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9 - Scottish and Irish Ale
9 - Scottish and Irish Ale

Scottish and Irish Ale beer styles

Know the differences and similarities between Light, Heavy & Export Scottish beers? ’60/-‘ stands for ’60 Shilling’ & ’80/-‘ stands for ’80 Shilling’ but how did these beers get their names? Read on to find out…

9 - Scottish and Irish Ale
9 – Scottish and Irish Ale

Previously we examined English Pale Ale beer styles, in this article we will cover BJCP Category 9, Scottish and Irish Ale, which includes the following Beer Styles:

First we will cover the history of the category, then take a look at the specifications of each style highlighting the similarities and differences. We then sample commercial examples of each style.

History

The notation ‘/-‘ signifies ‘Shilling’ which is an old British unit of currency prior to decimalization in 1971. A Shilling, or ‘bob’ as was the slang term, was made up of 12 old pence and replaced by 5 new pence or pennies after the conversion to decimals. See here for more information on the Shilling.

9 - Scottish and Irish Ale (additional examples)
9 – Scottish and Irish Ale
(additional examples)

But why call a beer 60/-, 70/- and 80/-? This comes down to how much was charged for a Hogshead barrel of this beer (a Hogshead barrel = 54 imperial gallons). As the quality and alcohol strength of the beer increased so did the cost and hence the names were derived. Given that 20 Shillings made up a Pound (₤), this meant that a barrel of Scottish Light cost ₤3 and a barrel of Scottish Export cost ₤4 with Scottish Heavy half way in-between. See here for more details on the categorization of Scottish beer.

Strong Scotch Ale is often referred to as ‘wee heavy’ both in Scotland and in the USA and sometimes now referred to as Scottish 90/-.

Overview

According to Jamil Zainasheff in his book, Brewing Classic Styles, Scottish ales and Strong Scotch ale are malty beers differentiated by their alcohol content plus are cleaner with more malt sweetness than English Pale Ales from our previous article. These beers should all be as follows:

  • Scottish Light 60 Shilling – clean, malty and slightly sweet with little or no hop flavor.
  • Scottish Heavy 70 Shilling – similar to a Scottish Light but with higher alcohol.
  • Scottish Export 80 Shilling – similar to a Scottish Light & Heavy but with higher alcohol than both.
  • Irish Red Ale – this is between an English Bitter and a Scottish Ale i.e. too clean and not bitter enough for the English style and a bit too hoppy and dry for the Scottish style.
  • Strong Scotch Ale – rich, malty and usually sweet with low hop flavor and melanoidin (almost caramalized-like) characters.

The following table* shows how the 5 styles of Scottish and Irish Ale vary:

Characteristic Scottish Light 60 Shilling Scottish Heavy 70 Shilling Scottish Export 80 Shilling
Original Gravity: 1.030 – 1.035 1.035 – 1.040 1.040 – 1.054
Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.013 1.010 – 1.015 1.010 – 1.016
ABV (alcohol %): 2.5 – 3.2 3.2 – 3.9 3.9 – 5.0
IBU’s (bitterness): 10 – 20 10 – 25 15 – 30
SRM (color): 9 – 17 9 – 17 9 – 17

 

Characteristic Irish Red Ale Strong Scotch Ale
Original Gravity: 1.044 – 1.060 1.070 – 1.130
Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014 1.018 – 1.056
ABV (alcohol %): 4.0 – 6.0 6.5 – 10.0
IBU’s (bitterness): 17 – 28 17 – 35
SRM (color): 9 – 18 14 – 25

The above tables show that all three styles of Scottish Ale (60/-, 70/- & 80/-) have incremental starting gravities as well as alcohol percentages with no overlap. The finishing gravities are similar and the bitterness levels are the same. The color allows for more darkness as the strength increases.

The Irish Red Ale has most similarities to the Scottish Export out of all the Scottish Ales in this category with the starting gravity being a bit higher for the Irish Red and allowing for a higher alcohol content. The finishing gravity, bitterness and color are very similar.

The Strong Scotch Ale has a starting gravity range and alcohol content over and above any other style in this category with a large and higher variance in finishing gravity. The bitterness is similar to the Scottish Export and Irish Red but with a darker color.

In the following sections we will look in more detail at each of the above Beer Styles.

Scottish Light 60 Shilling

Commercial examples of this style include Belhaven 60/-, McEwan’s 60/-, and Maclay 60/- Light. Unfortunately all of these beers are cask-only products and not exported to the US so we were unable to obtain any to sample.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Scottish or English Pale base malted barley.
  • Small amounts of Roasted malted barley add color and flavor, and lend a dry, slightly roasty finish.
  • English hops.
  • Clean, relatively un-attenuative ale yeast.
  • Some commercial brewers add small amounts of Crystal, Amber, or Wheat malts, and adjuncts such as sugar.
  • The optional peaty, earthy and/or smoky character comes from the traditional yeast and from the local malted barley and water rather than using Smoked malted barley.

