Recently in my Top 5 picks, I've been focusing on lighter, more seasonal beers. Now that we're beginning the descent into the Fall season, my favorite time of year, I thought it would be the perfect time to focus on one of my very favorite styles of beer.
The History of Scotch Ale
Scotch Ale, also known as Strong Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy, is at the top end of the spectrum for the style, being the strongest, maltiest, darkest, and I feel most delicious of the Scotch Ale family. They're fermented at cooler temperatures than most ales, and combined with going through a long boil in the kettle, they produce clean, intense malt flavors that are sweeter, fuller-bodied, and of course higher in alcohol than their lighter brothers and sisters. They're actually a very accurate representation of their indigenous ingredients and the region. Hops traditionally are not native to Scotland, and especially back in the day were expensive to import, hence the focus on malt being the big star in these beers. Instead of using hops, brewers focused on herbs, spices, and roots to balance out all the sweetness.
Characteristics of Scotch Ale
Most Scotch Ales are light copper to dark brown in color, often with deep garnet highlights, with a thick tan head that may quickly dissipate in higher strength versions. Malt lovers, this style should be at the top of your list. Roasted, caramel malt is the dominant trait, with some nuttiness that may last well into the finish. Like I said, hop flavor will be at a minimum, and alcohol warmth is present a lot of the time. Like some other styles, there's a bit of what I like to call a fruit basket flavor going on, with plums, raisins, and dried fruit being very noticeable. They're full-bodied beers, thick and chewy, with moderate carbonation, and some versions are dangerously drinkable.
Scotch Ale and Food Pairings
Scotch Ale is another very versatile beer for pairing with food. Roasted meats are the first to come to mind, and game is another winner with this style, especially pheasant, quail, partridge, and venison. Sausage, meatloaf, pork, and basically any roasted meat are also great to pair with these beers. Desserts are also a great match, especially shortbread, creamy puddings, and creme brulee. One thing that should be noted is to avoid pairing this style with spicy foods the lack of hops wont give them the power to stand up to the heat.
Top 5 Scotch Ales
This was a tough Top 5 for me to pick, primarily because its one of my favorite styles, and there are thankfully numerous commercial examples widely available that are very unique in their own way, so the competition is tough. Now that we have some evenings that have a bit of a chill in the air, these are some great ones to enjoy during those last few nights you can squeeze in on the back patio. Cheers!