Three Local Scotch or Brown Ales

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

While making a futile attempt to leave the beer section of Pairings in Minnetonka with less than $50 in brew, I came across Brau Brothers’ Scotch Ale and felt compelled to give this easygoing, sweet, full-bodied, caramel malty style a shot. It’s substantial and complex enough to be good cold-weather drinking, but not as fiercely hibernal as a Russian imperial stout or a robust porter.

Within moments of picking up the Scotch Ale, the helpful clerk at Pairings had sold me on trying out Shaggin’ in the Wood, part of Tyranena’s Brewers Gone Wild! series described by its creators as “70% Scotch Ale aged in Bourbon barrels and 30% Scotch Ale.”

And, hell, to round things out, why not sample Chestnut Hill by Lift Bridge Brewing? Not a Scotch Ale per se, but this American-style spicy brown ale certainly wouldn’t taste out of place alongside the Brau Bros. and Tyranena offerings.

The plan had been to suggest one or two of these beers as being preferable to one or two of the others, but they’re all eminently drinkable and beautifully crafted specimens. You can’t go wrong.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

BEER: Shaggin’ in the Wood
BREWER: Tyranena Brewing Company (Lake Mills, WI)
STYLE: Bourbon barrel-aged Scotch Ale
ABV: ~7.25%

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The first sip strongly suggests the barrels in which this beer was aged — wood and bourbon come right through. There’s a borderline grape-tasting pungency to this beer that would be unpleasant were it not so nicely balanced by a caramel-coffee undernote. It’s got a real sweetness to it, but it’s not cloying, and it conveys a wonderful sense of warmth.

BEER: Scotch Ale
BREWER: Brau Brothers Brewing Company (Lucan, MN)
STYLE: Scotch Ale with peat-smoked malt
ABV: 7.30%

The first sip of this stuff tasted like a charcoal-grilled satsuma, and that’s a good thing — the citrus and smoke really complemented one another. A balanced, almost cherry finish made this a fun imbibe, even with its pronounced alcohol back.

BEER: Chestnut Hill
BREWER: Lift Bridge Brewery (Stillwater, MN)
STYLE: Brown Ale with cinnamon and allspice
ABV: 7%

Smells like a caramel apple pie — absolutely delightful. Mellow, mild, and gently carbonated, this beer shows off Lift Bridge’s trademark sense of balance — it’s also not overspiced, even though the cinnamon and allspice do come through in the beer. The spices and hops intermingle pleasantly, and there’s an almost maple syrup sweetness up front.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


  1. Chris

    The Brau Brother’s Scotch is arguably my favorite scotch ale – glad to see it getting some praise. Haven’t had the Tyranena yet, but definitely a fan of the brewery (especially the Brewers Gone Wild series).

  2. Andy

    Brau Brother’s changed both the name and the recipe for the Scotch Ale. I haven’t had a chance to try the new one yet, but I’d buy up all of the Scotch Ale you see if you really like it becayse it won’t be around long.

  3. Troy

    I would like to add a couple great brews to this list from the Midwest. I highly recommend Three Feet Deep by Furthermore, located in Spring Green, Wi. It is a dry Irish stout that has peat smoked malt added to the mash bill. Another from our friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Founder’s Dirty Bastard. Running around 8.5% abv, this scotch ale packs some big flavor from 7 different specialty malts with a spicy hop finish. I would try them both if I were you. We carry both in bottle form at Prairie Ale House!

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