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Under the Kilt Wee Heavy

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Dragonmead Microbrewery
Warren, MI

Style: Scotch Ale
ABV: 7.8%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

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One of the few beers that still evokes a sense of place is the Scotch ale, or, as the Scots like to call it, the wee heavy. Sipping a great Scotch ale brings to mind mist-shrouded highlands, rugged expanses of heath, and wind-torn meadows of heather. And sheep. For some reason whenever I picture Scotland I think of hordes of sheep running across the countryside.

Equally strange, I don’t think of dudes in kilts when I imagine visiting Scotland. But obviously that’s the first thing that comes to the mind of a lot of American brewers, because it seems every other Scotch ale out there is called either Kilt Lifter or Under The Kilt, exactly like Dragonmead’s take on this style and tonight’s beer review subject.

First, a word about Scotch ales: They’ve gotta be malty. Period. That’s the only way they could be brewed in pre-industrial Scotland, so an authentic version has got to be big, malty, and chewy. Otherwise, in my eyes, it’s a failure.

Dragonmead’s Under The Kilt pours a dark amber with a light tawny head. The body’s lighter than I’d expected, but dark enough to be mostly opaque. The nose is toffee-like malt with some smokiness in the background that grows as the beer warms. On deep sniffs, a wee bit of alcohol can be detected. So far, so good.

The first thing I notice on the initial sip is how the mouthfeel is a bit hard for the style, and a bit watery. Tinniness leads the way, which washes out to a flavor void before some smoky, hearty malt takes over. The finish isn’t as malty as I’d hoped, and pretty damn short. In fact, I’d call it weak and, well, almost dry. Even as the beer warms the finish is still pretty flat and tepid.

Dragonmead’s Scotch ale isn’t nearly as malty and warming as an authentic wee heavy should be. It doesn’t evoke highlands, heath, heather. Not even sheep. What’s under the kilt? Not a whole Hell of a lot.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on November 6, 2008.
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