Scotch ale is a member of the pale ale family, which is known for its high alcohol content and rich, malty flavor. In addition to being produced in Scotland, it is also brewed by a number of overseas brewing companies, and this beer is especially popular in Germany and the United States. Many pubs carry a Scotch ale on tap, and it can also be found for sale in bottled form at markets and liquor stores.
The distinctive profile of Scotch ale is a reflection of the environment where it was developed. Scotland's climate is not very conducive to growing hops, and, as a result, traditional ales from this region tend to lack a strong hoppy flavor, because hops would have been scarce historically. Instead, the beer has a very rich, smoky flavor from the smoked barley that is commonly included in the brewing process, It also has a strong malted tone, which can cause the ale to have a slightly sweet, peaty flavor that many people describe as “earthy.”
People have been making beer in Scotland for centuries, but the modern form of this ale appears to have emerged in the 1800s. By tradition, it is very strong, ensuring that it will hold up through transport and storage, and the color can range from a light amber to a dark brown, depending on the ingredients included in the brewing process. The alcohol content varies, with many Scotch ales clocking in at well over 7% alcohol by volume (ABV), and rarely dipping below 5.5% ABV; the higher ABV explains the alternate name, “wee heavy.”
Typically, Scotch ale is cellared in a cool environment, and it may be stored for an extended period of time, thanks to the high alcohol content, which keeps it from going off. A good ale is very smooth, with a full body that can make it a rather filling beer, and a complex assortment of flavors that develop slowly as the beer is drunk.
The richness of Scotch ale usually prevents people from consuming too much, but consumers should be careful about drinking beer with a high ABV, especially in the case of lighter ales. It is possible to become quite intoxicated without fully realizing it, and this can be quite dangerous. People should drink this beer slowly, to give themselves time to appreciate it.