Scotch Ale is the name given to a strong pale ale believed to have originated in Edinburgh in the 18th century. Beers using the designation Scotch Ale are popular in the USA where most examples are brewed locally. Examples of Scotch Ale brewed in Scotland are exported to the USA, though may be available in Scotland under a different name. For example, Caledonian's Edinburgh Scotch Ale is sold from the cask in Scotland as Edinburgh Strong Ale or as Edinburgh Tattoo.
Strong Scotch Ale is also known as "Wee Heavy". Examples of beers brewed in the USA under the name Wee Heavy tend to be 7% abv and higher, while Scottish-brewed examples, such as Belhaven's Wee Heavy, can be found between 5.5% and 6.5% abv. On the other hand, Scottish brewed exceptions include Traquair House Ale which is brewed to a strength of 7.2% abv, and Traquair Jacobite Ale which is 8% abv. McEwan's scotch ale is also 8% abv.
As with other examples of strong pale ales, such as Barley Wine, these beers tend toward sweetness and a full body, with a low hop flavor and aroma. Historical hop levels are debated. Examples from the Caledonian brewery would have toffee notes from the caramelizing of the malt from the direct fired copper. This caramelizing of Caledonian's beers is popular in America and has led many American brewers to produce toffee sweet beers which they would label as a Scotch Ale.
Even though the malt used by brewers in Scotland is not generally or traditionally dried by peat burning, some Scottish whisky distilleries use low nitrogen barley dried by peat burning. The distinctive flavor of these smoked malts when used in beers is reminiscent of whisky, and such beers are popular in France, Belgium and America. These beers are often named Whiskey Ale or Scotch Ale by the brewers. The most popular French example is Fischer's Adelscott, while the most popular American example is Samuel Adams Scotch Ale. The brewer Douglas Ross of the Bridge of Allan brewery made the first Scottish example of one of these Whiskey Ales for the Tullibardine Distillery in 2006. In North East England, Best Scotch refers to a beer similar to Mild Ale but with a drier, more burnt palate.
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