Tasting the AleSmith Wee Heavy

What is a Wee Heavy? Thats a bit of a strange name for a beer style. Its actually just a very old name for beer. It represented an ale of stronger nature originating in Scotland. The Scotch Ales were anywhere between 7 and 10% abv, and hence were a “wee heavy”.

This beautiful bottling by AleSmith fits the bill. It is a Scotch Style Ale brewed in California at weighs in at 10% abv as appropriate for the style. I’ve had a few AleSmith beers before, and they have all impressed me. This would be my first experience with the Wee Heavy, and I was definitely very excited as scotch ales are among my most favorite beers.

Like many of their beers, this Wee Heavy has been decorated with medals and awards since 2004. I was very glad it came in a 750ml bottle, cause this beer was build to share with friends.

I opened the Wee Heavy up around cellar temperature close to 12C (54F) – I was anticipating big thick malt flavors, so I wanted them to all stand at attention rather than be muted by the cold. Poured into wide based tulip this beer brewed a deep nutty brown color lifting a smoothly dense, creamy tan head. The beer showed deep garnet reds when held into the light, but overall it is a softly transparent close to black beer with a maroon shade of brown growing within it.

The nose is classic with malt sweetness, touches of caramely roast, dried cocoa and hints of floral bitter hops. It has big deep aroma but is not terribly bounding or powerful. It glides easily into the air and penetrates your nose. Make no mistake though, there is much flavor here. Its shows an alcoholic warmth and comes back to big malty sweetness and dark fruits.

Letting the Wee Heavy in was like washing your mouth with roasted candy malts. Big and lush malt candies pour over your palate totally engulfing your senses. It really is malt forward. The first rush of malt is the big sweet round flavor of burnt brown sugar and rich butterscotch. It is quite abrupt at first showing a very aggressive malt character. It all comes across your tongue very intently and falls heavily onto your cheeks bringing roast and toffee with it.

The malt flavors here are truly complex and deep. As the beer warms overall character of the beer smooths out and becomes more gentle allowing greater layers of aroma and flavors to emerge. Now warm figs, dates, plums, banana and vanilla open to your taste buds, and yet more warm toffee, and thick sticky caramel flow with pronounced purpose all over your palate. A soft and slightly earthy hop aroma helps balance this beer a touch, but really, it fails. This is a hugely malt focused beer which is dominated by the warm, mellow, sweet, and potent flavors of malted barley. Really, if you are buying a wee heavy, it is exactly what you are looking for.

It even shows flavors of dark bitter bakers chocolate, lightly toasted bread, and smooth dark espresso. It was quite the treat, but certainly not for everyone. Although I could depict alcohol on the palate, it comes across more as an aged port, really just aiding the beers sweet and direct profile. Touches of spice begin to emerge here to, but are overshadowed by toffee and malt.

The mouthfeel was soft and gently carbonated showing big flavors. This is a full bodied beer, and I do wish it was a bit creamier, but overall, especially as it warmed, it became very smooth and gentle. The finish was sweet and malty with a hint of molasses, as every other moment of the beer was. It does fit the Scotch Ale bill pretty perfectly, and I wish I was enjoying a deep chocolate cake at the time with it. That being said, do look for big rich deserts with it or roasted game. Anything too light will be overpowered by this big beer.

I am also willing to bet that it will cellar very well. I’d give it 2 years upright and it should become even deeper with smooth and mellow flavors of deep buttery figs, and rich sticky malt.

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