Thursday, June 20, 2013

BJCP: Strong Scotch Ale (9E)

This is the first article in a new series of posts, where I will periodically choose a section from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines, write about the style, and then drink and publish my tasting notes from some of the commercial examples given by the BJCP.  Now, I'm not sure if I will ever actually take the exam to become a beer judge, but I think this will be a fun exercise to learn more about beer!

Fair warning, I will not be doing the sections of the BJCP style guidelines in any sort of order.  Whichever kinds of beer I am craving is what I will be writing about!

Strong Scotch Ales (also known as Wee Heavy) comprise sub-category 9E in the BJCP style guidelines.  They range between 6.5% and 10.0% ABV, and have a light copper to dark brown appearance.  Obviously, strong scotch ales are all about showcasing the malt.  While studying this style, I found it quite interesting that the brewers ferment out the wort at cooler temperatures than other ales, and for longer periods of time.  I suppose this helps to bring out the flavors of the malt even more.  Flavors can be earthy, smoky, and/or caramel-like.  

The BJCP offers up these beers as commercial examples of the strong scotch ale style (the beers in bold are the ones I will highlight below):

Traquair House Ale, Belhaven Wee Heavy, McEwan's Scotch Ale, Founders Dirty Bastard, MacAndrew's Scotch Ale, AleSmith Wee Heavy, Orkney Skull Splitter, Inveralmond Black Friar, Broughton Old Jock, Gordon Highland Scotch Ale, Dragonmead Under the Kilt


House Ale
7.2% ABV
Traquair House Ale
Traquair House Ale
Appearance:  Deep brown with hints of red.  A little more than a finger width of off-white head.
Aroma:  Sweet malt, vanilla and a touch of alcohol.
Flavor:  Very similar to aroma.  Not at all smoky.  More earthy.
Mouthfeel:  Very smooth, almost milky.  Full bodied at first, but loses some body as the beer warms.
Overall:  Quite good.  I don't say this often, but try to drink it when it's still a bit cool.
Beer Portfolio links:  Traquair House Brewery / House Ale



Wee Heavy
6.5% ABV
Belhaven Brewery Wee Heavy
Belhaven Brewery Wee Heavy
Appearance:  Brown with a small off-white head
Aroma:  Caramel
Flavor:  Smooth malty flavor.  More earthy than smoky.
Mouthfeel:  Full bodied but very drinkable.  Only a light enough carbonation to make the beer dance against my tongue.
Overall:  Most excellent.  Wish I had tried this beer sooner.
Beer Portfolio links:  Belhaven Brewery / Wee Heavy



Dirty Bastard
8.5% ABV
Founders Brewing Dirty Bastard
Founders Brewing Dirty Bastard
Appearance:  dark burgundy with a small tan head, diminishes quickly, no lacing
Aroma:  sweet caramel
Flavor:  caramel, little bit of smoke, slightly earthy
Mouthfeel:  fairly full bodied, quite smooth, no alcohol bite
Overall:  Very good.  Great when in the mood for a malty beer.
Beer Portfolio links:  Founders Brewing / Dirty Bastard

All 3 of these beers represented the Strong Scotch Ale style of beer very well.  Even though they were all very similar, there was enough differences to them that made this exercise worthwhile.  As I find more of the recommended commercial examples of the styles of beer in the BJCP, I will add my tasting notes of them to these posts.

That's that for sub-category 9E of the BJCP style guidelines.  Do you have a favorite Strong Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy?  Tell me about it in the comments, I'd love to try it!

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15 comments:

  1. Nice post and great idea. I just signed up to take the BJCP in December so this series will help me out!

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    1. Thanks Tom. Good luck with prepping for the BJCP!

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  2. This is actually the category I started with. Dirty Bastard is an amazing beer in my eyes.

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    1. Yea they are all so great. Dirty Bastard was incredible, as were Traquair House and Belhaven Wee Heavy. The Traquair House Ale lost a bit of body though as it warmed, but other than that, this style is one of my favorites.

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  3. Founders has another one called Backwoods Bastard, I think it comes out in the fall or winter.

    Traquair also has another good one called Jacobite.

    It's a relatively uncommon style unfortunately. One of my favorite styles

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    1. I had the Backwoods Bastard years ago, before I could properly appreciate it. If I see it around, I am definitely going to pick some up. I saw the Jacobite at the liquor store next to the House Ale, I'll be sure to pick some up.

      There is a new brewery opening near me (NJ) soon called Rinn Duin Brewing. They are going to specialize in English, Irish and Scottish ales, so I can't wait to see if they brew some good Scottish ones.

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  4. If you can find it (probably only in northern Indiana due to the brewery's size and demand), Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce is one of the best Scottish ales I've had the good fortune to try.

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    1. Can't say I've ever had that one (or anything else by Three Floyds). From everything I hear about them though, I am sure it would be top notch!

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  5. Oskar Blues Old Chub is another good Scotch Ale.
    http://www.oskarblues.com/the-brews/old-chub

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    1. I haven't had Old Chub in a few years, but I remember really enjoying it. I'll have to pick up one of Oskar Blues can variety packs!

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  6. I think the cooler fermentation temps is just to keep the amount of esters produced by the yeast down, meaning less 'impurities and more flavour from the ingredients'.

    Love the concept, quite unique, good job man!

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    1. That's a good point with the esters. Probably right!

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. Yeh its just a homebrewing hunch, like a lot belgian yeast strains are used at higher temps so the esters provide that barnyard funk but alot of American pale ale yeasts will take a much cooler temp because their there to make alcohol not to give character which the hops and caramel malts are for.

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  7. Nice site, but ....turn the glasses around. The pics would have been better w/out the logo of a different brewery on it. Not cool.

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    1. Yea, it actually bothers me a bit too! I need to invest in some neutral glassware. I don't think it's very offensive though.

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