Saturday, February 04, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXXIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the sporty crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the wine, whisky, and beer to make your big game Sunday most super whether your pulling for the Pats, the G-men, or are one of the millions tuning in for the sake of spectacle (and Madonna’s half time show).

We continue to focus on beers that are appropriate to the season even if this particular winter has been mostly unseasonal in these parts. Considering the foggy, damp days we’ve experienced this week, it seems like a perfect time for a Scotch Ale:

Scotch Ale is the name given to a strong ale believed to have originated in Edinburgh in the 18th century. Beers using the designation Scotch Ale are popular in the USA where most examples are brewed locally. Examples of Scotch Ale brewed in Scotland are exported to the USA, though may be available in Scotland under a different name. For example, Caledonian's Edinburgh Scotch Ale is sold from the cask in Scotland as Edinburgh Strong Ale or as Edinburgh Tattoo.

Strong Scotch Ale is also known as "Wee Heavy". Examples of beers brewed in the USA under the name Wee Heavy tend to be 7% abv and higher, while Scottish-brewed examples, such as Belhaven's Wee Heavy, can be found between 5.5% and 6.5% abv. On the other hand, Scottish brewed exceptions include Traquair House Ale which is brewed to a strength of 7.2% abv, and Traquair Jacobite Ale which is 8% abv. McEwan's Scotch Ale is also 8% abv.

As with other examples of strong Ales, such as Barley Wine, these beers tend toward sweetness and a full body, with a low hop flavour and aroma.

Historical hop levels are debated. 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 toffee sweet beers which they would label as a Scotch Ale.

This week’s beer is the first that we’ve featured from Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, Michigan. Dark Horse seeks to lay claim to being the best brewery in the state, which is a bold boast to make considering the number of and quality of craft brewers who call Michigan home (Arcadia, Bell’s, Founder’s, New Holland, etc.). Our beer of the week is the equally bold and brash Scotty Karate Scotch Ale:

For those of you who don't know who "Scotty Karate" is... He is a local one man band who plays an amazing slurry of honky tonk influenced, punk country songs. His voice is amazing as well as his high energy shows. (Check him out @ So, we decided to make a beer and name it in his honor. This beer is a big, full bodied Scottish ale. It is 9.75% alc. but it is very smooth and balanced.

Retails for $8.99 for a four-pack of 12oz brown bottles. Label features a funky rendering of namesake one man band leader with purple and yellow color streaks. Based on the headgear that he’s sporting and the color scheme, this could be the official beer of the Vikings.

STYLE: Scotch Ale


COLOR (0-2): Dark copper-brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Caramel malt with hints of alcohol. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color, light volume, tiny bubbles, decent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Strong malt flavors predominate with caramel, toffee, and bread. Sweet, but not overly so. Some tangy fruit as well with a bit of a hop bite at the finish. Heavy-bodied with a smooth thick mouthfeel. You can definitely taste the heat although it’s not overwhelming. It is a beer that you’ll want to sip and savor. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Long lasting and rich. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is a big beer with the robust flavors that you’re craving in the doldrums of winter. Yet it’s also surprisingly smooth. You’ll know that you’re drinking a beer with a ABV pushing double digits, but won’t be put off by the amped up alcohol content. This “wee heavy” comes in just right. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17