It’s been a while since the last style series post, but I am going to keep it up. The last types of styles that I drew one were various English Ales and Pale/India Pale Ales, so I’m going to keep it close to area. Scottish Ales are the next to be tackled.
In some ways, Scottish Ales are sort of like English Mild Ales in that they lack hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Yet they are often stronger than their English counter-parts, both in alcohol and malts. You can often see Scottish Ales under the following designations: light, heavy, export and wee heavy. These will also be seen as 60, 70, 80 and 90 shilling ales.
Unlike America, many beer brewing nations pay the amount of tax on beer based on how much alcohol is in the beer (in the U.S. it is a flat rate per volume, per barrel). This last fact goes on to explain why the nomenclature of 60, 70, 80 and 90 shillings factors into the price and strength of these beers, 60 being the weakest and 90 being very strong. Extra tax means extra cost. But what makes Scottish Ales stick out?
In my observation, they are a lot like many Bock beers because they are very malt-driven products with little aroma hops. They tend to be slightly to very sweet and can often include smoked malts or smoked peat moss (maybe not so coincidentally, they often use peat in the making of Scotch). There are also companies in Scotland that are trending toward using traditional ingredients such as seaweed, pine needles, and other ingredients to bitter and flavor their ales. In a place that the hop isn’t usually emphasised, this makes a lot of sense. They are not simply being iconoclasts; hops have not had an extremely long tradition in brewing. Either way you look at them, Scottish Ales can be very interesting and wonderful beers. Try ’em when you can, lads and lassies.