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.