This beer came together quickly due to a confluence of factors. A few months back I decided I wanted to perfect a recipe for an English bitter. At the time I was brewing mostly one gallon batches. My first bitter recipe became infected. I ordered a couple pounds of Halcyon malt, which allegedly has a “sharper” flavor than Maris Otter, the British base malt I typically use in English styles that I brew. I was curious to see how the flavor might be different. Suffice to say, I never got around to brewing the bitter.
I have two gallon BIAB tripel I plan to brew, but my BIAB bag finally bit the dust. After lots of use it developed several holes. I figured I could brew a one gallon batch and remove the grain from the mash with a strainer. Essentially it would be brew-in-a-bag without the bag. At that point it made sense to use the Halycon malt in my one gallon batch.
With the still warm ambient temperatures, and my British base malt my first thought was a Belgian Stout along the lines of Allagash Black. Belgian Stouts, while not an official Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style, are similar to other stouts except they use Belgian yeasts. I started to research a recipe when I also discovered that there are a few Belgian brewers that brew Scotch Ales. I’ve brewed several stouts, but I had always wanted to brew a Scotch ale.
The style developed in Scotland as brewers made the best of the ingredients that were available. Hops are not indigenous to Scotland and needed to be imported from England or Europe. As a result hops were used very sparingly and boiled for a long time to extract as much bitterness as possible. These long boils lead to kettle caramelization where the sugars in the wort begin to caramelize during the boil. They also used a small amount of roasted barley to help balance the malt sweetness.
Most commercial Scotch ales you will find in the US are a Wee Heavy (Scotch Strong Ale). In Scotland they also produce lower alcohol varieties: Light 60/-, Heavy 70/-, and Export 80/-. I didn’t have enough malt for a Wee Heavy, so I brewed the beer to Export 80/- strength. I generally stayed within the style parameters with the exception of a small amount of Dark Candi Sugar and of course the yeast. For this beer I used a 90 minute boil and added 0.2 oz of Fuggles hops at the beginning of the boil as is typical for a Scotch ale.
I was going for a full-bodied beer so I tried to mash at a higher temperature. My starting gravity was higher than I had expected. I hope the additional fermentable sugars isn’t at the expense of the body. Scotch ales other than the Wee Heavy are supposed to be medium-light to medium bodied, so I think I will be ok if the final beer only comes out with a medium body. I ended up just shy of one gallon which makes me feel like I finally have my BeerSmith settings where they need to be.
A part of me wishes I had do ne a two gallon batch and a split fermentation. I could have fermented one gallon with the Belgian yeast, and fermented the other gallon with freshly harvested Brewer Patriot from Bill’s Brown Ale and made a more authentic Scotch Ale. I still want to do one in the future. I suspect when I do it will be a Wee Heavy.