DRAFT PICKS: A lot of pleasure from a Wee Heavy

One of the beers I review in this column is classified by the brewer as a Scotch Ale-Wee Heavy. I may have written about Scotch Ales quite a while back, but I so enjoyed this week’s offering that I thought a few words may inspire a reader or two to get out and explore a great sipping ale. Most anything brewed as a Scotch Ale is going to be relatively strong is taste, body and muscle. (We are, by the way, talking about “Scotch” as in the nationality, not the whiskey!) There are a lot of special things that go into the brewing of Scotch Ales, or Wee Heavy ales, in production as well as in the ingredients. A longer, lower boil in the process creates a deep, deep peaty color, and the carmelization that takes place in early stages also makes Wee Heavy ales sweeter than most, or at least many, brews. Wee Heavy ales are very full and quite a bit more “boozy” than most brews. Even with the defined sweetness, some types of Wee Heavy have a bit of a bitter bite in the finish. For those who like more malty brews, Scotch Ale-Wee Heavies will be an interesting scenting and tasting. They tend to be very peaty - following the color - and often express a smokiness along with the caramel sweetness. There are lots of hints of dark fruits tucked away in the background. (Some people actually don’t like Wee Heavies because they are “too fruity.”) Wee Heavies are usually a touch to a lot darker in color, and there are often some exciting sparkles of color - sometimes ruby red, and sometimes deep golden glitters in the darker mass. In fine, these are really excellent brews for a social tasting and quiet, contemplative sipping. There is a lot to see, smell and taste. For the mildly more adventurous, Wee Heavies are rich in flavor - nutty, with well-roasted highlights, sweet and quite warm. A good Wee Heavy might be considered a Winter Warmer, but it isn’t - not officially! It is what it is - rich, deep, and absolutely delicious. Our friends at Beer Advocate have generated a list of the best selling ( or at least most reviewed) Wee Heavies. They include:

  • Founders Backwoods Bastard - Founders Brewing Company;
  • Founders Dirty Bastard - Founders Brewing Company;
  • Old Chub - Scottish Style Ale - Oskar Blues Grill & Brew;
  • Skull Splitter - Orkney Brewery;
  • Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company;
  • Claymore Scotch Ale - Great Divide Brewing Company;
  • Innis & GunRum Cask Oak Aged Beer - Innis & Gunn;
  • Wulver - Thirsty Dog Brewing Company;
  • Samuel Adams Scotch Ale - BostoBeer Company (Samuel Adams); and
  • Wee Heavy - BelhaveBrewery Company Ltd.
I have tried most of these brews and reviewed a lot of them. They are well worth “visiting.” Backwoods Bastard Founders Brewing Do. Grand Rapids I found this Founders offering to be wonderfully luxurious - sipping it from my usual tasting goblet in front of a nice fireplace fire. (Just a note - Most Scotch Ales and Wee Heavies are under-served, drinking them from large goblets or other full-sized glasses. They should be poured into “‘thistle” lasses or smallish snifters. I simply use the same goblet to standardize my reviews.) Backwoods pours a dark, dark red color with a slight cream-colored head of foam. There is a very boozy scent to this ale - quite like some other bourbon barrel aged brews. There are strong hints of vanilla and the usual blast of caramel and rich malts. At first wash, Backwoods is obviously malty and noticeably sweet. There are lots of dark fruit tones. This is a very pleasant brew, but one needs to beware. Backwoods can pack a punch with the more enthusiastic ABV level. It’s sneaky. Rich and creamy, while a touch syrupy at the back of the throat.

This is a very, very enjoyable Wee Heavy.

Just what the doctor ordered when it is cold and blustery outside.

Lucky Girl IPA Lucky Girl Brewing Co. Grand Junction

The Lucky Girl people are doing some really exciting work. Their Lucky Girl IPA is what I look for in a Pale Ale - balanced hops and subtle florals. Many folks like a much more ...um ...enthusiastic hoppiness. I like the more toned down version. This is that. Delicious. Lucky IPA pours a light golden yellow - a classic crisp lager color. There is very little head although I poured it rather aggressively. There is just the most subtle taste at first wash, following on a very gentle aroma in the scenting. Crisp. Clear. Happy, but not overly so. Wonderfully tasty. This is really the type and style of IPA I would suggest to someone planning on venturing into the genre for the first time. Lucky Girl continues to produce great marketable beers that will reach the largest audience, but still maintain a well-defined individualistic nature.