Staying Warm this Winter: The Bloated Bagpipe Wee Heavy
Hello everyone, and welcome again to Brew Along with Us! For this month’s recipe, I’m turning to a style that I felt would work well for the upcoming cool months: a strong Scotch ale, also commonly known as a wee heavy.
Wee heavies tend to be beers that are big on malt, higher in alcohol, and low on hops; having hopping rates that are just enough to balance the sweetness from the malt. They have an alcohol warmth that is present, but not overpowering. Many recipes can be, and have been, as simple as a good, rich Scottish pale ale malt used as the base, with a little dark roasted malt for color. However, modern Scottish breweries and home brewers tend to use a few specialty grains to round out the grain bill, making a more complex finished product. Water used in brewing wee heavy beers should be heavy in calcium and chloride but low in sulfates, in order to be balanced toward malt character.
The brewing process is a bit more complex than some of your easier ales. While a single infusion mash can be used, it is usually at a higher temperature, anywhere in the range from 154-158F. This makes a more dextrinous wort with a heavier body. Longer boiling times also can help concentrate sugars and slightly caramelize the wort, a feature of wee heavy ales. In fact, if you are feeling adventurous, you may take a gallon of the first runnings and reduce it by boiling until it is syrupy, then adding back to the main body of wort and continuing with the boil.
Hops aren’t a strong feature of wee heavies, so a simple bittering addition with a small flavor or aroma addition for complexity will suffice. Because Scotland does not grow hops commercially, English hops are most often used. In this case, I’m going with Fuggle hops.
Anyone who has tasted a good commercial example of a wee heavy knows that they are full of malt character and body without being over sweet. They also tend to be relatively clean, in spite of restrained low ester levels that should come off as darker fruits, such as plum and raisin. This profile comes from low ale fermentation temperatures, usually followed by a cold conditioning or cellaring period during which the beer ages and mellows. Brewing a wee heavy can be a lot like brewing a lager, but with a neutral ale strain that is tolerant of low temperature ranges. Wyeast’s Scottish Ale yeast is ideal in this respect. Yeast can be pitched relatively cool, around 55-60F, and allowed to rise a few degrees over the first few days. A cool fermentation is recommended, not exceeding 65F, and may last several weeks. In this recipe, I recommend a primary fermentation at 60F for three weeks, then cold conditioning at 35F-45F for six to twelve weeks. While it will be ready to drink after primary fermentation, the cold conditioning will allow the beer to mature and develop into something incredible.
Note that this recipe calls for a 90 minute boil, so adjust your volumes to make up for the extra water lost to evaporation. I would start out with 7.5 gallons pre-boil volume in order to get 5.5 gallons in the fermenter, but your mileage may vary.
There you have it! Give this wee heavy recipe a try, and give us some feedback to let us know what you think about it. Cheers!
The Bloated Bagpipe Wee Heavy Recipe (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)
Estimated O.G. = 1.094
Estimated F.G. = 1.025
Estimated ABV = 9.1%
Estimated bitterness = 25 IBUs
3 packs (or make an appropriate starter) Wyeast 1728XL Scottish ale yeast, or 2 packs Safale S-05 American ale yeast
- Perform a single infusion mash at 156F for 60 minutes. Drain and sparge to collect wort, then proceed with a 90 minute boil. If desired, take one gallon of the first runnings and boil it separately until it has reached a syrupy consistency, then add it back to the main volume of wort and continue with the boil.
- Chill to 55 to 60F, pitch yeast and ferment for three weeks at 60F.
- Once primary fermentation is complete, you may choose to bottle or keg directly, or perform a secondary fermentation. Either way, a cold conditioning or cellaring step is recommended in order to age the beer. If cold conditioning, do so at 35-45F for six t to twelve weeks before serving.
Extract Version: Replace the Golden Promise malt with 13.2 lbs (4 cans) of Munton’s Maris Otter light liquid malt extract, 1 lb of amber dry malt extract, and 1 lb of light dry malt extract. Steep the specialty grains (Munich malt, Simpson’s dark crystal, and black patent) at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Remove the bag, allowing the grains to drain into the boil kettle. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extracts in the kettle. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as normal, boiling for 90 minutes total. You may wish to take 1 gallon of the wort and boil it down to a syrupy consistency, then add that back to the main volume of wort and proceed with the 90 minute boil, then follow procedure for chilling, pitching and conditioning as listed above.