A Wee Heavy, or a Scotch Ale as it is also known, is a very malty, high ABV dark beer that is popular to drink in the winter months – particularly around Christmas and New Year.
Interested in brewing a Wee Heavy at some point in the near future? If so, here are some of the malts we can deliver to you to make this beer.
What is a Wee Heavy or Scotch Ale?
The Wee Heavy originated in – you guessed it – Scotland, in the 18th century.
Its rich flavours and full mouthfeel come as a result of the malt profile taking centre stage in this style, as opposed to the hops.
The Wee Heavy, in fact, contains very little in the way of hops. According to Ian Donnachie’s book, A history of the brewing industry in Scotland, back in the 18th century they were expensive to ship north from the English hop-growing regions, let alone from abroad.
Scotland and northern England, however, is renowned for the high-quality malting barley it produces. So when it came to making beer relatively cheaply, being malt-forward was the way to go.
As you may have guessed by the name, Wee Heavy, the style is high in alcohol content. It is usually somewhere between 5.5% and 9% and, as a result, tends to be consumed in small volumes.
More recently, the Wee Heavy has found a niche popularity in the craft beer market in the USA. However, many of the American takes on the Wee Heavy tend to be quite different to those of the UK. With the style also known as Scotch Ale, those connotations with whisky have led many of the American adaptations to include peated malt, giving the finished beer a smokier taste.
Base Malt for a Wee Heavy
Best Pale Ale Malt – A Wee Heavy is known for its rich, malty flavour, and that’s exactly what Best Pale Ale brings to beer. Here at Simpsons Malt, we use top quality UK two-row barley to produce a plump, well-modified and versatile malt with good extract and enzymic activity – perfect for this high ABV beer. Finest Pale Ale Maris Otter can also be used for a Wee Heavy. Like Best Pale Ale, it has a colour (EBC) of 4.0-6.0 and also delivers that rich, malty flavour. This legendary, heritage barley variety is used as a base malt in many traditional English beers and gives exceptional performance in the brewhouse.
Check out all of our Base Malts HERE.
Crystal Malt for a Wee Heavy
Simpsons DRC® – In the brewing process, the sweet flavours of the Wee Heavy traditionally come as a result of a long boil in the kettle, which caramelises the wort. However, darker crystal malts can be used in small amounts to further enhance the flavour profile of the beer. Simpsons DRC® can be used in strong ales and, due to its unique production process – it is roasted twice, hence the acronym DRC for double-roasted crystal – it substitutes darker roasted malts in dark beers where the astringency and bitterness inherent to roast malts is not desired. This means that it can be used at a higher rate in the grist to add complex caramel and dried fruit notes with a beautiful red-brown hue. Other darker crystal malts can be used too. Crystal Dark gives flavours of burnt caramel, toffee and raisins, while Crystal Extra Dark imparts flavours like Christmas cake.
Check out all of our Crystal Malts HERE.
Roasted Malt & Grains for a Wee Heavy
Roasted Barley – A Wee Heavy is dark in colour – veering from a deep red to black. That colour is made by adding darker malts and grains to the grist. Roasted Barley is one of the products that can be used. It is different to our other roasted products in that it doesn’t go through the germination process, instead going straight into the roasting drum at a very high temperature. The result is an intense roasted coffee flavour that bestows a deep, dark colours to match. Neptune Brewery in Liverpool recently used Roasted Barley as part of the grist in their Wee Heavy, called Kelpie. Our Black Malt can also be used in the Wee Heavy style. It is excellent for darkening beer colour without imparting too much astringency or roast characteristics, with the flavour being surprisingly neutral.
Check out all of our Roasted Malts & Grains HERE.
Check out the best malts for other beer styles
- The Best Malts to use for an English Pale Ale
- Brewing a Wheat Beer? These are the malts you should be using
- The Best Malts to use for a New England IPA
- West Coast IPA: The lowdown on the malts you need to brew one
- The Best Malts to use for a Stout
- The Best Malts to use for a Porter
Photographed beer: Neptune Brewery – Kelpie