Tag Archive: Scotch Ale


Renaissance: Stonecutter Scotch Ale (New Zealand: Scotch Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: A dark cherry red. Dusting of brown bubbles.

Nose: Malt, toffee and shortbread. Liquorice. Mix of black and red cherry. Slight lime jelly. Slight smoked meat as it warms.

Body: Black cherry, slight tart. Smoked malt. Dried meat platter. Very malty. Light toffee.

Finish: Smoked meat and dry feel. Smoked bacon maybe? Dry malt. Smoke in itself. Slight fruit sweetness. Quite bitter but not hoppy.

Conclusion: I hate this beer. Nay just kidding. My sister recommended this so she is probably reading the review and I wanted to give her a shock. I am so getting punched for that one and I deserve it.

It’s actually remarkably nice. Why am I surprised? (and no it’s not because my sister recommended it, good taste in beer seems to run in the family, mostly) Well scotch ale is   a hard style to do right and very easy to make too sickly sweet or liquorice dominated, which gets old fast.

How does this beer avoid it? Well smokiness mainly. The beer has all that black cherry, malt, toffee and liquorice you would expect but there is this lovely dry smokiness backing it up. Sometimes the smoke is there to such a degree that it brings the image of smoked meat to mind, and that is just marvellous.

This is a great idea, and keeps the beer grounded and dry, preventing any possibility of the sickly sweetness overtaking it.

Flaws? Well that body doesn’t hold the same range as the aroma. A pity as the beer shifts as it warms, running the gamut of sweet toffee, shortbread, smoke and cherries. If the main body could keep up with that then it would be exceptional.

Still that is a minor thing, and the body isn’t exactly lacking. It looks like the scotch ale style I used to look down on is getting a new lease of life these days. Between this, AB07 and Robert The Bruce I’m really starting to enjoy them. It is still hard style to do right and for that I give Renaissance a lot of credit.

A lovely smoky, dry yet sweet scotch ale.

Background: Recommended by my sister who is a fellow fan of quality beers. So I decided to give it a try when it turned up in Brewdog‘s Guest beer selection. I often have reservations about the scotch ale style, but a few high quality recent examples have led me to re-examine the style.

Brewdog: Dogma (2012 Version) (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.4%ABV)

Visual: Very dark red with a black cherry touch at places. Caramel froth head that is very bubbly and thick. Low evident carbonation and very small bubbles where it is to be found.

Nose: Treacle. Peach. Lots of malt. Barley. Chocolate.

Body: Smooth. Treacle and honey. Passion fruit. Kiwi. Chocolate. Watermelon.

Finish:  Milky chocolate. Light bitter chocolate at times as well. Melon. Bubblegum., The bitterness grows slowly.

Conclusion:  Not what I expected, either from a dogma beer or a scotch ale. Possibly that’s the point, I never can tell. It is a very smooth and slick beer with thick texture. The main flavour’s the chocolate and honey mix and then you lace a slightly eclectic fresh fruit selection through it.

The flavour is very evident and the texture thick without getting to the sickly point a lot of scotch ales share.  It does feel like more than one beer may take it past the sweet spot of balance so not a beer to session it seems.

The fruity flavours are odd. Watermelon especially seems unusual, but they are put to good use. They are all fresh flavours and push back against the treacle and chocolate. Also I think it shows its extra ingredient better than the old Dogma. The smooth body especially allows the honey to bleed through well.

Overall very enjoyable, smooth and easy to drink. An oddity for a scotch ale I find. It is a tasty mix of sweet, fruity and then into a touch of bitter chocolate for the finish. The finish also integrates better than old dogma where it always seemed slightly out of place.

If this is based on the prototype scotch ale then I am intrigued by what they did to it to improve it so as it does feel significantly better than that did.  I just can’t get past how smooth it feels.

Now it isn’t perfect, it still has some of the scotch ale flaws. The flavour range is not massive, and definitely not a session ale, but overall well done.

A nice scotch ale with good fresh counterbalance.

