble experiment, but needs beefing up a few percent abv, or similar thickness adding methods, to work right I feel.

Background: As always, I will not lie and claim that an opportunity to break out the thistle glass again was not part of why I grabbed this scotch ale, however it wasn’t the only reason. One of the big reasons was that this has been aged in Kilkerran casks. I’m a big fan of the Campbeltwon distilleries, few in number though they may be, and you don’t see them used with beer much, so this sounded like a nice experiment to try. This was again grabbed at Independent Spirit, and was drink while listening to Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast album, always a blinder of an album.

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Kees: Barrel Project 17.07 S.P.X. (Netherlands: Scotch Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Creamy brown head. Some carbonation. The head leaves suds.

Nose: Sweet dessert wine. Sweet raspberry crème. Figs to figgy pudding. Raisins. Brandy cream. Spotted dick. Marshmallows.

Body: Figs. Cocktail bitters. Prunes touch. Sour apples. Calvados. Smooth. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Brandy cream. Marshmallows. Raspberry yogurt. Dessert wine.

Finish: Sour dates. Sour wine. Calvados. Slight bitterness. Charring. Earthy hop bitterness. Malt chocolate. Dessert wine. Brandy cream. Spiced grapes. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: I spent a lot of time digging into this before before starting this conclusion. This initially seemed another one of those beers that was overly dominated by the barrel ageing – but only initially. You get a real fresh and sweet dessert wine like character from the sherry ageing on first sniff and sip, but it soon dispels the illusion that this is all it has.

What is notable, for me anyway, is that the Wee Heavy is a style that is very easy to make a simple beer – packed with enjoyable dark fruit notes, but one note in that and so quickly dull. This does have part of that description – it packs in the dark fruit, but beyond that it has a slight sour apple and figs set of notes against that sweet base. Not a heavy set of notes, and not in an acidic fashion – instead akin to stewed, fruit stone sucked, sour notes under the heavy malt. This is all then underlined by a solid, low level, earthy hop bitterness.

The dessert wine style character keeps adding to this, bringing sweet high notes and also mixes with the base to create interesting concoctions such as Calvados like sweet notes as the sherry character mixes with the sour fruit to create rewarding combinations.

To me this is both Barrel Ageing, and Wee Heavies, done right. It has added complexities to the base of what you would expect from a scotch ale, then topped that up with extra notes from the ageing. So, it seems I am back on the barrel ageing fan bandwagon again!

Background: I had a try of a bunch of Kee’s Barrel Project beers about a year back I think – generally enjoyed them, so decided to try this from the new batch. The fact it was a wee heavy interested me – you don’t see a huge amount of them around, and less so of experiments with them – so was definitely worth a try to my mind. This has been Pedro Ximenez barrel aged – I haven’t had much experience with the sherry, but beers and whisky aged in it tend to be fabulous. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and was the first beer drunk in 2018! Whoop Whoop! Drunk while listening to Rise Against – Endgame, seriously an album without a single bad song on it.

Brewdog Comarty Stoater Scotch Ale

Cromarty: Brewdog: Stoater Scotch Ale (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown, small dash of beiged head.

Nose: Touch of coffee up front into thick honey. Stewed apricot and malt drink mash up. Sour grapes.

Body: Big honey. Grapes. Tart berries. Malt chocolate. Black berries. Smooth. Shortbread. Vanilla. touch of coffee.

Finish: Honey. Vanilla. Grapes. Loganberries (I think – going by the beer I had with them in). Light bitterness. Golden syrup cake.

Conclusion: Huh, I put this beer off towards the end (Day three as it happens) because I am not a big fan of scotch ales and…

It is actually remarkably nice.

It is very smooth, and while the honey does make it very sweet, I must congratulate the brewers on the use of berries in this. The berries don’t come through particularly heavy as a flavour, I got more tart grapes style than the expected brambles, however that slight sharpness that comes with it gives it a drinkability that many scotch ales lack. This adds a much needed refreshing element to a thick chocolate and honey beer.

A very good call. It means that by the time you get to the end you are not finding it sickly, which is a common flaw.

It has a good range of flavour, within the expected range, but also some subtle fruit touches. As a beer, like many scotch ales, it really is about the mouthfeel. While I have already mentioned the unusual, slight refreshing moment, you also have the main back of the beer that is smooth as can be and delivered very luxuriously. It has a kind of aged beer feel in its smoothness, very refined.

