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Beer Reviews


Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, MN

Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 7.0%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Summit’s latest offering in their Unchained series is 90/-, meaning 90 shilling, an antiquated notation based on an old Scottish taxation system. The taxes back then were based on the size of the brews—higher taxes, of course, for bigger beers—and 90 shillings was pretty much the max, which is why such beers were referred to as “wee heavies.” Sticking with that old, old school theme, Summit’s take on the style uses actual wild heather in the brew to take the place of some of the hops. Heather is an abundant herb in Scotland, and—since hops don’t grow too well in the cold, clammy climate of North Kilttown—its use in brewing is pretty much as old as beer itself.

90/- pours big, dark, and brown, wearing a fluffy, cream-colored head. The nose is fairly restrained, but big beak snorts yield a malty front with earthy, musty herbal notes underneath.

The sipping is straightforward, clean maltiness—a hallmark of a real Scottish ale, due to the low fermenting temps—not even a hint of roastiness. The brew’s body accentuates the malt with a big, soft mouthfeel, pillowed by that gorgeous head. The malt fades to a musty, slightly bitter cast, ending with a relatively (for a Scottish) short, slightly medicinal/herbal finish.

This was an interesting, enjoyable beer. Summit has pointed out that the point of their Unchained series is to accurately reproduce historical styles, and like their previous foray, Kölsch, they hit the nail on the head. A lot of American brewers like to play with a little peat/smokiness with their Scottish ales, but Summit sticks to the facts and leaves those apocryphal components on the brewhouse floor. My main beef with 90/- is that it is too light for a wee heavy, but the clean maltiness and funky heather herbalness still make it a drinkable brew, and, not to mention, a great candidate if you plan on celebrating Scotchtoberfest this coming March. Slàinte mhath!

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on January 13, 2010.
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