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