Beer Squared #8: Scotch Ales

Posted: April 14, 2011 in Beer Squared, Beer: Scotch Ales
Tags: , , , , ,

Our bactch of Ales.

Here we go again another day and another trio of beers to compare. This round is something very near and dear to me: Scotch Style Ales, as I’m of noble Scottish descent.

Over the last year, brown English Ales have become among my favorite style of beer, and I may even enjoy the Scottish Ales that much more. Bob adds, “I had not tasted any scotch ales before, so many of my advisers recommended that I start with one of the best, Belhaven. Found two others for comparison on this go-around, although additional ones are sure to follow.”

Scotch Ale is the name given to a strong pale ale believed to have originated in Edinburgh in the 18th century.[17] Beers using the designation Scotch Ale are popular in the USA where most examples are brewed locally.  (source)

Belhaven Scottish Ale (5.2% ABV)

The most noted.

Nik: Belhaven pours a wonderfully foamy head and this ale just smells wonderful. It also has a spectacular brown color. Getting this kind of a start to a beer is always a very heartening experience. This beer is very bitter but very smooth tasting with malty undertones. This beer may have the most complex flavor I’ve ever tasted. Every region of my taste buds were dancing with each sip of this amazing beer.  This beer has a very distinct, huge flavor. It’s also among the most expensive beers out there, but worth every penny.

Bob: It’s easy to see why this was recommended. Pours with a great, tan head that is long lasting, and the color in the glass is a rich dark amber heading toward brown. Aroma (something I always seek in a great beer) is strong and unique, no doubt due to the hop variety(ies) used. I tried to place the tantalizingly familiar fragrance (which I have never smelled in other beers of my experience), but the best I could come up with is that it smells a little like skunk, yet pleasing. Perhaps skunk cabbage? At any rate, with every sip it tastes very much like it smells (they say that what we call taste is often a high percentage of smell anyway.) Whatever hopping they do it certainly works well, delivering a pleasing up-front bitterness that lasts all the way through to the long aftertaste, with a very unique flavor profile that somehow wraps completely around your tongue and stays there. Flavor also shows very good balance between hops and malt, with neither predominate. Among the very best beers I’ve ever tasted, although also one of the most expensive at $3+ for a pint bottle.

Schlafly Scotch Style Ale (6.2% ABV)

Schlafly Scotch Style Ale

Nik: Schalfly for me is always a benchmark in beer, because so rarely do I dislike any beers they brew. So, I was curious to see how they’d compare to the Belhaven. Their offering is much darker and just as foamy. It has a bigger hop profile, but a smaller taste, though still pleasing. It is  quite malty, but their hops and malt seem to blend together very well instead of being distinct tastes. I can describe the aroma in no other way, but smelling American. It’s got a caramel flavoring to it as well that doesn’t seem to hold up over the entire glass. The first sip is far better than the last.

Bob: From St. Louis’s oldest microbrewery, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Unfortunately this is not one of their better offerings. Pours nicely with a good head, but the head dissipates quickly. Aroma is very caramel-ish, with roasty malt predominating and little hop smell. Most noticeable on drinking is high carbonation and very bitter hops. Wears out its welcome quickly, with the last of the glass not nearly as good as the first sip. Overall taster is flat and bitter, with little of the rich maltiness we were expecting from the aroma.

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale (8.5% ABV)

Dirty Bastard

Nik: Often times we get a hold of beers from very vaunted breweries and I hope they live up to the hype.  This time we were giving the Founders’ Scotch Ale a go. The head on this beer was pretty negligible and went away rather quickly. It had a nutty, fruity aroma and a wonderful dark color. This is also the heaviest in terms of the alcohol and I could taste it.  This was not a beer where it’s so smooth I didn’t notice. I don’t feel like this beer tasted like any Scotch Ale I’ve ever had and nothing like the first two beers from this round. It’s too bitter and finishes very roughly. I’m going to avoid this one in the future.

Bob: I had high hopes for this brew, having heard good things about Founders Brewery. After tasting this offering, though, I’m not all that ready to seek out their others. It poured in the glass with a very small to negligible head (as you probably know by now, I like a rich, long-lasting head with tiny bubbles) and the liquid was a very dark brown, almost black. The aroma was mildly nutty, probably from the strong barley roast, with no noticeable hop smell. The taste was pretty bitter and fairly harsh, with alcohol hot and dominant over the malt in this high ABV brew. Overall it struck me as unfinished–a rough-and-ready brew such as the Vikings might have drunk during a long night of pillaging.

  1. Wade says:

    Scottish decent ey?

    Celtic or Rangers?

  2. The 13 Blog says:

    Yes, I am of Scottish descent. My next tattoo is my family coat of arms with my daughter’s name on it.

    As for Celtic vs Rangers…I’ve really got no dog in the fight…I chose years ago to primarily follow only one league, and the EPL won out. The SPL…not so much…then of course our local sides…and then the Mexican Football Federation…

    But, pin me down, and I’ll say Celtic FC…because of our local side….who’ll be wearing green and white hoops coming up this season….

  3. Wade says:

    Could be worse, could be Welsh 😛

    You Scotts do have an epic national flower though:

  4. […] Well, after perusing their beer list, I came across Belhaven Scottish Pub Ale for $5 for a pint. Well, this was by far the best price I’d seen on this wonderful Scotch Ale…usually it’s closer to ten. I had also never seen it in cans…so I was sure that I had to give this a go. It’s like Boddington’s Pub Ale in a can with the little widget in the bottom to keep it fizzy. Very, enjoyable and it made me think about the pint of Belhaven Wee Heavy I have in my fridge right now. They also had Skullsplitter and another Scotch Ale, but I don’t care much for Skullsplitter. It reminds me too much of Founders Dirty  Bastard. […]

  5. Just wanted to post and say nice website, great to read from people who know what they are talking about.

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