Homebrew Recipe #1: Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

One of my goals for this site is to keep better records of the beer I brew.  When I started brewing, my partner and I kept a journal with notes on each batch we made.  At some point, I switched to keeping records on my computer, via a software package that calculated estimated gravity, color, etc.  But when I purchased a new computer about two years ago, I didn’t bother reinstalling the software, and since then I have no good records of the exact recipes I’ve made, or how close I came to hitting target gravity, etc.

Mostly this hasn’t been an issue; We’ve had no trouble making beer in a variety of styles that people enjoy drinking.  But now I’m looking to expand my range of styles; to hit my figures with a little more accuracy; and now that I’ve got this blog, to share these recipes with you.

So with that in mind, here’s the most recent beer to hit the fermenter.  It’s my first effort at a Scotch Wee Heavy.  I put the recipe together with my usual approach for a style I don’t know well: I found a random recipe online, and modified it moderately after reading the relevant chapter in Designing Great Beers.

This is a 10.5 gallon recipe, as we’re shooting for 5 gallons each into two fermenters.

Grain Bill:

  • 24 lbs 2-row Pale Malt (I used British Optic malt)
  • 4 lbs Light Munich Malt
  • 2 lbs 80L Crystal Malt
  • 2 lbs CaraPils
  • 0.5 lbs Roast Barley
  • 0.3 lbs Peated Malt

Other Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Cascade hops @ 60 minutes
  • 1 oz Goldings hops @ 30 minutes
  • Irish Moss
  • Yeast Nutrient

Strong Scotch ales is quite different than most of the beers we make, which tend to a West Coast style (either hoppy, or for lightly hopped beers, fairly dry). It’s a strongly malty style.  I took nearly every route to achieving this in this beer, and it may prove to be overkill.

The target OG is 1.079 (I use 70% as an estimate for extraction on our grains), and we’ve hopped it to about 25 IBUs, for a gravity-to-bitterness ratio of about 3-to-1.  The G-to-B ratio is an important metric in understanding how your beer will come across, since body and bitterness will cancel each other out somewhat on the palate.  A very hoppy beer will have a G-to-B of 1-to-1 (or in the Pacific Northwest, where we are crazy hopheads, less than 1-to-1!).  A fairly hoppy beer may hit 3-to-2; this is not uncommon for the pale beers that TDW makes and consumes on a regular basis.

The CaraPils will add body.  Some homebrewers regard CaraPils as unnecessary for brewing in general.  They may be right. CaraPils is a light-colored malt that contributes unfermentable dextrins to your beer, bringing a fuller mouthfeel. The experienced homebrewer can control the fermentability of the wort through mash temperature.  If we brew this beer again, I may look at eliminating this ingredient.  Adjusting a recipe after you’ve made it once or twice is much easier than doing it in your head.

We mashed hot, as is typical for the style, at 158F, which will contribute more unfermentable dextrins to the beer. Most of the time, we shoot for a mash temperature of 154F or so, which is the most basic, middle of the road mash temperature.

And finally, we collected an extra half-gallon or so of sparge water, which we reduced with a long boil to caramelize the wort a bit.  All of these things should add up to a very full bodied beer.

We’re fermenting with Wyeast’s 1728 Scottish Ale yeast.  The Scots brewing tradition is one of cool fermentations (’cause, uh, it’s cold in Scotland), and the yeasts used tend to like a long, slow ferment, at near lager temperatures.  Our basement in winter here should be almost ideal for this, but it’s still a little warm down there.  The ambient temperature is about 60F, and the wort has hung out in the mid 60s for the first few days of fermentation.  Ideally, it would be below 60.

In my opinion, fermentation temperature is perhaps the single most under-appreciated tool in the homebrewer’s kit.  In general, consistent temperature seems to be more important than ideal temperature, to a point.  You’re not going to make good American Pale Ales if you have a rock-steady 80F fermentation environment.  One of the projects I’ve been thinking about for a couple years, and which I’m hoping to document for The Daily Wort, is a fermentation chamber for temperature control.

This beer hit target gravity almost exactly, coming in at about 1.080.  I’m planning on giving it a generous time in primary on the yeast–three or four weeks–before racking it to secondary to age another month or two.  Big beers like this will almost always take time to come together, flavorwise.   I’ll update here with terminal gravity and taste notes as we go.

If you have experience with this style, or notes on the recipe, or you decide to brew this recipe, I’d love to hear from you.  Cheers!

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One Response to “Homebrew Recipe #1: Wee Heavy Scotch Ale”

  1. Maragret Musser Says:

    I love the post. It looks delicious. Kudos!

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