Scotch Strong Ale

Over the ages, the country of Scotland has been known for many things: proud clans, powerful warriors and some of the best malt beverages ever created.

Skullsplitter is the model for this month’s beer, brewed by Orkney, named for the small chain of
islands off the northern tip of Scotland. The Orkneys were home to a certain Thorfinn Hausakluif (his last name means “skullsplitter”), the Seventh Earl of Orkney, who ruled about 950 AD. The beer is very alcoholic and estery, with a dark, malty finish.

Another Scotch ale to try is Traquair House Ale, brewed since 1491. Its companion ale is Traquair Jacobite, a version spiced with coriander and named for the Jacobite revolution. These beers have an OG of 1.080 (20° Plato) and finish slightly sweet with lots of malt and alcohol.

The third example is a refreshing change because it’s brewed in Belgium. In fact, the Scottish style in general is pretty popular in Belgium. In 1919 a law was passed that prohibited distilled spirits from being served in cafes and restaurants. Strong ales and lagers benefited greatly from this prohibition and started a trend that continues today. It is the Belgians, always attentive to the type of glassware used when drinking, who first started using the thistle glass for Scotch ale. The Silly Brewery’s Silly Scotch is 8 percent alcohol by volume and is an incredible ale brewed using traditional ingredients.

From the United States, among many examples, you might try Kilt Lifter from Pike Place Brewery in Seattle, made with a small percentage of peated malt; or the 1999 gold-medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival: Mac Spootin from the Back Bay Brewing Company in Boston. This beer will besimilar to our Scottish ale last year, but have much more of
everything. It will have an original gravity of 1.080 (20° Plato) and a terminal gravity of 1.012 (3° Plato). It’s a strong beer to say the least, and very malty. The alcohol content will be about 8.67 percent by volume.

The grain bill is composed of marris otter pale, crystal 40° Lovibond and chocolate malt. I had
originally planned to use a grain bill based on Brewing Products Limited malts, a company that began malting for the distilling industry in Scotland. They aren’t always easy to find, but if you
can track them down, use the Scotmalt 1, a golden promise pale (in place of the marris otter), Scotmalt 8 (instead of the crystal) and Scotmalt 11 (for the chocolate malt). Extract brewers can also takeadvantage of these products by using Scotmalt CR130, a dark extract made from the pale and crystal malts mentioned above.

Scottish ales are often mashed from 153° to 156° F, at higher temperatures than you see me use here. The recipe calls for a mash of 150° F to get the most from your alpha and beta activity. Hop choices for Scottish styles are pretty simple. This beer requires a bit more hop presencefor balance and will be bittered with English Bullion, then finished with Kent Goldings.
Wyeast 1728 (Scottish Ale) will provide authentic yeast character to the beer, and if provided with enough oxygen at pitching time, will have no problem attenuating the beer to 3 or 4 percent sugar.

Scotch Strong Ale
(5 gallons, all-grain)

• 12 lbs. marris otter
• 1 lb. carapils
or dextrin-type malt
• 1.5 lb. crystal, 40° Lovibond
• 0.25 lb. chocolate malt
• 1 oz. Bullion (8.0% alpha acid, 8 AAUs) for 90 minutes
• 0.5 oz. Kent Goldings (5.4% alpha acid, 2.7 AAUs) for 30 minutes
• 1 oz. Kent Goldings (5.4% alpha acids, 2.7 AAUs) at end of boil
• 2 pt. starter of Wyeast 1728 (Scottish Ale)
• 2/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Step by Step:

Mash grain in 4.5 gal. of water at 150° F for 60 minutes.  Sparge with 168° to 170° F water to collect 5.75 gallons of wort. Total boil time is 90 minutes.
At beginning of boil add 1 oz. Bullion and boil 60 minutes.
Add 0.5 oz. Goldings, boil remaining 30 minutes.
At end of boil, add 1 oz. Kent Goldings to finish.
Whirlpool and cool to 67° F to pitch starter. Oxygenate-aerate well.
Ferment at 67° F for seven days then rack to secondary fermenter.
Continue fermentation for 14 more days until gravity is about 1.012 (3° Plato) or fermentation is finished.
Let settle, rack, prime and bottle. Allow to age seven more days before drinking.

OG = 1.080 (20° Plato)
Bitterness = 35 IBUs
Color = 37 SRM
8.67% ABV

Extract with Grain Option:

Substitute 10 lbs. pale malt extract for marris otter. Start with 5 gal. of 150° F water. Sparge grains with enough 170° F water to make 5.5 gallons. Heat to boiling and add extract syrup. The total boil time will be 60 min. At beginning of the boil add Bullion hops and boil for 30 min. Add the first Kent Goldings, then boil 30 additional min. and then add the last Kent
Goldings to finish off the beer. Whirlpool and cool to 67° F to pitch the starter yeast. Be sure to oxygenate-aerate well. Follow fermentation schedule as detailed from above.

OG =1.080 (20° Plato)
Bitterness =35 IBUs
Color = 37 SRM
8.67% ABV