Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brewheart

Scottish beer. You know all about Scottish beer I am sure. Sweet, malty and not very hoppy because it was so expensive to ship hops from one end of the United Kingdom to the other. You know that Scottish beer has a peaty element because of the water, although using peated malt is something of a no-no, but then you also know that an awful lot of craft brewers add a dash, just in case. Oh, and of course, Scottish beer has to involve kilts in the name, Kilt Lifters abound - you could say kilt lifting is the American craft brewing scene's equivalent of the abominations to be found on Pumpclip Parade.


The last few weeks have been a pleasure seeing these daft stereotypes ripped to pieces by the double team of Shut Up About Barclay Perkins! and I Might Have A Glass of Beer. Through a series of maps and analyses, the myth of Scottish brewing has been laid bare and savaged.

The highlight for me though has been the recipes that Ron has been posting, all from the 19th century and all of them with significant IBU ratings, ranging from 47 to 113. As a reference, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has 37 IBU, Pilsner Urquell 40 and Devils Backbone's 8 Point IPA 60. At 113 IBU, the No. 3 from Wm Younger in 1868 was more potent in the hop department than Starr Hill's Double Platinum, which weighs in at 90.

You know that thing about Scottish ales being unhoppy (according to the BJCP guidelines the tops a Scottish ale can be is 35 IBU) because of the expense of moving hops from one end of the United Kingdom to the other? Well, that's also complete bollocks. 

The majority of the hopping in the recipes from the 1860s were Saaz, from Bohemia, as in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time. Now, unless there was some special deal between Scotland and Bohemia on the basis of the Winter Queen, I am pretty sure import tariffs, transportation and logistics in the 19th century would have made copious amounts of Saaz hops somewhat more pricey than copious amounts of East Kent Goldings. Did we mention the copious amounts of hops going into Scottish beer in the 19th century yet? Oh, yes we did, 3rd paragraph for those that missed it.

From the work that has gone into a series of superb posts, I think it is a pretty clear that the myth of Scottish brewing seems to have been dreamed up by the same guys that did the historical research involved in Braveheart.

2 comments:

  1. Hee-hee. Nice summary. I confess I had never heard the Myth of Peatiness before Rob and Ron went to work on it, but I'll be on the lookout now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have one of these T-Shirts. Mine is the Kilt lifter one item# 214

    Does that mean I am open to ridicule?

    ReplyDelete