Once again, I am brewing something suggested, nay, begged for, by my friends Rick and Sarah. On a recent trip to Montreal, they tasted a beer they really liked, and thought that I would enjoy as well. They brought me back some, and hinted that they would love to have me try to clone it for them. I tasted it very carefully, took notes, and began thinking about how I would reproduce the beer. My notes sat there for a couple of months and then, suddenly, I realized that it was a good time to brew something along those lines. I dug up the tattered envelope on which I had written my tasting notes, did some calculations, and set out to replicate the Black Watch Ale brewed by Brasseurs de Montréal.
This is not a Scotch Ale or a Wee Heavy. It is, instead, a moderate beer, malty without being too sweet, smoky with a nice caramel flavor, low hop bitterness and almost no hop aroma. I think this is pretty typical of what the Scots would have been drinking on an everyday basis before they all started drinking light lagers in the modern era…
Black Watch Ale (clone)
5 gallons, all grain
- 8 lbs. Golden Promise pale malt
- 1/2 lb. peated malt
- 1 lb. extra-dark crystal (135°L)
- 2 oz. roasted barley
- 1 oz. Whitbread Gold Varietal hops (@5% aa)
- White Labs Edinburgh Ale yeast (WLP028)
- 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)
Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 165°F. Mash in grains, hold at 154°F for 90 minutes. Heat another 14 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge. Collect first gallon of wort in a smaller brew kettle and start boiling right away. Continue to collect wort in larger kettle. Collect a total of 25 quarts. When the first gallon has been reduced to approximately a quart, add to main wort. Bring to boiling and boil 15 minutes with no hops. Add 1/2 oz WGV hops, boil 30 minutes. Add 1/2 oz. WGV hops, boil 15 minutes (60 total) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast and seal. Ferment 6 to 8 days at 68°F, then transfer to secondary.
Notes on style: Scottish ales are generally more malty than hoppy. There may be historical and political reasons for that (hops didn’t grow well in Scotland and the Scots were unwilling to buy hops fro England), or it may be due to the legendary parsimonious nature of the Scots themselves (hops were expensive!). Malts in Scotland, both those used for beer and those used for whiskey, were almost always kilned over a peat fire, thus the prevalence of peat-smoke flavors in their beers. Scotch Ale is not the same thing as Scottish Ale – Scotch Ale, also known as Wee Heavy, is roughly the Scottish equivalent of a barleywine.
Notes on procedure: Many Scottish ales, this one included, owe much of their flavor, color and character to caramelization. The burnt-sugar and treacle notes in both the aroma and the flavor, as well as the deep reddish hue, are the result of heating the sugars to near burning temperatures.
Historical notes: The Black Watch is a battalion, formerly a regiment, in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, formed of Scottish soldiers in the early 1700’s. They have fought in such wide-spread battles as Fontenoy (1745), Ticonderoga and Quebec (during the so-called French & Indian War), Waterloo in 1815, El Alemein during World War II, and recently at Fallujah (Iraq) and in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Famous members of the Black Watch Regiment include Ian Fleming, and Stewart Granger. Their tartan is among the most recognizable of all Scottish patterns. For more information, see their website.
A Related note: I have begun research and work on a second edition of North American Clone Brews. I am hoping to add 50 new clone recipes from across the US and Canada, as well as updating, fixing errors, etc. on the old recipes. If you would like to help with the project, you can send me beer! Yes, if you have a local beer (bottled only), or come across one on your travels, that you think should be in the next NACB, send me a bottle or two! I can’t pay you for the beer, but I will put your name in the book (even if I don’t actually use the beer you send me). Please email me at email@example.com for the mailing address and general instructions on mailing beer – I would love to taste the beers from outside of New England, especially those that have been introduced since 2000 when the first edition came out. I don’t want or need any beers that are already in the first edition, but I would love to have a representative beer from every state and every Canadian province in the book. Any good bottled craft brews in Mexico or the Caribbean? They’re welcome too! Thanks in advance!