It is a very competent scotch ale, made far above average by a clever twist. The surprise stand out of the session.

Background: Day three of collabfest 2104. Ok collabfest 2014 was only two days, I came back the day after, after work as I still had two beers to go. Thankfully they were both still on. This one is a scotch ale with oats, brambles and honey. I am not usually a big fan of scotch ales. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith: Wee Heavy (USA: Scotch Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark mahogany to black. Small brown bubbled head.

Nose: Chocolate liquore and chocolate dust. Figs. Raisins, in fact, rum soaked raisins. Boozy. Brandy cream.

Body: Frothy. Shortbread. Rum soaked raisins. Figgy pudding or Christmas Pudding. Chocolate and chocolate fondue.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Sweet red wine. Slight spice warmth. Rum soaked raisins and brandy cream.

Conclusion: Scotch Ale. Now, there is always one awesome thing about having a scotch ale. It gives me an excuse to break out the thistle glass! However, often scotch ales are not to my taste. Yet I keep returning to them. Call it indestructible optimism. Or sheer bloody mindedness. Anyway, this one is from Alesmith, and while I don’t always agree with the view that their beers are some of the best USA beers, they are generally very good. So, it was with anticipation I took my first sip, and , it is very evident – this one is coming in big and boozy.

What stands out initially is how quickly the beer froths up into a very nice chocolate fondue feel. The texture and sweetness eases off a lot of the bigger boozier elements. It does have a lot of those bigger elements to offset – rum soaked raisins, red wine, brandy cream – it is never burning, but there are a lot of warnings about the alcohol level you are taking in.

It really does taste like Christmas pudding in a lot of ways, lots of dark fruit, the brandy cream. It takes a lot of the natural Scotch ale elements and harmonises them in a way that is stronger than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t go far from the scotch ale elements, but it does them very smooth and well – even better, it doesn’t get sickly, which is one of the common failings for the style.

Because I am not the biggest fan of the style, and it does play it fairly straight, I merely find it a very good beer rather than a great beer. However considering my bias against the style, I think that bodes very well for fans of the style.

So, very enjoyable, and, trust me, it is a beer than can compete with anything you drink before it. I have had it before at the end of a session and it never suffers for it. A well crafted show of the style.

Background: DOCTOR WHO DAY! This was drunk while waiting for the second Doctor Who episode to be available on Iplayer. As you can probably guess from the glasses in shot, this was drunk with friends, who declined doing a guest tasting. Which makes me sad. I have drunk this before, shared with groups in bars, but never got around to reviewing. It’s always been near the end of a session as well, so I was never sure if I was giving it a fair crack of the whip. Oh, also, I picked this up from Brewdog’s Guest beer selection. Because it is a nice selection.

Bourbon Baby

Brewdog: Bourbon Baby (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black.

Nose: Vanilla toffee. Coffee bitterness. Fudge. Hazelnut coffee cake. Chocolate. Honey.

Body: Coffee. Treacle. Bourbon. Raisins. Charring and oak. Sour mash. Brown sugar.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Charring. Sour mash bourbon. Toffee. Coffee cake. Shortbread. Toasted teacakes.

Conclusion: Ok, now Brewdog have turned out a metric shit-ton of Scotch Ales recently. As a not particularly big fan of scotch ales myself I have found them a bit hit and miss. Turns out, after all this time, all they needed was a touch of bourbon ageing.

Seriously. I would wonder if this thing has been aged in Jack Daniels casks as it has a tone of that sour mash style except 1) I’ve tasted JD aged beer before and it never seems to pick up that element and 2) Technically JD is Tennessee whiskey not bourbon. So it is unlikely, but not impossible.

Anyway, upfront though it is the bourbon actually adds a massive amount of class and smoothness. There is a wonderful rich sweet and complex aroma with hazelnut coffee cake and vanilla chocolate notes. The body then contrast the sweetness with that sour mash style and the base scotch ale’s raisins and charring. All together it creates a multi layered and challenging take on the style.

This really could be viewed as a rallying call for the use of bourbon ageing, as if brewers needed the encouragement. It pushes so much of the bourbon up front, but the scotch ale always seems to recover and come through anew.

