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A Primer On Scotch Ales, Along With Our Favorites For Fall

When you think about fall beers, you probably think about stouts, porters, and brown ales. But if you truly want to embrace the season, we’d argue that you should crack open some scotch ales too. If you’re unfamiliar with this style, here’s a little primer: First introduced in the 1800s in Edinburgh, Scotland (hence scotch ale), this dark, rich, caramelly beer is usually higher in alcohol than your typical session brew — making it the perfect autumnal warmer.

Also known as a “Wee Heavy,” the flavors of scotch ale all are driven by sweet maltiness — sort of like a barley wine — and are sometimes finished with a gentle kiss of smoke. To help get you acquainted with this style and assure that you have a scotch ale-filled fall (and winter), we came up with a list of our favorite bottles.

Check them out below!

Rohrbach’s Scotch Ale

ABV: 6.6%

Tasting Notes:

One of the finest examples of the style, Rohrbach’s has been perfecting its Scotch Ale since 1991. This Scottish-style ale is filled with hints of vanilla, caramel, and subtly bitter hops.

Bottom Line:

While many breweries have an IPA or lager as their flagship beer, Rohrbach’s flagship beer is its scotch ale. If you can find it, buy a few cans. If not, take a road trip to Western New York and grab some.

Oskar Blues Old Chub

ABV: 8%

Tasting Notes:

This Scottish strong ale is chocked full of malted barley, specialty grains, and just the right amount of beechwood smoked malt. The result is a rich, malty, dark beer with subtle hints of cocoa, sweet caramel, and just the right amount of smoky backbone.

Bottom Line:

This is a high ABV beer. It’s well-suited as a nice warmer on a cool, fall evening. Stock up now for the colder months to come.

Great Divide Claymore

ABV: 7.7%

Tasting Notes:

Colorado’s Great Divide is well known for its Yeti series of beers. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t try its Scotch ale, Claymore. It’s filled with warming, toasty malt flavors, caramelized sugar sweetness, and toasted vanilla flavors.

Bottom Line:

This is like a warm, winter coat in beer form. Spend the freezing winter months drinking this and you won’t even need hot cocoa.

Founders Backwoods Bastard

ABV: 11%

Tasting Notes:

Founders is a big name in the world of barrel aging, but its Kentucky Breakfast Stout usually gets top billing. Take a break from that offering and grab a bottle of Founders Backwoods Bastard, a bourbon-barrel-aged Scotch ale. Like all Scotch ales, it carries the distinct, warming caramel, and malt flavors we look forward to.

On top of that, the barrel aging lends it flavors of toasted oak, single malt Scotch, and dried fruits.

Bottom Line:

This is a special beer, and it should be given the respect it deserves. Sip it slowly with a blanket on your lap in front of a fireplace.

Alesmith Barrel Aged Wee Heavy

ABV: 10%

Tasting Notes:

If you’re not ready for the barrel-aged version, you can pick up Alesmith’s original Wee Heavy. But if you’re up for a flavor experience, this 10 percent ABV scotch ale is matured in ex-bourbon barrels. This imparts flavors of charred oak, brown sugar, vanilla, and sticky toffee.

Bottom Line:

This rich, complex brew is the perfect accompaniment to heavy wintry dinners and great conversation. Pour a glass and relax as you sip it slowly.

Four Peaks Kilt Lifter

ABV: 6%

Tasting Notes:

Cheeky name aside, this is a great fall sipper. As Scotch ales go, it’s on the lighter side in terms of alcohol. But just because it has less alcohol, doesn’t mean it has less flavor. Roasted barley, rich malts, and velvety caramel are prevalent with just a hint of smoke at the end.

Bottom Line:

This is a great beginner Scotch ale due to its low alcohol content. But it’s also good enough that you’ll come back again and again.

Sun Brewery Wee Mac

ABV: 5.3%

Tasting Notes:

While many wee heavy beers and scotch ales are high in alcohol, Wee Mac isn’t. It’s the closest thing to a session scotch ale than you’re likely to find. It’s low in alcohol, but full of rich chocolate, salted caramel, and nutty sweetness.

Bottom Line:

Normally, you wouldn’t want to “throw back” a few Scotch ales. But with Wee Mac, you can. This is a great tailgate beer or backyard sipper while you rake leaves.

McEwan’s Scotch Ale

ABV: 8%

Tasting Notes:

No scotch ales list is complete without a beer made in Scotland. This Wee Heavy is as classic as they come. It’s rich, dark, and malty — with hints of roasted coffee, caramelized sugar, and subtle hops.

Bottom Line:

If you’re going to try one scotch ale, make it a Scottish original. Grab a sixer of McEwan’s before you try any of the American versions and then compare the two.

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