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Craft Beer Experts Name Their Favorite Scotch Ales For Winter

When it comes to cold weather beers, drinkers have a ton of options. Obviously, nobody is going to tell you to stop drinking your hoppy IPAs and crushable lagers and pilsners this season, but if you want to get the most out of the dreary, cold winter months you may want to turn your drinking attention to stouts, porters, strong ales, and maybe even a few Scotch ales.

Since we’ve already written about the other three wintry beer styles, today we’re going to turn our attention to the malty, toffee-like, sweet, warming, rich Scotch ale. Sometimes referred to as a “wee heavy,” these usually-higher-than-average-ABV beers have all the indulgent caramel, slightly fruity, butterscotch, and toasted malt flavors we need to keep us warm until spring.

To find the best options, we asked brewers, brewing professionals, and craft beer experts to tell us their picks for the best Scotch ales to drink this winter. Keep scrolling to see all of their choices.

Thornbridge Yule Scotch Ale

Thornbridge Yule Scotch Ale
Thornbridge

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York

ABV: 9%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

With Scotch Ale you can go really old-school or you can go with an “updated” version. My favorite is the “slightly updated” Yule Scotch Ale, lightly flavored with heather, by the Thornbridge Brewery of Derbyshire (UK).

Sun King Wee Mac

Sun King Wee Mac
Sun King

Indy Grap, brewer at Urban South Brewery in New Orleans

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $9 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Wee Mac from Sun King Brewing is big in body, color, and flavor. There’s a lot of caramel and toffee flavors without it being too sweet. It gets better as it warms up, so there’s no need to rush.

Moylan’s Kilt Lifter

Moylan’s Kilt Lifter
Moylan

John Montes De Oca, co-head brewer at Barebottle Brewery in San Francisco

ABV: 8%

Average Price: $6 for a 22-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Moylan’s Kilt Lifter is one of those beers that shouldn’t be as easy to drink as it is. The bready caramel notes suck you in but the hint of floral hops keeps it refreshing. The eight percent ABV is hidden here.

This is perfect for those rich winter meals where lighter beers just won’t cut it.

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith Wee Heavy
Alesmith

Chris Hotz, research and development brewer at Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 10%

Average Price: $13 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Alesmith Wee Heavy has won numerous awards at GABF (Great American Beer Festival) and other competitions, and as such, has become a standard for the style in America. Its nuanced flavors and maltiness with notes of walnut, almonds, oak wood, light smokiness, and toffee make it a great fireside beer.

Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale

Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale
Central Waters

Austin LaBrune, packaging technician at WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $16 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

The most exceptional wee heavy or Scotch ale I have ever had was Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale from Central Waters. If you’ve ever had a barrel-aged beer from Central Waters, you already know how phenomenal their barrel program is. This beer is a perfect example of how rich and malty a traditional wee heavy needs to be while adding on loads of bourbon barrel complexity.

At first sip, you’re immediately taken back by the Kentucky hug of the bourbon barrel and the smoked malt. Then it develops into loads of sweet caramel and chocolate all throughout the finish. To top it all off, it’s so incredibly soft and smooth you’ll be begging for more.

Oskar Blues Old Chub

Oskar Blues Old Chub
Oskar Blues

Joe Connolly, director of Springdale Beer Co. in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 8%

Average Price: $9 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I will always have a weakness for Oskar Blues Old Chub, if only for the novelty of it being the only such beer in cans for many years. Huge flavors of toffee, caramel, tobacco, and chewy malts make it a worthwhile cold-weather choice.

Dark Horse Scotty Karate

Dark Horse Scotty Karaty
Dark Horse

Kevin Smolar, lab manager at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 9.75%

Average Price: $10 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Scotty Karate by Dark Horse Brewing Company holds a special place in my heart as I remember drinking it almost fifteen years ago when I was first discovering craft beer. The typical malt flavors of caramel and brown sugar are balanced by a light smoke character that is reminiscent of a great scotch. It goes great with all kinds of cold-weather food, and I make a point to find some whenever I’m in Michigan.

Bell’s Old Fashioned Holiday Ale

Bell’s Old Fashioned Holiday Ale
Bell

Patrick Ware, co-founder and head of brewing operations at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Phoenix

ABV: 10.8%

Average Price: $30 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Old Fashioned Holiday Ale is a version of Bell’s Christmas Ale aged in bourbon barrels with dried cherry and orange peel. This Scotch ale tastes like a boozy Christmas cocktail. But the real appeal here is that it’s almost eleven percent ABV, which is helpful in getting you through those long winter nights.

3 Floyds Robert The Bruce

3 Floyds Robert The Bruce
3 Floyds

Connor Klopcic, director of brewing operations at Perrin Brewing in Comstock Park, Michigan

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $9 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The best wee heavy or Scotch ale I like to drink in the winter is Robert The Bruce from 3 Floyds. I like the body and malt characters that come through. It has caramel notes, but it doesn’t take over the beer — which some Scotch ales can do.

Writer’s Pick: Founders Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard
Founders

ABV: 11%

Average Price: $16 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

This eleven percent ABV bourbon-barrel-aged Scotch ale is known for its mix of oaky wood, sweet toffee, bold roasted malts, raisins, dried cherries, and slight smoke. It’s a truly unique, warming beer well suited for winter drinking.

The best part? It’s now available year-round.

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