General Grant Scotch Ale

It’s that time of year again.  Birds are singing, love is in the air, and a Scotch ale is in the fermenter.  The end of April marks a brewing anniversary for us, so each year we brew a commemorative Scotch ale.  The maturation of this beer always coincides with our annual trip to Sequoia National Park, and nothing refreshes a hike-worn camper like a sweet, malty, fireside pint.  Naturally, this beer has become a sacred addition to the brew lineup.

In years past, we brewed the recipe available at the home brew store: a malt-forward beer with dark crystal, munich, special B, and a touch of peated barley.  Over the last two years, our tastes have changed and our knowledge bank has increased, largely in part to every Christmas and birthday present being a brew book (thanks, Mom).  We are no longer content to brew the Scotch ale of old; we want to brew the Scotch ale of olde.  This year’s Scotch ale recipe is our own creation: a simple, high gravity ale brewed with traditional Scottish techniques.  At least as traditional Scottish as you can get brewing stove-top in your tiny downtown LA loft.

To permanently marry the yearly scotch ale and Sequoia trip, we named the beer General Grant.  General Grant, as you may remember from middle school, is a Union Civil War hero turned president.  What you may not know is that there is a Giant Sequoia named after him.  So giant, in fact, it is the second largest living thing on the planet (by volume).  The largest living thing is General Sherman, another Giant Sequoia.  General Sherman wasn’t a US president, so he doesn’t get a beer named after him.  Furthermore, General Sherman is an annoying tourist trap.

Modifications to the recipe are major.  The specialty grains have been changed and reduced to only Caraamber and roasted barley.  The crystal was omitted because we hope to obtain similar caramelization flavors from our 100 minute boil.  The peated barley was omitted because it is non-traditional and, frankly, distracting.  Other notable traditionally Scottish techniques we employed are a thick mash (1 quart water per pound grist) and pitching a gargantuan amount of yeast.  The intention of the large starter is to allow a super cold fermentation, by ale standards, which limits yeast propagation and ultimately ester production.  The final kiss goodnight is a post-primary two month rest on Talisker-soaked, charred oak chips to give the impression of barrel aging.

The only notable occurrences during the brew session was the cool down.  Cooling of the wort employed every tool in our arsenal: a wort chiller, submersion in an ice bath, and adding cold water to the pot.  We are proud to report a 10 minute cool from 212F to 60F.  The beer is a brilliant, deep ruby color, and as of Saturday night, the beer is resting in its temperature-controlled home in John Rockwell’s kegerator.

More updates to follow on the three month journey to fireside beer heaven.  Cheers!

– Matt

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