Beer Review: Big Sky Brewing Co., Heavy Horse Scotch Ale

I have been remiss in posting, congregants, I know. Trust me, it is not because there has not been good beer about which I could write.  There has been plenty to write, but not enough time to write it in.  Last night, I had a beer for the first time, which I thoroughly enjoyed: Heavy Horse Scotch Ale from Big Sky Brewing Co. These are the fine folks who brought you the fantastic Moose Drool Brown Ale, among other excellent ales. This Scotch Ale from them continues the line in a very pleasant way. Continue reading to find out what I mean.

Many of you may know that my favorite style is Scotch Ale.  This does not necessarily mean I’m the most discerning, snobby Scotch Ale enjoyer you’re likely to come across.  Rather, I appreciate many different interpretations of this style, and make allowances for difference in vision when it comes to a unique take on the style.  However, Heavy Horse is a more traditional offering of this fine style. On to the review!

Appearance – The appearance of this beer is exactly what you’d hope for in a Scotch Ale. Rich, dark, copper, hinting at glorious, malty depths. A cream colored head, which stays around in a thin layer, and slight lacing throughout your enjoyment of this beer. The gorgeous deep copper-brown color is really quite remarkable. This evening, I have one poured into a full imperial pint glass, and the glints of copper and ruby redness are tantalizing, indeed.

Aroma – Sweet malt, slight alcohol, and a fruitiness that could come from slightly high fermentation temperatures, or else maybe a bit of mishandling on its way to my fridge. Nothing unpleasant, and no over-the-top banana esters that show mistreatment. A very pleasant aroma, which promises malty sweetness to come.

Mouthfeel – An area which must be prominent in a scotch ale is mouthfeel. Traditionally, the scots mashed at much higher temperatures than we do today. It is technically cheating to use dextrin malts or caramel malts to add mouthfeel. Instead you much use a preponderance of malt to both give you the unfermentable sugars at the high temperatures, but enough of it so that a significant portion of the starches are converted into fermentable sugars so you have enough alcohol to satisfy the style. It is a unique balancing act, and Big Sky truly pulls it off.  It manages to be chewy without being overly syrupy. The carbonation cuts the thickness significantly, but it would definitely be interesting to try this from a cask!

Flavor – Sweet, slight smoke (which could be roasted barley combined with alcohol, not necessarily peated or smoked malt). If I had to be slightly negative, I could say that the sweetness almost seems…sugary?  Let me be clear, they did NOT add sugar, but I get a slight sucrose flavor.  It does not detract from this delightful beer. Slight fruity notes on the finish, like dark currant, berry.

Overall – Unlike many Scotch Ale offerings, Big Sky’s contender is an eminently drinkable beer. At 6.7%, it’s not going to knock you out if you drink more than one, but it’s not a session beer. As the Heavy Horse name implies it is definitely a wee heavy, and not a 30/~ or thereabouts offering.  Overall, if I see this again, I will get it.  I don’t get enough Scotch Ale in my town and if the Sunflower Market around here will continue to carry it when it is available, I will pick up as much as I can!  Thanks, Big Sky!

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