Background: Hold on wasn’t there already a Dogma beer? Aye. The one they called speedball just to piss everyone off then renamed to Dogma when that got banned.  Well this beer isn’t that beer, it’s a new version with scotch ale as a base, because having a new beer with the same name as an old beer that previously had a different name will never be confusing.  General opinion is this is based on the prototype Scotch Ale which was also made with heather honey.  After drinking this I had a bottle from the last batch of old Dogma, and despite the vast difference in styles I found they had oddly similar hop profile. Maybe they did keep some stuff the same.  By the way I am non unbiased on Brewdog beers. Incidentally is it just me or is that new bottle really ugly?

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

Visual: A very dark brown with reddened hue and a bubbly beige head. Above average carbonation.

Nose: Raisins. Treacle and liquorice. Thick honey. Glacier cherries and heap of malt.

Body:  Bitter. Lots of liquorice. Treacle and walnuts. Honey. Black cherry and malt loaf.

Finish: Walnuts and liquorice.  Dry. Malt loaf. Quite bitter.

Conclusion:  I’ve had a few bottles of this now and I keep swinging back and forth on it opinion wise.

Its solid and thick, lots of liquorice that comes in dry, yet with a nigh sickly honey and treacle counterbalance.  It’s all forthright and forward. You don’t get any hidden surprises in this beer.  Depending on how you are feeling the flavour seems either endearingly exuberant or sickly and single minded.   It doesn’t help that the scotch ale style can be hit and miss with me, but this one seems to be able to vary within a single beer.

Nothing is subtle, everything is thick and heavy. The liquorice dries your tongue, and the counterbalancing sweetness actual manages to make it feel drier. This does result in a barren mouth after a full bottles tasting.

On balance I’d say I’m just slightly leaning away from it. The flavours are good, but they wear out their welcome before the end. The honey that is its special ingredient is both its best asset at the introduction and its worse asset at the end as it gets sickly.  The thing is, up front it leaves quite an impression. If only they could keep it from getting overbearing there is something good under there.

It’s a beer that has its moments and when the flavours integrate just right it can be distinctly enjoyable. A sign of promise but slightly rough as a beer.

Background: One of four prototype beers released just before Christmas, with the intent that maybe one of them will become part of Brewdog main line. This is the last that I had to review, and I had had a few bottles of it before doing this review.  This beer was made with 8 different malts and honey is added.  Normally I’m not a huge scotch ale fan, though there are exceptions. I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB07 (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 12.5% ABV)

Visual: A very dark brown with an occasional black cherry hue if held to light. The froth comes up as a dark fizz, but it cannot last long.

Nose: Caramelised brown sugar/crème brulee. Raisins. Rocks and smoke. Possibly liquorice sticks.

Body:  Toffee sweet, backed by shortbread. Fudge comes in with huge doses. Quite a fizzy feel. Fruitcake and black cherry.  Figs.  Lots of malt. Bourbon. Rocks and smoke grows at the beer warms. Feels thick despite the fizz.

Finish: Lots of milk chocolate. Smoke. Did I mention quite a chunk of chocolate? Slight sea breeze and rocks.  Shortbread and raisins. Glacier cherries.

Conclusion:  The fact that me and scotch ales don’t always get along isn’t exactly hidden knowledge. It’s not that they are bad, just that they rarely shine.

This then is the crazy diamond that shines on from the rough. Or more absurdly mixed metaphors.  It is a very odd beer in one particular respect. How it responds to chilling. When chilled AB07 is this fantastic sweet fudge and malt bomb that I would swear had been aged in bourbon rather than whisky casks.  Lots of parallels to the wonderful bourbon county stout can be drawn in that lovely sweet and distinctly alcoholic air.

Warming then brings out the whisky influence, smoke and rocks setting up a second front against the sweetness.  Some people have compared the beer to “Bitch Please” but I just don’t see it. Ok they are both whisky aged, but for all the Methuselah lifecycle of whisky ageing this has had, the influence seems pleasantly understated in comparison to the “Jura in a beer” feel of “Bitch Please”.

