Beer Roundup #5: Three Midwest Strong Scotch Ales

Food and Drink

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To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:

Regular Scotch Ales (5% – 7% abv) generally leave me unmoved.  Their watery, ambiguous malt profiles come off as enfeebled APA’s, without even the hops to save them from abject anonymity.  But boost the alcohol to 8% or more, and the complexity emerges as lucid, jumping layers of sweets and fruits and grains.

Louie’s Reserve, Lake Louie Brewing

Rating:  4.36/5

10% abv, 40 IBU, 12 oz. bottle (4-pk)

The bottle version of this brew isn’t quite as stellar as the draft version (which I gave a 4.6).  It’s a beautiful pour into a snifter.  Golden clean viscous motor oil.  The finger of off-white head dissipates quickly, and the tiny-bubble lacing slides down the glass from the slippery alcohol.

The aroma is really nice, moist zucchini bread, cookie dough, and a workaday flour malt.  It presents itself as a polite breakfast syrup sweetness, reserved in its hints of other character traits:  a faint grassy/grainy earthy aura that surrounds the grainy sweetness.

In the mouth the high alcohol gives a fruity zip to the sweet malt.  And the hop bitterness pulls it further ceiling-ward.  A diacetyl toffee smoke puts one in mind of breakfast and pancakes and burnt, buttered toast.

There’s a metallic tartness that I wish were less bright (something I don’t remember from the draft version).  Middle to high carbonation is somewhat of a drawback, for what otherwise would have been simple cream.

Still one of my favorite Strong Scotch Ales of all time.  Definitely rivals Founders Backwoods Bastard, which makes its own weather because of the barrel aging.  Beats my other two commonly found go-to’s, Oskar Blues Old Chub and Dark Horse Scotty Karate.  Much, much better than Skull Splitter or Sticky McDoogle.

Backwoods Bastard, Founders Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.54/5

10.2% abv, 50 IBU, 12 oz. bottle (4-pk)

Bourbon barrel aging gives this beer a leg up on the other beers in this roundup.

On tap at Dexter’s, Madison.  A Founders tap takeover is a beautiful thing!  Dexter’s serves its 5 oz. pours in these handsome little snifters.  I’m drinking this alongside a half-snifter of Devil Dancer.  What an awesome combo.

This pour is a beauty:  dark-coppery brown with high clarity and a fluffy off-white head.

In the nose you get ripe cherry–a big old waft of cherry that’s just really remarkable.  Then bourbon and buttery caramel and a bit of umami and vanilla that’s somewhat sickeningly sweet.

Surprisingly roasty-sweet malt first on the front of the tongue.  Then that stone fruit from the aroma coats the mouth, with booze and hop bitterness in the finish

Near-syrup viscosity, and a bit of alcohol warmth in the throat, with mild-to-moderate carbonation.

Scotty Karate, Dark Horse Brewing Co.

Rating:  4.26/5

9.75% abv, 30 IBU, 12 oz. bottle

A finger of khaki head fluffs up and dies readily, with almost no lacing on my tulip glass.  The fluid itself is a reddish-brown murk.  Caramel greets the nose assertively, along with topsoil and animal feed grain.  Wood and grass dry out the sweetness in the aroma, with a stone fruit twang.  The palate gets washed with buttery toffee sugar, pie crust, and wood barrel.  A surprising coffee and cocoa in the dry, acidic finish.
The medium body is a bit of a letdown.  It fills the mouth well enough, but could be longer in the finish.

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