Saturday, May 6, 2023

Scotland: Rich

Scotland: Rich

You know how the French treasure their wine, right? Scotch whisky is Scotland's equivalent - it's a national treasure steeped in tradition and regional distinctiveness. But let's put whisky aside for a moment. There's another drink that holds a special place in Scottish hearts - yes, you've got it, it's beer. With a brewing tradition going back over 5,000 years, the Scots have mastered the art of making beer for quite some time.

From the dark, malty ales found in the Highlands to the zesty, hop-centric beers from the Lowlands, a wide spectrum of brews captures the essence of Scotland's varied and dramatic landscapes. So, why should whisky get all the attention? Let's toast to Scotland's long and rich tradition of brewing and find out what sets it apart. You might stumble upon your next go-to ale during this journey.

History of Scottish Brewing

If we turn the pages back on Scotland's brewing history, we find an interesting tale dating back about 4,000 years. Our ancestors, the Picts, were the first brewers, using barley grains and heather from the Isle of Rhum. Their efforts laid the groundwork for a brewing tradition that has stood the test of time, showing the resilience and creativity of the Scottish people.

Brewing wasn't just a hobby but a cornerstone of Scottish society. When religious communities set up shop in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, brewing was part of the package. These monasteries were our first commercial breweries, pivotal in developing the brewing industry we know today. In the 1400s, secular breweries began to pop up, marking the start of modern Scottish brewing.

Our beer, with its distinct Scottish character, is renowned worldwide. Unlike English beers, Scottish brews are lighter, less hopped, and have lower attenuation. This unique combination gives our beers their signature taste and appeal.

Our traditional ales, like the 70/- Scottish heavy, 80/- Scottish export, and strong Scotch ale, took off after World War II. These ales are on the darker, fuller, and sweeter side. They have different alcohol content and maltiness levels, differentiated by shilling designations, which harken back to the tax on beer.

As a Scot, I'm deeply proud of our brewing history. It's a symbol of our tenacity, inventiveness, and our unwavering dedication to quality.

Traditional Scottish Ale Styles

When thinking about the rich history of brewing in Scotland, we can't help but delve into the various traditional Scottish ale styles. Each has a unique taste and is special in our national flavour palette.

Some of the most famous styles are the 70/- Scottish heavy, 80/- Scottish export, and the hearty, strong Scotch ale. These ales have deep roots in our culture and took their contemporary shape after the Second World War, showing how resilient we Scots are. The lesser-known 60/- Scottish light style, usually served in cask form, is a clear example of the variety of our brewing history.

Scottish ales are quite different from their English counterparts regarding balance and flavour. They are recognized for their:

  • Full-bodied malt character, often revealing caramel and toffee nuances
  • Delicate hop bitterness, enabling the malt to be the star of the show
  • Faint smoky trace, acknowledging the traditional use of peat in malting

Intriguingly, the term "shilling" was initially used to denote the price of beer in hogshead casks, a fun fact that tells us much about the sensible nature of our ancestors.

Drinking these traditional ales is not just about quenching your thirst; it's about participating in a rich, cultural journey carefully brewed and honed over hundreds of years. We're not just savouring malt and hops but the enthusiasm of our brewers and the soul of our nation. In this sense, each gulp of a traditional Scottish ale reaffirms our connection to this esteemed legacy.

Evolution of Modern Scottish Beers

Looking at the modern evolution of Scottish beers, it's truly interesting to see how the brewing styles of old adapted and changed after World War II. The aftermath gave rise to traditional brew styles like the 70/- Scottish heavy, the 80/- Scottish export, and the hearty, strong Scotch ale. These ales are unique, leaning towards a maltier taste, often darker and fuller body. This is a result of cooler fermentation temperatures and shorter boiling durations.

Scottish beers are their own breed, differing from English with lighter strength, lower attenuation, and higher lingering sweetness. Their dark shade is often linked to the use of caramel. Seasoned brewers such as Michael Jackson, Roger Protz, and Greg Noonan have highlighted the consistent use of ingredients in Scottish ales, specifically pale ale malt, black malt, and crystal malt.

