Reading through the style guide, I notice there are four different Scottish Ales. What is the deal with that? How do I make a Scottish Ale?

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The Scottish Ales are grouped together in a group, in Category 9, Scottish and Irish Ales in the new BJCP style guide. With the recent revision, Strong Scottish Ale joins the others and is no longer together with Strong English Ale in Category 11.

The three lighter versions represent a continuum of starting gravity, and hence alcohol levels, starting as low as 1.030 and ranging up to 1.050. As such, they represent the lower to middle part of the strength spectrum. Like English ales, the distinction between the three versions is arbitrarily based on starting gravity.

The designation of 60/-, 70/- and 80/- refer to the cost of the grains (at least at one time) needed to make the grain. It cost about 60 shillings to buy the grain for a 60/- ale, and so forth.
All the Scottish ales share some common characteristics. These include a rich malty flavor, low hop bitterness and no hop aroma. They also share a slightly smoky flavor, in large part contributed by the yeast. Some versions also include a bit of peat-smoked malt. However, the smoky essence should never dominate the flavor.

Scottish ales are brewed in a cool climate. This leads to a clean malty flavor, which may include a bit of diacetyl. Fruity esters, characteristic of English bitters, are subdued
60-shilling, or light Scottish is the lowest gravity version of this style. Like English Bitter, it is a session beer, with a starting gravity of 1.030 to 1.035. With an alcohol content of only about 3½%, you can start early on this one. The malt profile generally includes pale malt, with a significant contribution from caramelly crystal malt. English hops are featured, but they are added primarily in the boil to take the edge off the malt sweetness. The bitterness level ranges from 9 to 15. The color can be surprisingly dark, ranging up to 34 SRM. The style is usually served young, since the low alcohol level doesn't keep well. For this reason, 60-shilling Scottish isn't usually commercially available.

70-shilling, or Heavy Scottish picks up where 60-shilling leaves off, and ranges up to a starting gravity of 1.040. The overall impression is quite similar, though the color can be somewhat lighter, ranging at most up to 19 SRM. Like the 60-shilling Scottish, this style is seldom available commercially.

The next version is called 80-shilling, also known as Scottish Export. The higher alcohol levels allow this beer to keep and travel well. Hence, this style is what is typically found in the Scottish section of your favorite beer store. Belhaven and McEwans are two typical examples. The starting gravity ranges from 1.040 to 1.054. The final gravity can range up to 1.017, showing off the malty finish. The bitterness level can be up to 36, though it should always be underbalanced relative to the malt.

The final member of the Scottish family is considerably stronger; hence its previous inclusion of it into the Strong ale category. Scottish strong ale, also called Wee Heavy, is a very robust beer with a starting gravity of 1.072 or higher. With a gravity this high, additional complexity arises, such as alcoholic warming and sometimes a bit of rasiny flavor. The wort is sometimes kettle caramelized, adding to the rich flavor of crystal malts. The color can range up to 47 SRM. Scotch du Silly is a typical commercial example. With beers this strong, this will typically end your evening.

If you're making a Scottish ale, start out with English 2-row pale malt, or use Scottish Golden Promise. Add a good dose of English crystal malt, increasing the amount for the stronger versions. If you want to add some peat-smoked malt, keep the amount under ¼ lb. Aim for the starting gravity shown in the table below. The water should be of medium hardness. LA tap water is pretty close, though you may want to add a bit of gypsum to bring the water pH down a bit.

If you want to caramelize the wort, take the first gallon or so of runoff, and heat it to a rolling boil while the rest of the sparge continues. (This can be duplicated using malt extract.) Boil it down to about half the volume and then add the rest of the wort or malt extract. Your boiling time can be on the long side, especially if you need to bring up the starting gravity for a strong Scottish.
Once you've cooled the wort, pitch with a Scottish ale such #1728 from Wyeast, or Edinburgh Ale yeast #WLP028 from White Labs. Ferment the beer fairly cool to keep the ester down and leave a bit of diacetyl. The lighter versions mature quickly, though a strong Scottich may take a couple extra months.

Vital Statstics for Scottish Ales


Starting Gravity

Final Gravity

Bitterness, IBU

Color, SRM

Hop Aroma

Light 60/-
Heavy 70 /-
Export 80/-
Wee Heavy