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Long Live Scottish Ales

September 28, 2010

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts (The Highland Way), I’m a big fan of Scottish-style ales, and there have recently been some exciting developments on the Scotch ale front.

Ommegang, the New York-based brewery known mostly for their wide variety of Belgian-style ales, has recently come out with a limited release brew they call Cup O Kyndnes, a Belgian-style Scotch ale. If that sounds strange, it should, because as far as I know it’s one of the only fusions of these two styles. As it is a Belgian-style ale, the flavor of Belgian yeast is present, but is blended exceptionally well with flavors of peat, a light smokiness mixed with a slight spiciness from the heather used in the brewing process, and some fruity sweetness mixed in for good measure. At 6.6% abv, it fuses the distinctly bold flavor of a Belgian ale with the robust complexity of a Scotch ale, and yet remains relatively light and very easy to drink, and is a perfect match for food. As I was drinking it, I couldn’t help but think that this is what beer is supposed to taste like. After all, it is pretty much the lovechild of two of the oldest and most revered brewing traditions in the world, so how could it not be awesome?

Another recent innovation in Scotch ales comes straight from Scotland; Innis & Gunn’s Oak-Aged Beer. Brewed in Edinburgh, and with a distinctive malt character, this is undeniably a Scottish beer, which is why I was confused when I saw a website list this beer as an “English Pale Ale”. I can’t begin to explain everything that is wrong with that statement. Aged in oak barrels, the brew has natural flavors of toffee and vanilla with a malty, oaky finish. Many oak-aged beers tend to have a strong alcohol bite to them, but it was surprisingly absent in this beer, which ended up being a good thing, as it allowed all of the other flavors to shine through. Very flavorful (and surprisingly cheap for its alcohol content, at 6.6%), this is definitely a beer that I can see myself coming back to.

Though this next Scotch ale isn’t new, it’s definitely deserving of more attention. Alesmith Wee Heavy (from San Diego) is a strong Scotch-style ale at 10 % abv, and is widely regarded as one of the best examples of the style, winning multiple awards all over the country. It is a little on the expensive side (which is probably the reason why it is often overlooked), but for those that can afford it, it’s definitely worthwhile. It pours a deep mahogany, with flavors of dark fruit, caramel, molasses, and a permeating, subtle smokiness, as well as a distinctive malt backbone. Full-bodied, toasty, and unapologetically heavy, this brew is essential for anyone who wants to know what Scottish-style ales are all about.

From the looks of it, Scotch ales are fast becoming a favorite style of brewers and beer-lovers everywhere, so hurry up and jump on the bandwagon.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve C permalink
    October 4, 2010 11:14 am

    A nice Scottish that is a little more local is Macfoochie’s 7+ Scottish Ale. It has a nice maltiness that is accompanied by a heather hop.

  2. October 4, 2010 9:34 pm

    Thanks, I’ve never heard of that before. Where’s it from?

    • Steve C permalink
      October 6, 2010 11:06 am

      Atlantic Brewing Company – Bar Harbor, ME

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