However, modern Scottish brewing is about more than staying true to the old ways. With over 70 breweries, it's a lively scene offering a wide array of ales, porters, stouts, and lagers. While the maltiness is often highlighted, brewers are fearless in experimenting with other styles. This shows their grit and innovative spirit, pushing limits while staying true to their rich brewing history.

You're not just having a drink when you enjoy a Scottish beer. You're participating in a tradition that's been meticulously crafted and refined over the centuries. It's not just a beverage; it's a celebration of Scottish tenacity, creativity, and flavour. Each sip pays homage to the evolution of a rich brewing tradition.

Spotlight on New Scotland Brewing

Let's focus on an exceptional example of Scottish brewing heritage - the New Scotland Brewing. Known for its wonderful blend of tradition and innovation, this brewery crafts beers that stand out.

Situated right in the heart of Downtown Dartmouth, New Scotland Brewing stands as a shining symbol of maritime culture and community spirit. Their range of craft beers is diverse, appealing to those who love traditional Scottish ale and those who enjoy trying out new and experimental brews.

Here are a few things that set New Scotland Brewing apart:

  • Their lively tasting room is always buzzing with activity. It's a place to enjoy live music and special events and feel a part of the community.
  • They have an experimental series of craft beers that push the envelope. They always introduce interesting, local flavours - wild blueberries and honey.
  • They're committed to educating visitors about the brewing process. It's not just about enjoying the beer but also about understanding how it's made.

New Scotland Brewing is a reflection of Nova Scotia's deep-rooted brewing tradition. They combine modern craft beer innovation with age-old heritage. The result is a unique mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the experimental - a perfect representation of the diverse and changing world of Scottish brewing.

Sampling Scotland's Iconic Beers

So, are you ready to embark on a journey into the heart of Scotland's brewing tradition? Let's explore some of the most iconic Scottish beers, known for their rich, malty flavours and distinctive darker shades. We're stepping into a realm where traditional Scottish heavy, export, and strong Scotch ale are the show's stars, with the somewhat elusive 60/- Scottish light adding a dash of intrigue.

Scottish ales stand out from their English neighbours, famed for their full-bodied richness that lingers sweetly on your palate. Traditional ingredients like pale ale malt, black malt, and crystal malt shape the flavour profile. These are not just any beers; they're a sensory journey that tells the story of Scotland's rich history.

These beers are classified by shilling designations, a throwback to a time when the cost of a beer was determined by its alcohol content. Ranging from the milder 60-shilling to the bolder 70-shilling and 80-shilling types, each boasts unique character and alcohol by volume range. It's akin to a flavour roadmap, guiding you through the depth and diversity of Scotland's brewing heritage.

Let's also touch on the resurgence of these ales. Brands like Belhaven 60/- and McEwan's 70/- are gaining traction, particularly in Europe. They serve as evidence of the lasting allure of Scottish ales, proving these time-honoured beers can stand their ground in today's market.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of beer in Scotland?

I've done quite a bit of reading up on the history of brewing in Scotland. Believe it or not, it goes way back to 6500 BC! Scotland has a deep-seated brewing tradition, famous for their robust, flavourful ales. Their unique brewing methods are incredibly intriguing - a key part of their cultural fabric.

Why Is Bitter Called Heavy in Scotland?

You might wonder why people in Scotland refer to bitterness as 'heavy.' Well, it's pretty simple. This nickname comes from this type of beer having a greater sweetness, less alcohol content, and a darker hue. It's like comparing two different types of fruit, say apples and oranges. Scottish beers are distinct in their own right; they have a unique balance that sets them apart from English brews.

What Is Scotland's National Beer?

So, let's chat about Scotland's signature beer - it's typically a Scottish ale. This isn't your everyday beer - rich, malty, and dark. There are several varieties to savour - like the 70/- Scottish heavy, the 80/- Scottish export, and the strong Scotch ale. Each one has its own unique taste that sets it apart. So, if you're looking for something different to try, these Scottish ales could be the thing!

What Is a Heavy Beer in Scotland?

Over in Scotland, when someone talks about a 'heavy' beer, they're most likely referring to the traditional brews known as 70/- or 80/- shilling beers. These beverages have a strong malt flavour, deeper colour, and a full body. You might even catch a hint of caramel when you take a sip. And let me tell you, they differ from the beers you'd find in England. They have their own unique Scottish twist.