Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Scotty Karate Scotch Ale

Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Marshall, MI

Style: Scotch Ale
ABV: 9.75%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:

As you probably know by now, Nigel likes to go on long-winded, pointless rants during his reviews, often spurred on by the name of the beer or brewery that is being reviewed. It’s sort of a trademark of mine and proves once and for all that I have way, WAY too much time on my hands.

My latest review, for Michigan-based Dark Horse Brewing’s Scotty Karate Scotch Ale, allows me to let loose on something that has long annoyed me: the popularity of professional wrestling. For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that Dark Horse did NOT name this after a pro wrestler, nor was it inspired by anything even remotely associated with the martial arts. It’s actually named after a popular local one-man band, a guy who loves beer and plays “honky-tonk influenced punk-country songs.” Yikes! I’m not sure what that sounds like, but apparently it was good enough to inspire a tasty beer. Completely ignoring that fact, I will continue with my rant since Scotty Karate sounds like a perfect name for a pro wrestler.

Nigel grew up in the 1980s when professional wrestling experienced its first spike in popularity, and attended college in the late 1990s/early 2000s, when it underwent a bit of a renaissance. I knew the names: Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Rock, Mankind, Stone Cold Steve Austin, etc.; it’s not that I was completely ignorant of its existence or what it entailed. I’m also aware of the fact that Vince McMahon and his WWF/WWE venture is a multi-billion dollar entertainment giant, and that he no longer claims that his “sport” is anything but well-scripted (that’s debatable) entertainment (sort of a soap opera for adolescent males). What I find frightening is not only how many seemingly intelligent Americans get caught up in this charade, but just how seriously they take it, despite knowing full well that it’s phonier than a Bill Belichick post-game handshake. There are tons of people aged 10 to 40 that live and die for this stuff, and I find that to be a frightening testament to the overall intelligence of the American public.

It’s not that I’m opposed to hand to hand combat as sport; on the contrary, I love boxing (at least I did love boxing before it became a multi-million dollar pay-per-view joke) and legitimate martial arts. I’m not even opposed to the recent surge in popularity of Ultimate Fighting and mixed martial arts, though I do think it’s a fad that will quickly pass. What bothers me so much about pro wrestling is that it appeals to the lowest common denominator, to the people that on the surface appear to have the education of an orphaned chimpanzee. That’s why it’s frightening that so many seemingly educated Americans get so caught up in it.

Perhaps I should tie this in to beer (this used to be a beer web site, after all). While this is a broad generalization (and making such a statement is always dangerous), many of the same people who rot their brains in front of the TV watching WWE for hours on end every week are the same ones who run out and buy all things Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. These are the people who think that drinking Corona, Heineken, and Amstel is cool, and that having a pint of Guinness on occasion at the local pub puts them at the pinnacle of high society. This general ignorance and indifference to anything new, unique, and not over-hyped is what keeps the Big Three rolling along, providing billions of dollars to their corporate coffers. God forbid we use our brains and expand our horizons. If you’re looking for mindless entertainment, watch football, basketball, baseball, golf, hockey, tennis, whatever—you know, real sports that entertain without perpetuating every possible negative American stereotype (OK, perhaps you should avoid the NBA). While the popularity of professional wrestling seems to have waned over the past few years, I’m not optimistic that it will remain that way. It’s only a matter of time before some ‘roided up actor captures the ignorant hearts of adolescent America and wrestling regains its top spot in the cable TV ratings. God help us … and don’t even get me started on reality TV!

Ugh … my apologies for that rant and my apologies to Dark Horse for tying the disgrace that is pro wrestling into a fine product bearing their name. Scotty Karate is a limited-release Scotch-style ale that checks in at a monstrous 9.75 percent ABV. According to a couple of web sites I checked out, this has already been retired, so I guess it’s a good thing I snatched it up when I did (although I’m not totally convinced that’s accurate information). I’m only somewhat familiar with Dark Horse brews, having sampled about two or three different kinds, and thus haven’t had enough experiences to give an overall opinion, though I’m leaning towards a thumbs-up thus far.

Scotty Karate (it’s just a fun name … c’mon, keep saying it … it doesn’t get old!) pours with the typical yawn that you’d expect from a Scotch ale. A vociferous pour into the center of a snifter-style glass by yours truly revealed only the slightest of tan fizz which instantly evaporated, leaving an initial spider web trace that completely disappeared in a matter of minutes. A cloudy, deep amber color, Scotty Karate has a nice amount of sedimentation that proves it’s both unfiltered and powerful. An aroma of sweet caramel and earthiness is balanced with a tinge of fruit and an alcoholic zip. While the aroma is pleasant, it’s not nearly as strong as I was expecting.

The taste is excellent, and at nearly 10 percent ABV with a thick, malty backbone, it’s a perfect brew to offset the winter doldrums (let’s hope it hasn’t actually been retired). The initial flavor is sweet caramel malt with a hint of toffee and chocolate. While it remains sweet throughout the drink, the caramel flavor begins to wane and is replaced by more generic sugary notes. Although I didn’t detect it in the aroma, there is a decent amount of roasted malt in it as well, giving it a nutty tinge. Dark fruits, mainly raisin and black cherry, give it a pleasing zip that helps counteract the lack of hops that characterize Scottish ales. One thing I’ve always tasted in Scotch ales is a distinct “earthy” flavor beyond what you would normally expect from a heavily malted brew. I’ve always used the analogy that since it’s Scottish, it has to be “peaty,” seeing as peat is an abundant natural resource in the Land o’ Kilts. I’m not sure if this earthiness is actually peat-like, but it’s my analogy, so BACK OFF. The earthiness plays well alongside the sweet malt, fruity zip, and alcoholic bite, making this a remarkably balanced beer overall. While there’s virtually no trace of alcohol early in the session, it does come through at the end of the drink as it warms to temperatures above 50 degrees. Still, it’s surprisingly tempered given its status as a 9.75 percent behemoth. Full bodied and smooth on the palate, Scotty Karate has a mild aftertaste that lingers for a bit, but all in all is a very pleasant drink, although it’s best to enjoy it slowly and in small doses.

Ultimately, Dark Horse’s Scotty Karate is the exact opposite of a professional wrestler. While the wrestler and his “fans” are obnoxious, crude, and completely lacking in intelligence, Scotty Karate is a sophisticated, complex, and quietly pleasing brew. This was very moderately priced at about $6 for a four-pack, so if you should stumble upon it on your next trip to a retailer of fine ales, be sure to pick it up as it’s one of the better Scottish-style ales out there. It’s a tasty, warming brew that will be sure to perk you up during the frigid winter months.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 14, 2008.
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