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Ales of the Scottish persuasion

March 6, 2013


Kind of a double post here.  Although I haven’t posted in a few weeks, I’ve certainly been busy brewing.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve rebrewed “Fruition” (an American Wheat, the only beer I’ve brewed more than twice), a session Scottish Ale, a Big Scottish Ale (aka Wee Heavy), an Imperial Stout and an English-inspired, but very definitely American Pale Ale.

I won’t get into Fruition, as the recipe is back in the archives somewhere.  The English-American will get its own post shortly.  This post is all about Scottish Ale(s).

There’s actually two beers being discussed here, as different as they are similar.  First, I was asked to brew a “calibration” beer for an upcoming competition – something for the judges to drink between flights and for stewards to “snack on”.  Specifically, the request was to “brew a really boring Irish Red” (is that a double negative?).  I don’t really like Irish Red, and didn’t want the leftovers of one kicking around, so I tweaked the request a bit, brewing a sessionable Scottish beer that will serve a similar purpose.  Not much to this one, but the recipe is below.

Around the time fermentation was wrapping up on that one, I struck up a conversation with a co-worker who has a similar level of interest in his chosen hobbies, bar-be-que and charcuterie, as I do brewing.  I admittedly kind of wear the fact that I’m into brewing on my sleeve, so it’s fairly well known around the office by now.  He expressed some interest in checking out a brew.

After some discussion, I asked him to pick a favorite style, which he went with Wee Heavy, or Strong Scottish Ale.  A little bit of a dark horse, but I hadn’t ever found the occasion to brew one and was intrigued by the idea.  We agreed on doing some additional, interesting things with the beer, which I’ll get into below.  We agreed to split the resulting beer 50/50, I put together a recipe and we picked a date.  It also wound up being fairly convenient that I had a nice big pitch of scottish yeast leftover from the session brew.

Some weird striations in the ice caused by the propane burner’s heat

Last Saturday, 3/2, we got together at my apartment and got to work.  It was probably only 20 degrees outside, but fortunately I do most of the brewing indoors.  We took a pretty leisurely pace with the brew, chatting and enjoying a couple of cheeses and meats along with the obligatory homebrews.  Alex, a regular visitor during my brews was also around for most of the brew and contributed some tasty homebrews to the cause.

Good stuff, all

So.. the beer.  I wanted it make it big, but not oppressively big.  My recipe had actually intended for the beer to come out around 9.2%.  I unfortunately made a few (uncharacteristic) oversights that resulted in a slightly lower gravity.  The beer is now looking like it’ll be more like 8.75% which I could have corrected with some DME, but opted not to.  That’s still plenty big a beer.  Regardless of ABV, the goal is for this beer to have a malty boldness with a rich, deep caramel profile and full mouthfeel.

The malt bill was fairly basic but only somewhat traditional, based on my limited research.  Historically, the deep, burnt and caramel flavors of a beer like this would come from a simple malt bill (perhaps even single variety), but an extremely long boil, possibly in excess of three hours.  This would cause extensive concentration and kettle caramelization, leading to the aforementioned flavors.

I don’t have a kettle big or a day long enough to completely reproduce that technique.  In light of that, I did want to be sure we mimicked that kind of kettle caramelization and draw as much character as possible.  That was done partly by choosing a malt bill that provides those burnt and caramel flavors, but there are other tricks one can employ as well.


Specifically, we took about a gallon of the first runnings (most concentrated with sugars) and boiled in a small pot on the stove.  That small pot boiled for about 2.5 hours and concentrated down to about 12 oz of caramel-like malt syrup.  I was surprised how well this cook-down method worked – decidedly viscous, super sweet and sticky.  It actually reached a point where it began to foam up and I believe did convert to caramel.  This uber-goodness was added back into the main kettle, which also underwent a 90 minute boil and some caramelization of its own.

You can see on the walls of the pot how much water boiled off.  This was actually topped off a few times with more wort before I let it boil down.  Awesome.


The base was half Maris Otter and half Rahr 2-row.  This will give some classic English, nutty malt character, but not so much that it detracts from the caramel-ly maltiness that we’re going for.  I also used some English C80, English C120 and a touch of Roasted malt.  I had also bought some peat smoked malt, but chickened out on using it and instead hope to get the classic Scottish phenolics from my yeast and water profile.

Speaking of water profiles, I opted to use a classic Edinburgh water profile, which I feel is appropriate for obvious reasons (Edinburgh is in Scotland, duh).  It also made for a perfect mash pH, which is great.  Kind of an interesting profile – very hard, fairly high in minerals across the board, especially calcium.  That said, much more balanced than something like Burton-upon-Trent and its notorious sulfate levels.

Once the beer is done fermenting, we’ll give it a few weeks in secondary to condition and clear.  Here’s where I think things get a little more fun.  The plan is to split the batch into two equal halves.  One will be “clean”.  The other will receive both bourbon oak and vanilla bean.  The bourbon oak started as medium toast american oak cubes, but has spent the last six weeks submerged in a mason jar full of a bourbon blend.  This mix is of Jack Daniels (50%), Woodford Reserve Double Oak (25%) and Finger Lakes McKenzie (25%).  By the time I add the cubes, they’ll have had 10 weeks to soak up the Bourbon and yes, I will be saving the now even-more-oaky Bourbon for consumption.  I see us sipping on that as we bottle this beer.  I’m also going to be ordering some organic, fair trade vanilla beans for this one.

We’ll wind up with about 24 bottles of each – clean and bourbon/vanilla.  I’m really looking forward to both.  Here’s the recipe(s):

Bourbon Vanilla Wee Heavy
9-E Strong Scotch Ale
Brewed 3/2/13

Size: 5.25 gal
Efficiency: 71.5% (measured)
Attenuation: 75% (estimated)
Original Gravity: 1.086 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.021 (estimated)

Color:  17+ SRM
Alcohol: 8.7%
IBU: 47.3

Water (all in ppm):

Ca: 98  Mg: 16  Na: 20  SO₄: 90  Cl: 50  HCO₃: 140


  • 8 lb 2-row Pale Malt
  • 8 lb Maris Otter Malt
  • 8 oz English C-80
  • 4 oz English C-120
  • 3 oz Roasted Barley
  • 0.7 oz Columbus Hops (16.7%) – boiled 60 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 – Scottish Ale (second generation slurry)


  • Mash @ 152 (1.30 qt/lb ratio)
  • Mash out @ 170
  • Batch sparge (water alkalinity adjusted)
  • Ferment at 65


  • 3/2: Brewed at a leisurely pace.  Caramelization was awesome.  Chilled to 66, pitched huge starter of second generation yeast and left at 60 ambient to ferment.
  • 3/3: Airlock bubbling away by morning.  Fermentation temp holding steady at 64.5.

Session Scottish Ale
9 Scottish Ale
Brewed 2/10/13


From → brewday

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