It is not going to be for everyone, the sour mash is heavy, the charred bitterness punching, yet for me it comes together in a wonderful medley of notes. With its subtle vanilla notes, huge chocolate and coffee and harsh sour mash this is a wonderful brutal yet classy mix. Very good fun.

Background: Ok, so Brewdog collaborated to make a burger with so much beer in it that you need ID to buy it. Then make a beer to go with that. A beer aged in Bourbon casks. That is just decadent. I approve. I didn’t get to eat the burger but at Brewdog Bristol I did manage to try the beer. One out of two isn’t bad. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Santa Paws

Brewdog: Santa Paws (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate milky chocolate colour creamy froth.

Nose: Chocolate dust. Bitter coffee. Nutty. Aniseed notes underneath.

Body: Roasted nuts. Honey. Bitter core. Malted milk biscuits. Raisins. Chalk touch. Treacle.

Finish: Charring. Hazelnuts and honey. Treacle. Chalk. Malted milk biscuits. Raisins in fruitcake. Light greenery.

Conclusion: I have never been massively taken in by the Scotch Ale style, the chance to use the Thistle Glass aside. Still, I’ve never been one afraid to go once more into the breech and give a style another chance, so let’s try this Christmas Scotch Ale from Brewdog.

First I will point out that it is only mildly Christmas linked and that is at a quite liberal interpretation. There is some greenery that could be Christmas spice, and a touch of aniseed that when added to the spice could be interpreted as a call to mulledness. However a more critical review would say that it is more a quite standard Scotch Ale that has been sweetened a tad by honey.

Brewdog have done a hell of a lot of honeyed Scotch Ales, and this doesn’t do much to stand out amongst the crowd. It has a lower abv, and uses an odd twist on its bitter core, which feels more like a charred bitterness than a huge bitter kick. This means that it is far less likely to get sickly than a lot of scotch ales. Even with the honey used it is a lot drier than most scotch ales, and while it is not eminently quaffable, it is easier to drink a few of.

The flavours are quite roasted and malty, with a bit of treacle and dark fruits. For fan of the style it is competent but unexceptional. For me? Well it is ok, the honey sweetness is well balanced, the flavours, especially the dark fruit, works well as a balance to the honey. It is ok, does the job, but isn’t too exciting.

Background: Rate beer lists this as a Brown Ale, Brewdog call it a Scotch Ale. Since it fairly well fits the Scotch Ale style I’m going with the Brewer’s call on this and rating it based on what they call it. This is made with Heather Honey. Again. Brewdog are doing a lot of Honey Scotch ales these days. This was one of Brewdog’s two Christmas beers, so in my standard tradition I drank it several weeks after Christmas was over. Just because. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog Beers. There has previously been a different Brewdog beer called Santa Paws, a spiced ale I think, but I never tried that one.

Misspent Youth

Brewdog: Misspent Youth (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.3% ABV)

Visual: Dark reddened brown to black. Sud leaving beiged bubbled head.

Nose: Smoke. Honey. Chocolate malt drink. Barley fields. Treacle toffee. Slightly closed sour notes underneath.

Body: Honey. Milky chocolate and chocolate liquore. Low choc bitterness. Slick and thick texture. Treacle. Orange liquore undertones.

Finish: Honey and chocolate. Belgium chocolates -Sweet initially into bitter. Treacle. Roasted touch.

Conclusion: Ok, this beer I can sum up pretty quickly. Honey and Chocolate (liquore) and chocolate (bitter) and treacle. Boom. Job done. It’s hardly the anti life equation there is it? Though let’s face it, that isn’t what we are trying to solve here. We are trying to solve if it is any good.

Well it follows in the path of Dogma and the prototype scotch ale before it with massive honey all the way through. It is very sweet like it has been mead infused. The texture is an improvement over the prior beers, more liquore and more delivering the chocolate range well.  It really runs the gamut of chocolate experiences, from bitter to sweet Belgium luxuries. That is the main element and a fully expressed one.

Definitely not a session pint, or even one for a few in a sitting. I had a half and while it was tasty it was heavy going by the end.  Now remember I have a slight anti scotch ale bias here, so it may be worth taking that into account.