Now for all the power, it is mainly straightforward in the flavour, with pretty straight forward scotch ale hits and whisky / bourbon influence. No bad thing though.  Lots of punch and well done beats a beer that has a lot going on but no really tying theme.

For all my raving this beer isn’t quite a showstopper though, but what it is however is a redemption of the scotch ale in my eyes up there with “Robert The Bruce. Also a rare thing in that it is a beer that will cause me to duel to the death in order to justify chilling it. The range you get from chilled to warm more than makes up for each expression being comparatively straightforward.

So a good beer, a great scotch ale, and a perfect defence of beer chilling, all in one glass.

Could do a lot worse.

Background: As mentioned many a time I am not an unbiased actor when I comes to Brewdog. I do try though.  I’m not a big fan of scotch ales as a rule; they often seem slightly simple if not done very well. This example has been aged in whisky casks. It was meant to be one of the last few Abstrakt releases but kept being delayed for extra ageing. I have no idea exactly how long this thing has been tucked away.

Gordon: Finest Highland Scotch Ale (Belgium: Scotch Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark mahogany brown, light bubbled head that mounts in islands and small hills of froth rather than cover the drink completely.

Nose: Huge amounts of red cherry and black cherry, honey and treacle wafting over the glass.

Body: Blackcherry, fizzy textured. Treacle, brown sugar and cream. Blueberry and chocolate. Lots of barley and crunchy nut cornflakes. Big malt fruitcake and summer fruit crumble. Sweetened fruit drink/milkshake. Fudge and syrup textured. Lots of big flavours in this competing for attention.

Finish: Liquorish and sweetness. Dry dust and some bitterness. Slight chocolate then more blackcherry and some raisins. Glazed cherries.

Conclusion: Syrup sweet thick and fruity, this is a wonderfully syrup textured and heavy stodgy fruitcake of a beer that weighs you down with its thick flavours.

It’s got brilliant fruit pounding out of it and makes a very good impression of Christmas cake flavours, yet its slickness makes it fine for slow luxurious drinking to allow the heavier elements to seep through your system.

You’ve got to be ready for its nigh sugar shock assault in drinking though, which again emphasises the slow drinking nature of this beer, as long as your ready for that expect a fine beer of enjoyment.

De Glazen Toren: Canaster Winterscotch (Belgium: Scotch Ale : 9.5%)

Visual: Very dark, cherry red on the outer edges of the glass. Lots of sediment, lasting light brown head that leaves no lace on the glass.

Nose: Bit of hops, hint of coriander.

Body: Sweet, raspberry. Brown sugar, sherbet. Top froth on a milkshake. Raisins. Warming spices like mulled wine

Finish: Brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger warmth.

Conclusion: I’m drinking this at the wrong time of year. Rarely has a Christmas beer been so seasonally appropriate. Warming and soothing with a rich nut not overpowering flavour. This beer goes down easy, possibly too easy considering its 8.7% by volume. A few bottles cellared and aged between Christmases’ would be a gift too good to leave out for that bastard Santa.

Black Isle Brewery: Export Scotch Ale (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 6.4%)

Visual: Brown frothy head that settles quickly. Caramel brown body. Slight bubbles.

Nose: Sweet and light. Toffee, hops, heather. Hint of lactose.

Body: Smooth, seared barrels. liquorice toffee. Wholemeal bread, treacle, slight beef crisps. Cotton wool texture at the end.

Finish: Caramel, burnt barbecue bits, moss covered twigs. Slight oiliness, rising sweet dews then a dry dusty hit.

Conclusion: Starts a tad single note but competent. Has a lovely tantalizing nose that the rest of the beer does not manage to live up to. The exports strength alcohol does not overwhelm the beer making for reasonable bittersweet ale.

Of note: near the end of the drink an old cellared dust and mothball feeling arose adding greatly to the feel of the beer and adding some intrigue to the ale. Currently one I would say is ok but not amazing; but that last little hint is intriguing. May have to come back to it later for another look.

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