Scottish Heavy 70 Shilling

Commercial examples of this style include Caledonian 70/- (Caledonian Amber Ale in the US), Belhaven 70/-, Orkney Raven Ale, Maclay 70/-, Tennents Special, and Broughton Greenmantle Ale. Unfortunately we were unable to locate any examples of these beers in the US in time for this article but will continue to search both here and in the UK. Should we manage to find some then this article will be updated at a later time.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style are the same as the Scottish Light 60/- above.

Scottish Export 80 Shilling

Belhaven Scottish Ale
Belhaven Scottish Ale

Commercial examples of this style include Orkney Dark Island, Caledonian 80/- Export Ale, Southampton 80 Shilling, Broughton Exciseman’s 80/-, Belhaven St. Andrews Ale, McEwan’s Export (IPA), Inveralmond Lia Fail, Broughton Merlin’s Ale, and Arran Dark. We decided to sample Belhaven Scottish Ale (aka Belhaven 80/- in the UK) and Appalachian Jolly Scot.

Belhaven Scottish Ale has the following characteristic which is a bit too high for the style for alcohol content but the UK version is 3.9% which is just within style:

  • ABV = 5.2% (max 5.0% for style)

This beer is caramel in color plus clear and the head goes gradually. The aroma is of caramel/toffee with little hop aroma. The flavor is rich, a bit sweet, caramel and toffee but no hops or bitterness and the taste does last. Carbonation is above average.

Appalachian Jolly Scot
Appalachian Jolly Scot

Appalachian Jolly Scot has the following characteristics which is too high in alcohol content and within style for bitterness:

  • ABV = 5.9% (max 5.0% for style)
  • IBU’s = 18

This beer is red in color with a creamy head that subsides. Light caramel & toffee aroma. Little hop aroma or flavor. Sweet with boozy flavor as though it had been barrel aged but it has not to the best of our knowledge. Toffee flavor lingers with no bitterness. Oily mouth-feel and low carbonation.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style are the same as the Scottish Light 60/- and Scottish Heavy 70/- above.

Irish Red Ale

Smithwick's Irish Ale
Smithwick’s Irish Ale

Commercial examples of this style include Three Floyds Brian Boru Old Irish Ale, Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale (a bit strong at 6.5%), Kilkenny Irish Beer, O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale, Beamish Red Ale, Caffrey’s Irish Ale, Goose Island Kilgubbin Red Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red (lager), Boulevard Irish Ale, and Harpoon Hibernian Ale. We decided to sample Smithwick’s Irish Ale and Samuel Adam’s Irish Red.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale has the following characteristic which is within style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 5.0%

This beer is dark red in color with a thick lasting head. Malt aroma and no hop aroma or flavor. Malt flavor with thin mouth-feel and moderate carbonation.

Samuel Adams Irish Red
Samuel Adams Irish Red

Samuel Adam’s Irish Red has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content and bitterness but too dark in color:

  • ABV = 5.8%
  • IBU’s = 25
  • SRM = 30 (max 18 for style)

This beer is red in color with a creamy head that gradually goes. Slight malt aroma and hop balanced with maltiness in flavor. Smooth mouth-feel with good body. The taste lasts and carbonation is moderate.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • May contain some adjuncts (corn/maize, rice, or sugar), although excessive adjunct use will harm the character of the beer.
  • Generally has a bit of Roasted malted barley to provide reddish color and dry roasted finish.
  • UK/Irish malts, hops, and yeast.

Strong Scotch Ale

Founders Dirty Bastard
Founders Dirty Bastard

Commercial examples of this style include Traquair House Ale, Belhaven Wee Heavy, McEwan’s Scotch Ale, MacAndrew’s Scotch Ale, AleSmith Wee Heavy, Orkney Skull Splitter, Inveralmond Black Friar, Broughton Old Jock, Gordon Highland Scotch Ale, and Dragonmead Under the Kilt. We decided to sample Founders Dirty Bastard.

Founders Dirty Bastard has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content but too bitter for the style:

  • ABV = 8.5%
  • IBU’s = 50 (max 35 for style)

This beer is dark red in color with a dark, creamy and lasting head. Fruity aroma from the hops and some hop flavor balanced with maltiness. Strong in alcohol that comes through in the taste and the mouth-feel is thick. The taste lingers and carbonation is low.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Well-modified Pale malted barley, with up to 3% Roasted malted barley.
  • May use some Crystal malted barley for color adjustment; sweetness usually comes not from Crystal malts rather from low hopping, high mash temperatures, and kettle caramelization.
  • A small proportion of Smoked malted barley may add depth, though a peaty character (sometimes perceived as earthy or smoky) may also originate from the yeast and native water.
  • Hop presence is minimal, although English varieties are most authentic.
  • Fairly soft water is typical.

What next?

Our next article will look at BJCP Category 10, ‘American Ale‘, where we will examine the three styles making up this category.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please do not hesitate to contribute to the discussion below.

* Beer Styles’ data is courtesy of BJCP.org.

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