Scottish accents are fun, aren’t they? You get to talk in the back of your throat and say even the happiest, prettiest things while sounding like a maniacal lunatic. Robin Williams was never funnier than when he was talking about Scottish accents, or Scotland in general (I’m not going to link it here, because it is decidedly R rated, but go find his bit on YouTube about Scotland and golf). I once tried to walk into a pub in Edinburgh, and it took me three minutes to understand that the doorman wouldn’t let me in because I was wearing blue jeans. Ask me to tell you the story sometime. Writing it just won’t do it justice.
Accents aside, there’s plenty to take seriously about Scotland. Like booze, for example. The Scottish people take their alcohol very seriously. And while they may be best known for their whiskey, they’ve been brewing beer in Scotland for about 5000 years, so one would think they know what they’re doing there, too. The typical Scottish ale is strong and hearty, dark, malty and full bodied. It’s also generally high in alcohol content. Like the Highlands themselves, a Scottish Ale is not for the faint of heart.
As the temperatures continue to fall, then, and as we brace ourselves for the coming winter, it makes sense that Imminent Brewing would pick this time to introduce our very first Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Ode to a Thistle.
“This ale is very malty and rich,” said Brewmaster Randy Clay. “It’s also pretty high gravity. It’s 10.7% ABV, so it’s definitely a Wintertime sipper.”
“A Strong Scotch Ale, particular this one, is very malty beer that has notes of toasted bread and toffee. It’s not earthy or peaty like in scotch whiskey. There’s no smoke to it. At 10.7% there is definitely a pronounced alcoholic warmth that you get when you drink this beer, but it’s not harsh or unpleasant. You can’t smell it. You don’t get it until you drink it, and then, it’s like ‘Whoo, now that’s a 10% beer because now I’m all warm.’”
It’s called a Wee Heavy because, in Scotland when beers get to be so high in alcohol content like this one, they’re only sold in small amounts. A “Heavy” is a strong beer. “Wee,” of course, means small. A Wee Heavy is a beer that won’t take much to get you going, so you don’t need a lot of it. (This is all according to Wikipedia, by the way. You can look it up.) As such, we’ll be following Scottish tradition with this beer.
“We won’t serve it in pints, and we won’t serve it in Growlers,” said Randy. “This is more of a beer lovers beer. This is for the educated pallet. It’s not a Gateway. You wouldn’t hand someone a 10.7% Wee Heavy and say, ‘Hey this is what Craft Beer is all about.’
“This is for the smaller glasses and the Howlers.”
There’s a story behind that name, Ode to a Thistle, by the way. It’s a way for us to give credit where credit is due.
“Our friend Steve Finnie is a Scottish brewer that owns Little Thistle Brewing in Rochester. The Thistle is the national symbol of Scotland. When I was coming up with this idea for a Scotch Ale, I called Steve to pick his brain. I was asking him about the yeast, because usually when we brew we have two different kinds of yeast that we use, but on these one-offs you want to a yeast strain that is specific to that style of beer. So while I was asking for input, Steve just said he has more yeast than he knows what to do with, and he offered to give us some. We accepted, and it made this big giant beer that we’re really happy with.
“In honor of Steve and his generosity, we’ve named the beer Ode to a Thistle.”
There are big plans for the big beer, too. For quite some time now, even before we opened, the plan has been to offer some high ABV, barrel aged beers. The first was the American Strong Ale, Miles to Goat, that we offered this past spring (the barrel aged version, by the way, is coming at the beginning of next month). This is the second style that we’ll put into whiskey barrels to age. Randy is really excited about this one, in particular.
“What’s kind of nice about this beer is that it will get better with age. Even the beer that we’re kegging now and not putting into barrels will get better.
“We’re going to take a couple kegs of the Wee Heavy and put them aside so we can serve it again in a year, when the beer that we’re barreling is ready. It’ll be cool to have a barreled version and an unbarreled version.”
Randy is a guy who gets excited about all of our beers, but he’s particularly happy with Ode to a Thistle and all the different variations we’re going to be able to offer.
“This was always the plan,” he said. “It’s a style I really enjoy.
“I’m really happy to unleash this on the public.”