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Wee Heavy

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Wee Heavy, also known as Strong Scotch Ale or 90 Shilling (sometimes abbreviated 90/-), is the strongest of the Scottish beer styles, with alcohol content and original gravity in some cases rivaling Barley Wine. Like many Scottish beers, it is sweet and malt-oriented. Although sometimes called 90/-, the actual tax rates on this beer could be as high as 160/- for the strongest versions.

Contents

History of Wee Heavy

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Types of Wee Heavy

As with all Scottish beer styles, there is no good evidence of peat smoked malt, which was commonly used in making whiskey, being used in the brewing of Wee Heavy. However, some modern brewers both inside and outside of Scotland have used this traditional Scotch malt in brewing as well, usually in the heavier beers such as Scottish Export Ale and especially Wee Heavy.

Brewing Wee Heavy

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Competition Styles

The BJCP recognizes Wee Heavy, and the GABF also defines a separate style for versions brewed with peat smoked malt.

BJCP Style Guidelines

Strong Scotch Ale

9E. Strong Scotch Ale Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 17-35 SRM: 14-25 OG: 1.070-1.130 FG: 1.018-1.030+ ABV: 6.5-10
Aroma: Deeply malty, with caramel often apparent. Peaty, earthy and/or smoky secondary aromas may also be present, adding complexity. Caramelization often is mistaken for diacetyl, which should be low to none. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are often present in stronger versions. Hops are very low to none.
Appearance: Light copper to dark brown color, often with deep ruby highlights. Clear. Usually has a large tan head, which may not persist in stronger versions. Legs may be evident in stronger versions.
Flavor: Deeply malty, with caramel often apparent. Peaty, earthy and/or smoky secondary aromas may also be present, adding complexity. Caramelization often is mistaken for diacetyl, which should be low to none. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are often present in stronger versions. Hops are very low to none.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full to full-bodied, with some versions (but not all) having a thick, chewy viscosity. A smooth, alcoholic warmth is usually present and is quite welcome since it balances the malty sweetness. Moderate carbonation.
Overall Impression: Deeply malty, with caramel often apparent. Peaty, earthy and/or smoky secondary aromas may also be present, adding complexity. Caramelization often is mistaken for diacetyl, which should be low to none. Low to moderate esters and alcohol are often present in stronger versions. Hops are very low to none.
History: not specified
Comments: Also known as a "wee heavy." Fermented at cooler temperatures than most ales, and with lower hopping rates, resulting in clean, intense malt flavors. Well suited to the region of origin, with abundant malt and cool fermentation and aging temperature. Hops, which are not native to Scotland and formerly expensive to import, were kept to a minimum.
Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt, with up to 3% roasted barley. May use some crystal malt 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 malt 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.
Commercial Examples: Traquair House Ale, Orkney Skull Splitter, McEwan's Scotch Ale, MacAndrew's Scotch Ale, Belhaven Wee Heavy, Broughton Old Jock, Scotch du Silly, Gordon Highland Scotch Ale, Founders Dirty Bastard


GABF Style Listings

Traditional Strong Scotch Ale

71A. Traditional Strong Scotch Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Scotch ales are overwhelmingly malty and full bodied. Perception of hop bitterness is very low. Hop flavor and aroma are very low or nonexistent. Color ranges from deep copper to brown. The clean alcohol flavor balances the rich and dominant sweet maltiness in flavor and aroma. A caramel character is often a part of the profile. Dark roasted malt flavors and aroma may be evident at low levels. Fruity esters are generally at medium aromatic and flavor levels. Low diacetyl levels are acceptable. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Because there is little evidence suggesting that traditionally made strong Scotch ales exhibited peat smoke character, entries in this subcategory will not exhibit peaty/smoky character.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.072-1.085 (18-21 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.016-1.028 (4-7 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5.2-6.7% (6.2-8%)
Bitterness (IBU): 25-35
Color SRM (EBC): 15-30 (30-60 EBC)


Peated Strong Scotch Ale

71B. Peated Strong Scotch Ale
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Scotch ales are overwhelmingly malty and full bodied. Perception of hop bitterness is very low. Hop flavor and aroma are very low or nonexistent. Color ranges from deep copper to brown. The clean alcohol flavor balances the rich and dominant sweet maltiness in flavor and aroma. A caramel character is often a part of the profile. Dark roasted malt flavors and aroma may be evident at low levels. Fruity esters are generally at medium aromatic and flavor levels. Low diacetyl levels are acceptable. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Though there is little evidence suggesting that traditionally made strong Scotch ales exhibited peat smoke character, the current marketplace offers many strong Scotch ales with peat or smoke character present at low to medium levels. Thus entries in this subcategory may exhibit a peaty/smoky character at low levels (ales with medium or higher smoke character would be considered a smoke flavored beer and considered in another category).
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.072-1.085 (18-21 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.016-1.028 (4-7 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 5.2-6.7% (6.2-8%)
Bitterness (IBU): 25-35
Color SRM (EBC): 15-30 (30-60 EBC)