Scotch ale is dark ale with a bittersweet, sometimes slightly metallic tang, and generally strong. Scotch Ale was first used as a designation for strong ales exported from Edinburgh in the 18th century. The term has become popular in the USA, where strong ales which may be available in Scotland under a different name are sold in America as “Scotch Ale”, for example, Caledonian’s Edinburgh Strong Ale or Edinburgh Tattoo, is sold in the USA as Edinburgh Scotch Ale. As with other examples of strong ales, such as Barley wine, these beers tend toward sweetness and a full body. Examples from the Caledonian brewery would have toffee notes from the caramelizing of the malt from the direct fired copper. This caramelizing of Caledonian’s beers is popular in America and has led many American brewers to produce strong toffee sweet beers which they label as a Scotch Ale. Scotch ales are an accepted style in Belgium: Gordon’s Finest Scotch Ale, with its thistle-shaped glass is a well-known example, produced by the British-connected Anthony Martin Brewery. Other commercial examples from Belgium are Scotch Silly and McChouffe. (Article from Wikipedia: “Scotch Ale”)
Scotch Ale Characteristics
NOTE: there are 4 classifications of Scotch Ale: Scottish Light, Scottish Export, Scottish Heavy, and Strong Scotch. The Belgian versions of Scotch Ale usually fall in the Strong Scotch category, so we’ll use that description here.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
Deeply malty, with caramel often apparent. Peaty, earthy and/or smoky secondary aromas may also be present, adding complexity. Caramelization often is mistaken for diacetyl, which should be low to none. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are often present in stronger versions. Hops are very low to none.
Light copper to dark brown color, often with deep ruby highlights. Clear. Usually has a large tan head, which may not persist in stronger versions. Legs may be evident in stronger versions.
FLAVOR / TASTE:
Richly malty with kettle caramelization often apparent (particularly in stronger versions). Hints of roasted malt or smoky flavor may be present, as may some nutty character, all of which may last into the finish. Hop flavors and bitterness are low to medium-low, so malt impression should dominate. Diacetyl is low to none, although caramelization may sometimes be mistaken for it. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are usually present. Esters may suggest plums, raisins or dried fruit. The palate is usually full and sweet, but the finish may be sweet to medium-dry (from light use of roasted barley).
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Medium-full to full-bodied, with some versions (but not all) having a thick, chewy viscosity. A smooth, alcoholic warmth is usually present and is quite welcome since it balances the malty sweetness. Moderate carbonation.
Rich, malty and usually sweet, which can be suggestive of a dessert. Complex secondary malt flavors prevent a one-dimensional impression. Strength and maltiness can vary.
RELATED SCOTCH ALE BREWVIEWS:
March 3, 2014: BRASSERIE DE SILLY SCOTCH SILLY
Scotch Ale characteristic descriptives from 2008 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. (http://www.bjcp.org)