First Brew of 2012 -Story of a Scotch Ale
We recently had a Scotch Ale tasting in which we sampled several commercial Scotch Ales alongside our own home brew. This Wee Heavy was our first brew of the year (January). Our very first home brew last year (and first ever) was an extract Scotch ale with steeped dark grains. then our goal was to make a beer that was at least as good as or better than the Alexander Keith’s Tartan Ale, which was pretty good for a macro-brew (but that’s like saying it’s the tastiest turd from a pile of turds). It is interesting to see how we progressed in a year.
A well stock Beer fridge is key to any beer tasting.
It was fun to compare our own humble brew to a beverage crafted by professional brewers. Unfortunately Wee Heavy’s tend to be a seasonal release and everyone eneded up bringing either the Cannery Squire Scotch Ale or Russell’s Wee Angry, with one notable exeption of Pike’s Kilt Lifter. So we rounded out our tasting with Tree’s Black IPA, GIB’s Imperial IPA and Irish Red ale.
So. Let’s meet the competition.
Cannery Brewing Squire Scotch Ale
Commercial description: Squire Scotch Ale is rich in both flavour and tradition. This variety of pale ale is defined by malt flavours that are strong and smoky with a touch of sweetness. The deep caramel colour and gentle hop profile round out this classic style ale. 6.5%ABV
Ratebeer rating: 3.05/5
Tasting notes: ok I didn’t keep notes, but here’s a few things I noticed. We drank this later, and the difference in taste is remarkable. This brew is lighter (a pale ale base) and is very smoky. Most of our guests did not enjoy it. I found I had to savour it awhile to acclimatize my taste buds. It’s good, but a little over-powering at the start.
Russell’s Wee Angry
Commercial description: Wee Angry scotch ale is part of the Russell Brewmaster Series: a succession of small batch beers that push taste boundaries and explore new styles of beers. This beer has been brewed with a blend of Scottish specialty malts in the style of a 19th century 90 Shilling Scotch Ale – a strong, dark ale with a dominant malt accent that originated in Edinburgh. 6.5%ABV
Ratebeer rating: 3.14/5
Tasting notes: for me this is a great beer and exeplifies Scotch ales. It’s dark with a thick malty sweetness and a bit of peat smokey goodness. Basically when we made ours, this was what we were going for.
Pike’s Kilt Lifter
Commercial description: Unlike the lighter “Scottish” ales, this is an authentic heavy Scotch ale. It is lightly hopped with a strong malt character, and a hint of peaty smokiness. Warm fermentation produces fruity esters and balances the sweet malt character. 6.5% ABV
Ratebeer rating: 3.32
Tasting notes: I found the Pike to be a very well balanced beers, but there was nothing about it that stood out for me. When I try new beers I look for something that stands out. A flavor that the brewmaster has chosen to highlight, or a combination that is unique; something that makes his brew stand out amongst the hordes of other brews in that style. The Kilt Lifter has none of that. And in fact there are over a dozen different beers named “Kilt Lifter” listed on Ratebeer.com.
Glorious Home brew!
Now it may seem presumptious our even arrogant to think that we could make quality beer in our kitchen, that is comparable to a beverage hand crafted by a master; but this is the goal. Any serious homebrewer is striving to create a beer that is good as or (in a lot of cases) better than what is available at the store.
Brewing notes: this was our inaugral batch using a single step decoction method. It worked very well and I reccomend it for anyone doing a high gravity beer. I’m still new to it, and not qualified to give pointers but I will talk about it briefly. Bascially what we did was once I covered the grains in the mash tun, we took out a third of the grains and put them in a pot. We then covered the grains in the pot in water and boiled it for about an hour. then we added it back to the mash tun and let sit. then sparge as normal. boiling the third of grains releases more enzymes and then when you add it back to the tun it does a better job of breaking down the grains into sugars. It was our first time and we could have spent more time with the sparge, but overall we ended up with a 6.4%ABV Scotch ale that tasted delicious.
Here’s what we used: Malts-Pale, Carastan, (peat) smoked malt and belgian biscuit malt. Hops-Perle, Fuggles, Willamette. OG: 1.060 FG: 1.012 Mash effeciency: 60% 22.2 IBUS We were going for a strong dark ale with sweet toffee/caramel notes with a smoky peat malt finish.
We did 7 days in the primarya nd 30 days in the secondary. We find that a long secondary fermentation really clears up the brew and creates a clean finish in the flavour.
So how did it taste? Well I think it stood up well to the commercial offerings. the general consensus of the people at the tasting was that “it’s good”. Unfortunately there were’nt a lot of beer geeks at the tasting and most of them were family who would have been supportive regardless. But I think the best way to judge the home brew is that there’s none left. I helf a few bottles back in case we decide to enter it at the VCBW home brew competition. But most everyone asked for seconds and thirds.
I offer my own completely biast tasting notes. Appearance: dark in colour, pours with medium head which dissipates quickly. Smell: aromas of smokey peat malts and sweet caramel and toffee tones. First taste: first thing i notice is that it is very smooth. Nicely carbonated with strong caramel and toffee sweetness. Finish: smokey finish and lingering sweetness. Overall a very enjoyable beer.
I won’t be so bold as to claim that the homebrew was the best beer at the tasting. But it certainly held up. Next time we will have to get more samples of the same style and harsher critics. Any volunteers?