Early on it was very enjoyable, the honey and chocolate mix well and the treacle just ramps that up. However it is a too big beer for its own good, and that huge wodge of flavour becomes too heavy too soon. Never bad, but loses the sparkle quickly.

Still, very nice in small doses.

Background: OK, let’s see what I remember from the Brewdog Bristol’s staff’s detailed description of this beer. OK, it is made with ten different types of malt, lactose, heather honey. Brewed with top fermented yeast, but for a short time and then lagered. There was more but I was enjoying the beer so only wrote down what I could remember half way through. Anyway, first put on Draft at a Copenhagen beer festival, drunk by me in Bristol. As always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Dirty Bastard

Founders: Dirty Bastard (USA: Scotch Ale: 8.5%ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red, toffee touched froth head.

Nose: Wine soaked raisins. Mulled spices. Chocolate dust. Grapes.

Body: Raisin. Cherry. Port. Grapes. Slightly vinous. Rich. Feels treacle touched. Chalk. Slightly sour.

Finish: Bitter. Charring and cocoa dust. Raisins. Treacle. Sour.

Conclusion: OK, while I’ve mentioned this in the background as well, lets open up with the fact that I am quite hard to sell on scotch ales. I’ve found a bunch I’ve enjoyed, don’t get me wrong. However your everyday example tends to leave me cold.

This example therefore almost seems to be deliberately trying for my attention by having some cross style elements exchange. The rich vinous elements and slight sourness call more to old ales than scotch ales for me, a style I am generally better disposed to.

The chocolate malt and raisin flavours are more traditional scotch ale fare and something about their combination with the old ale elements seem to push them up to almost sickly levels. I like what they do with each side, but combined they don’t quite grab me. It could be the treacle like feel it brings, which is slightly overbearing.

There are elements that feel like they should be balancing, the chalk and charring elements would normally be grounding touches, here they feel like a slight off element rather than an integrated part of the character.

Now, my disposition towards scotch ales means I am probably being a bit harsh here, there is a lot to like. By itself the old ale like elements are very well done and powerful, and the sweetness, while quickly overpowering is very tasty in moderation. The early half of the glass I enjoyed much more than the latter. Overall it feels less enjoyable than the sum of its parts.

It is a pity, as each part has an element I enjoy. The call to old ale is an interesting twist, the subtle rising chocolate is well done, the sour touch refreshing. Together it just feels a bit of a mess.

Not a scotch ale that converts me to the cause, but as always, I will admit my biases on this style. If you are more of a fan, I get the feeling it will have a lot to catch your attention.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s Guest Beer section. I am not a huge fan of scotch ales, so be warned on that, however a few exceptionally well done examples over the years have caught my attention so I’m always happy to give them a try. Founders have been generally good with their line up so they seemed like a good go to, to see if something special could be done. For one thing it meant I could break out the absurdly fun and ridiculous scotch thistle glass again.

CIMG2110

Birra Del Borgo: Brewdog: ReAle In A Kilt (Italy: Scotch Ale: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Caramel to brown, large loose mounded froth for a head of custard cream biscuit colour. Head leaves lace around the glass.

Nose: Smoked kippers. Pineapple. Smoked salami. Muted cherry. Marmalade. Cinnamon.

Body: Smoked and rocks. Cherry and fruitcake. Marmalade and grapefruit.

Finish: Peat. Salt and smoke. Tangerines. Pink grapefruit tart tang.

Conclusion: So, a peat smoked beer. With the peat smoked golden ale Rex Attitude I wanted more complexity. Here comes a contender, how does it do? Initially it seems very smoky and heavy, lots of peat, smoked kippers and meat. Not very subtle.  This was pretty heavily chilled down due to the current cold snap.

Then to my surprise marmalade in a Dalmore style started showing up, then sharp pink grapefruit pushed through.  There is some of the expected scotch ale fruitcake flavours but only really as a backing for the fresh sharp hops and heavy smoke.

I will give Rex Attitude the advantage in being a bigger and more “event” beer, but this beer gives much more flavour and intrigue which is what I look for in a beer combined with the nice peat smoke element . This beer has a similar clash of expectations to Rex Attitude as well. There it has the huge peat versus golden ale, here it is the sharp citrus against peat.   Frankly it makes me intrigued to try more from the Italian brewer as the base beer seems to be what makes it special, with the Brewdog contribution a flourish on top.  I would have to try the base beer to confirm but that is the current impression I get.

