Alright, let me just say at the outset: I fucking hate scotch ales. Across the board, even when they are perfectly executed I always quaff them and wonder why the base beer wasn’t tossed in a barrel. It’s like when you have an American Barleywine and go “God damnit, drop this shit on oak, stop giving me these malty hjs.” Even when scotch ales at at their best, I feel like they lack that depth or complexity to get that perineum pounding. Too deep to be refreshing, not enough depth to hit Sartre introspective ass levels, just a classic style in the flux of modern labiamouths.
Anyway, let’s see if this beer can turn the tide and make me embrace the kilt.
Full disclosure, this was sent to me by a friend of the brewery, but that won’t stop me from pushing 5 digits in deep. I keep it 300 like the Romans, 300 tickers, get the trojans.
Highland Brewing, Asheville North Carolina
20th Anniversary – Scotch Ale
A: This is darker than the average deep garnet/light plum/dark amber I am used to from the style, but seems legit through and through. The cling is substantial and the carb is impressive, them residual husks ripping sick webs on the edges like a Red Bull video for people from the South who don’t snowboard. Actually, NC probably has snowboarding, I don’t geography that hard. The edges allow some light to permeate letting them copper notes finally out. This appears to be closer to a Wee Heavy, but it’s not like anyone is gonna give a fuck. Sorry for not serving it in a thistle glass, but I am not a virgin who collects glasses like TMNT action figures.
S: This has a huge malty presence, sweet toastiness with a burnt caramel not unlike the top of creme brulee, some earthiness, cherry and fig, and a mineral finish. This smells remarkably similar to Old Chubb and things in that realm. You remember in the early 2000’s when that dude busted out a SKull Splitter and you thought he was hard as fuck? Well open this at a tasting with newbs and they will be on your malty tip. It’s not a substantial as some wee heavies out there but also far more complex than your standard Scotch ale. That penumbra is banging.
T: The dark fruit is more pronounced in the taste, you get a sort of overripe plum, black cherry, toasty maltiness like rye bread, and a dry finish like pumpernickle. I am going to take a wild stab and guess that NC/Highland Brewing has some hard fucking water. Like the water is getting choked and three fingers put in its mouth, that hard. Otherwise, they approximated the White Cliffs of Dover with some gypsum because the finish is mineral and incredibly crisp for the substantial malt bill. In this instance I almost find the hard water/on-style to be a fault because I want that linger and that cling, this brings out the hops and IBUs over what should be the star of the show. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s like in Mario Party when someone steals one of your stars and you are just like “the fuck, why does life be like this.” I just want them malts to be turnt up.
M: My previously hard water and mineral aspects boost this section because its easily the most clean and drinkable scotch ale this side of Backwoods Bastard. It gives with one hand and takes with another. If you let this hit the low 60s, the malts open up and give a nice dark bready note like BITCH IM BACK OUT OF MY COMA. I guess you can tailor your experience, I just fucked up and skulled too much early on while playing Bioshock Infinite because, can’t be waiting when Columbia needs me.
D: Again, if you keep this cold in the 50s, you can drill an 8% bomber with zero fucks to spare, but I don’t know if that’s the most advisable path. I would say make this less drinkable, let it open up, jump into those malts deep like the baby from the “Nevermind” cover and just let them wash over you. Again, is this some game changer that will make you start buying brewers mags and stroking it to scotch ales? Probably not. However, it is probably one of the best iterations of the style I have had. Scotch ales in general remind me of the Pontiac Aztek where on paper it’s like “alright it’s got a tent, it can go offroad, it’s kind a SUV, it-” but at the end of the day you be like “why am I not just drinking a barleywine?” Still a legit beer, if not anoos expanding.
Narrative: Aodhan Scottingshire gripped the edges of his IKEA desk with rapacious tenacity. After searching through hundreds of uninspired aisles, through generic stores, stocked with the same products, he was convinced that no one in North Carolina understood his ginger propensities. His red curls fell forward over his face as he took a brief sojourn out into the Appalachia wilderness, his pale skin cooking under the 53 degree sunlight. “Why, why inbev, those times when I needed you most, when I sobbed into my kilt and the kids at school pissed in my bagpipes, why did you foresake me with adjunct lagers?” he lamented to the poplars. Just then a stout fire bearded woodsman emerged from the brush, looking not unlike a Goron covered in red hair. “Aye, I too knay ye layments ahll too wail laddie-” he extended a plaid flask and allowed Aodhan to pull deeply from it. “THIS SWEET NECTAR, the arbitrary power of my ancestors and an even more obscure brewing heritage, running through my VEINS!” Aodhan exclaimed and began to embrace his true Scottish nature. He staggered about the sagebrush with deep desires to yell at a soccer match. The Scottish metamorphosis was complete.