68, 69, 70, 71, and 72.

With the release of Backwoods Bastard, we decided it was good to hit another round of Scotch Ales, one of my favorite styles that we’ve only done once. Once again, we rolled out a bevy of five beers for this tasting. We started outside and ended up inside…because these beers took awhile to go through. It would have been nice to stay out in the backyard for the whole tasting, but time got away from us as we sampled each of these beers.

Bob: As we’ve occasionally stated, our tasting groups comprise brews of similar but not necessarily identical styles. Today we sampled offerings of the Scottish persuasion, in order of increasing alcohol content. Like the stouts of our last session, these ranged over a pretty wide spectrum of tastes.

William Brothers Scottish Heavy Eight Shilling Ale (4.2%)

Eighty Shilling

Nik: This ale had a tight bubbled head and a great caramel aroma. It has a very dark brown color with a nutty flavor. It finishes with a good bitter bite. This is a good beer, but it’s not great. At 4.2% ABV, I could easily drink a few of these in a session.

Bob: From a brewery in Scotland, this is what I imagine a true Scottish Ale to be–mostly malty with just a touch of hops and low alcohol. It poured dark brown/black, with a good tan head that went away quickly. Aroma was mildly nutty. The mouthfeel is thin and watery, but not unpleasantly so. Sweet malt flavor is offset by just the right amount of bittering so that it doesn’t cloy. Exhibits little aftertaste, which is not surprising considering the low hopping. Overall, a very pleasant session brew, and one that would go well with food. Scotch Eggs, anyone?

Odell Brewing Co’s 90 Shilling Ale (5.3% ABV)

90 Shilling

Nik: Bob and I have had a long running argument as to whether or not this beer was a Scottish Ale…well clearly he was right and it is. 90 Shilling has a fast head and very little aroma. It has a hint of malted barley in the nose and poured out a deep copper color. It goes down rougher than most Scottish Ales and has a very long aftertaste.

Bob: Odell’s signature brew, which they tout as their effort to produce a lighter take on Scottish Ales, pours to a light muddy brown color in the glass, with little to no head. Smells like cereal and tastes that way, too, with a nice hop zinginess rather than malt forwardness, and rather high carbonation. A crisp and clear brew that is pleasant enough to drink, but it isn’t very reminiscent of a Scottish Ale.

Belhaven Wee Heavy (6.5% ABV)


Nik: I’ve long been a fan of Belhaven’s beers. This one pours a big head with small bubbles and a great hop aroma. It has a nice malty and bitter flavor in its deep brown color. Even though it has a bit of a higher alcohol level, there is no heat to the taste and it is very smooth going down.

Bob: Another true Scottish brew here, that pours very deep amber in the glass, very clear. A thick tan head that goes away relatively quickly, but laces the sides of the glass nicely. Wonderful aroma of malt and hops, well balanced and welcoming. Great balance in the taste, eoo, with nice notes of not-too-sweet caramel in the aftertaste. Every bit up to the standard of their regular (lighter) Belhaven Scottish Ale, this is very much a go-to beer that rewards the palate in a complex and satisfying manner.

Orkney Brewing Skull Splitter (8.5% ABV)


Nik: Skullsplitter has a big, foamy head of small bubbles and a very nice bronze color. I was taken aback by its fruity aroma. I just wasn’t expecting that. It tastes just like it smells, very fruity. I generally do not like beers that have that sort of a taste to them. Beyond that it had a very hot taste to it and a very gross bitterness that I couldn’t get into. I know this is a highly thought of beer, but I just didn’t get it.

Bob: This well regarded Scotch Ale from the mother country is very much a departure from the lighter Scottish Ales just tasted, even though many tasters categorize it as a Wee Heavy. Pours a muddy dark brown color, with a tan head that laces well but doesn’t stay thick very long. The aroma is extremely fruity, with a strong smell of figs. The taste was pretty sour, which was not at all what we were expecting. Didn’t like it much and poured most of my glass down the sink. Still have three more bottles, though, and we will give this another chance when we have a barley wine tasting session, as some folks have classified it that way.

Founders Backwoods Bastard (10.5% ABV)

Backwoods Bastard

Nik: I heard about this one Twitter, and did some looking into it and figured we had to get a four pack. What I didn’t know is that it was aged in bourbon barrels. I was very excited to give this on a try. It has almost no head, like the Goose Island Bourbon Stout we had last time. It is very dark, almost black. It has a strong bourbon and malty aroma. The nose seemed to be stronger in the bottle than in the glass though. It has a very nutty flavor and a very strong bourbon taste, which I love. It has an amazing hop finish. The beer is very strong, sip this one, but it’s not hot at all.

Bob: My tasting companion and fellow beer geek was adamant that we obtain a four-pack of this brew, which Founders produces only one month a year, so it was off to one of our favorite outlets the day before our session to pick up some that he had reserved. This is yet another high ABV offering aged in bourbon barrels, a process of which craft brewers are growing increasingly fond. A deep ruby brown translucent color in the glass, it produces very little head or lacing. The aroma is almost entirely of bourbon. There was a little more carbonation than I would like in this type of brew, and the strong bourbon flavor tends to overpower the Scotch Ale maltiness. Based on our previous tastings, I feel stouts, with their stronger backbone of roastiness, stand up much better to the heaviness of bourbon. I didn’t dislike this offering, but its overall impression was more of a whiskey, with little beer flavor coming through. Definitely a potion for sipping, though.


  1. […] large. It had a mouthfeel that reminded me of the Schlalfy Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, and the Backwoods Bastard. The very high alcohol content made it very warm and very inviting. This is most definitely best […]

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