Beer by Request

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.

OG: 1058
IBU’s: 13

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 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!

Heavy heart, heavy beer…

Last summer, the craft brewing and home-brewing communities lost one of the great people in the industry. Greg Noonan, founder and brewmaster of both the Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington, and the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon, NH, passed away, leaving behind a legacy of beer and friendship. Greg’s death was felt throughout the world, everywhere good beer is brewed or sipped. For many of us, it was also a very personal loss. Just about every homebrewer in Vermont knew Greg, and beer lovers throughout the state and all of the Northeast knew his beers. I worked for Greg for several years as manager of the Home Brew Shop at the Seven Barrel Brewery, and worked with Greg on the writing and editing of the Seven Barrel Brewery Brewers’ Handbook. Greg was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration.

One of Greg’s real beer passions was Scotch Ale. He wrote the book. Literally. Whenever I taste a Scotch Ale, I ask myself what Greg would think of it. I brew an annual Scotch Ale or “Wee Heavy” with which to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day, in November. Because it’s a big beer, rich in malty flavor and high in alcohol, it requires some time to age and mature, thus I usually brew it in late Spring. This year’s brew is based on one of Greg’s recipes, and I will probably think of it as “Noonanbrew” as it ferments, conditions and ages in the bottles. Slainthé, old friend, we miss you.

Wee Heavy 2010
5 gallons, large mash with extract.


  • 10 lbs. Golden Promise 2-row pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. peated malt
  • 1/2 lb. amber malt
  • 2 oz. roasted barley
  • 3 lbs. unhopped amber dry malt extract
  • 5 AAU’s Kent Goldings hop pellets (1 oz.)
  • 5.3 AAU’s Northern Brewer hop pellets (1/2 oz. @10.6% aa)
  • White Labs Edinburgh Ale yeast (WLP028)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)


Build yeast up to a quart of slurry over a couple days before brewing. Crush grains. Heat 18 quarts water to 175°F. Mash in grains, hold at 158°F for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge. Put first 4 quarts of runoff into a kettle and boil for 30 minutes to caramelize. Collect another 25 quarts sweet wort (while first runnings are boiling). Add caramelized wort back into main wort, along with the DME, stir well to avoid sticking and burning. Bring whole to a boil. Add Goldings pellets, boil 45 minutes. Add Northern Brewer pellets, boil 45 more minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast slurry, seal and ferment 10 – 20 days. Rack to secondary, condition cool (50°F) for 4 to 6 weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and cellar 4 to 6 months.

OG: 1105
IBU’s: 43.7

Notes on style: This is a big beer, even for the style. I expect this will end up at about 9% abv, with a full malty texture, some sweetness, and a nice peaty smoke flavor in the bcakground. Stay tuned for tasting notes in the fall…

Notes on ingredients: Golden Promise malt is a Scottish 2-row malt, which lends itself particularly well to big beers like Scotch ales and barleywines. I opted to add some DME to this batch just to bulk up the alcohol and body. I would have had to mash over 15 lbs. of grain instead of 11 or so… The peated malt is not necessarily traditional, but it is a flavor I like a great deal.

Notes on procedure: The Edinburgh yeast is a notorious slow starter. I decided to really pitch big this time, tripling the volume I usually pitch in the hopes of getting the beer fermenting quickly in the warmer weather.

Improvising in the Brew House…

Brewing, when you do it as often as I do and for as long as I have, becomes a ritual. I have my set Brew Day, Thursday, and I plan around it as if it were a sacred holiday. The days leading up to Brew Day have their parts in the ritual as well. On Tuesday, I check the recipe and make sure I have all the ingredients in hand, and make sure all the equipment is clean and ready to use. On Wednesday, at work, I buy any necessary missing ingredients and then, once home, prep the yeast and weigh and measure the grains. I even fill the kettle with the necessary mash water and set it on the stove. In that way, at first light on Thursday morning, I can stumble downstairs and turn on the stove while I grope for coffee and turn on the computer and modem. By the time I’m awake, it’s almost time to mash in.

Well, as Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley…” I won’t go into the details, but the last week or so have been overwhelming in terms of obligations, distractions and general stuff. And so I forgot to check the recipe on Tuesday. And found Wednesday night, much to my surprise, that I didn’t have the right grains, the right yeast or the right hops in the house to brew what I had planned to brew, a Cherry Wheat ale.

Well, after my initial shock and my first impulse to take the week off from brewing (I hear you out there – gasp! no! not that!), I inventoried what I did have and managed to tweak next week’s recipe slightly and that’s what I’m brewing today instead. A glimpse of the future? A revisitation of the past? Both – join me as I brew a clone of my favorite French beer…

Addled-Scott (clone of Adelscot, Schiltigeim, France)
5 gallons, all-grain


  • 9 lbs. lager malt
  • 14 oz. peated malt
  • 12 oz. Special B malt
  • 7 oz. cara-amber malt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5.4 AAU’s Northern Brewer hop pellets (1/2 oz. @10.8% aa)
  • 10 AAU’s Spalt hop pellets (2 oz. @5% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Grind grains. Heat 14 quarts of water to 166°F, mash in grains and hold at 155°F for 90 minutes. Heat 14 more quarts of water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts of sweet wort. Add brown sugar. Heat to boiling, add Northern Brewer hops, boil 30 minutes. Add 1 oz. Spalt hops, boil another 15 minutes. Add 1 oz. Spalt hops, boil 45 more minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast. Seal and ferment at 62 – 64°F for 7 – 10 days, rack to secondary. Age cooler (55- 58°F) for 10 – 14 days. Prime with corn sugar and bottle, condition 10 – 14 days.

OG: 1075
IBU’s: 65.5

Notes on brewing: My original recipe had 120°L crystal instead of the Special B, and Munich malt instead of the cara-amber – but guess what? I didn’t have any of either in the house… Additionally, I wasn’t particularly confident in the viability of the Irish ale yeast I had – it was a saved slurry from a previous brew that had been in the yeast fridge for about 4 months – so I also added a packet of Nottingham dry ale yeast.

Notes on the beer and the style: Adelscot, originally brewed by Adelshoffen in the 1980’s, may be the first modern beer deliberately brewed with peated malt flavor. The brewery is now a subsidiary of Fischer in Alsace, who have also introduced a black version, Adelscot Noire. This beer was a revelation for me when I first lived in France as a college student. Called “the beer brewed with whiskey malt”, it’s a sweetish smoky beer, bright amber/orange in color with a real peaty nose. I had never tasted anything like it and fell in love. I wasn’t much of a Scotch drinker then, either, but I think this beer was a factor in pushing me in the direction of single malts. It’s been a few years now since I’ve had the real thing – it’s hard to find in the states – but I have brewed my own clone a couple of times. My version is a little smokier than the original.

If you like the image of the beer coaster above, check out this website I found.