I have tried this beer at warmer temperatures and I found the peat smoke dominates too much like that. Much as this would shock the younger writing version of me I would say that you want to give this a nice bit of chilling down to let the citrus come out a bit.

A tangerine tart, citrus, peat smoked beer. That is just mixed up, fun, and gives you a lot of room to play and enjoy.  A well balanced and thoroughly fun beer.

(Note: You know, I don’t mind not drinking bad beers, but if my reviews keep being this positive people are going to think I’ve gone soft in my old age)

Background: Bloody mid word capitalization, and yes I do realise with my number of grammatical and spelling errors I am in no position to question a deliberate stylistic choice. Still…In good news a chance to break out the thistle glass again, I love the look of it, but it is a tad silly for most beers. Thought it gets more use than my Kwak glass. Maybe I should get in some more Belgium beers so I have an excuse to bring it out. I’ve not tried the original ReAle but this collaboration is a tweaked version of that which uses much more peat smoked malt if I remember correctly. Italy is meant to be the up and coming exciting place in the craft beer scene right now. Yet I’ve drunk nearly nothing from there. I really should sort that out at some point.

Brewdog: Ballast Point: San Diego Scotch Ale (Scotland: Scotch Ale:11.9% ABV)

Visual: Dark red block with a decent sized but thin textured brown head.

Nose: Milky chocolate gateaux and raisins. Sort of dusty chocolate. Thick red wine. Dry oak. Passion fruit. Brandy.

Body: Smooth. Biscuits and treacle. Fruitcake Madeira. Vanilla fudge. Passion fruit and custard float over the other elements. Apricot. Sweet strawberry and a slight nuttiness.

Finish: Biscuit. Raisins and figs. Bitter chocolate. Madeira again. Dried apricot. Heather.

Conclusion:  This is a scotch ale? Huh, I keep getting surprised these days by a style I used to consider boring. There is a whole wealth of fruitiness to this, a lot of which are fruit that I wouldn’t tend to connect with the style. The raisins and dark fruit are, of course, no brainers, but the heavy apricot mid body? The strawberry sweetness early on in a sip? Passion fruit? These things are not what I would expect, and I would guess is a sign of some heavy duty and cleverly done hop action which really works well over the sweet thick base.

That aforementioned body is treacle thick and sweet, with the whisky ageing present but not showing heavily, more an environment that the beer works in.  There is some fudge sweetness which seems to be from the time in the cask, and there are many spirit like elements, but as a whole the beer seems strong enough to actually keep the whisky in the background for the most part.  Let’s face it, with over 10% abv, even without whisky cask ageing, you would be surprised if there weren’t some spirit like elements in this thing.  The whisky does get stronger over time, building up very slowly throughout the beer.

A very rich, fruity, wine influenced beer, with plenty of extra flavours from the fruity hops. Silken in texture, while heavy in flavour and with that tingling feel of potency that never gets burning but always keeps you aware of what you are drinking.

Frankly a very good beer, and one that feels refined as you swirl it around the glass like an oversized dark brandy. A strange balance between spirit feeling mixed with a huge chunk of fruit to create a delicious alchemy.

If I had to bring flaws, it would be that even at 330 ml it feels like a sharing beer, taken alone it can become slightly overly spirity by the end, losing some of its beer character.  However it is a beer that is much more than the sum of its parts, the elements mix together to create shimmering illusions of so many more spirit influences than are actually within. Very powerfully, but very nice.

Background: A collaboration beer from Brewdog and Ballast point. This one has been made with Ballast Point rum soaked raisins and then aged in a whisky casks.  Brewdog seem to seriously love their whisky cask ageing.  As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.  I’m not entirely sold on the packaging for the bottle, while they add a bit of pizzazz to the event of drinking the beer I tend to feel they are a bit wasteful, which should be avoided.  I broke this beer out to celebrate the fact I’d just completed Dust Force, a brutally hard platform game (and for those wondering by completing I mean a S/S run of Giga Difficult, I don’t count the free DLC extra levels they have released since as I like to keep my sanity at least slightly intact).

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