How To Brew Scottish Heavy Beer

How To Brew Scottish Heavy Beer: From Tartan Highland Taps to Your Tankard

Scottish Heavy is a heavier version of a Scottish Light. The Scottish Heavy is actually similar in character to a Wee Heavy, but much smaller in terms of alcohol content. The real irony is that a Scottish Heavy is anything but heavy.

It is actually one of the lighter beers you could brew. While there are some similarities, there are plenty of differences with Scottish light ales.

The Scottish Heavy is a beer style that requires a skilled hand in “nailing” the heavy descriptor and also still keeping the beer sessionable.

It should also be noted that the Wee Heavy or Strong Scotch Ale is so beyond the sessionable beer of Scottish ales that they shouldn’t even be spoken of with these beers.

A Tax is Tax

For many years the shilling system was referenced when talking about Scottish Ales. The shilling system began around the mid 19th century. Scottish brewing historian, Charles McMaster said the shilling terminology started when taxes on malt and sugar in the UK was replaced by Beer Duty, which is the tax associated with alcohol in the UK.

From Shillings to “Light”, “Heavy”, and “Export”

Basically there are three “weights of Scottish ales. Light, Heavy and Export, prior to the 2015 BJCP Guidelines were simply known as 60 shilling, 70 shilling, and 80 shilling respectively. As the gravity levels rose, as did the taxes associated with that particular beer.

After the range of beers that were offered shrunk, the terms, Light, Heavy and Export took the place of the shilling terminology.

The Parti Gyle

Traditionally, Scottish ales were often brewed using a “parti gyle,” which is brewing multiple worts from a single mash. A brewer would brew a bigger beer first and then use the leftover spent grain to brew a smaller beer.

This is an efficient use of grains that would usually be thrown out. You can also try these 18 Awesome Spent Grain Recipes.

Style Profile for Scottish Heavy


The color is usually a pale copper to very dark brown. The head on this beer should be creamy and off white with a suburb clarity.


Low to medium maltiness on the nose. Often the flavors consist of breadcrumbs and biscuits. Low to medium caramel and low butterscotch notes are perceived. Low English hop aroma, which is often earthy, floral, orange-citrus, or, spicy. Peat smoke is inappropriate.


The mouthfeel is usually medium-low to medium. Low to moderate carbonation. Can be rich and creamy to dry and grainy.


The flavor of this beer is all malt. Flavors range from bready malt with caramel overtones to rich-toasty malt with roasted accents, but not roasty. Fruit esters are not required, but add some depth as long as they are not too high.

Hop bitterness to balance out the malt. Low hop flavor is also allowed. Finish is rich and malty to dry and grainy. A subtly butterscotch character is acceptable, but burnt sugar is not. Peat smoke is inappropriate.

Food Pairing

The characteristics of a Scottish Heavy, much like the Scottish Light, fare well with gamey meats like pheasant and quail, as well as more traditional roast pork, smoked salmon, or lamb. Spicy Mexican dishes can work as well.

For cheese pairings, you’re probably best off with something smoked. Overall though, the Scottish Light is probably BEST to save for a rich dessert, given the heavy toffee, caramel-like nature of the beer… anything with dark chocolate, toffee, or caramel will work really well.

Tips for Brewing your own Scottish Heavy


Originally Scottish pale malt, grits, or flaked maize was used in the grist. Today an English pale malt, such as Maris Otter, would be used. Golden Promise would also be a good base grain.

The rest of the grist is made up of 10% of Crystal, Chocolate, Black malt, roasted barley, and wheat. Possibly a little Chocolate Rye can be used to add some interest and earthiness (or a perceived spiciness) to the grist.

The combination of specialty malts is up to you to experiment with a little. Take good notes in order to replicate this beer again and again.


Since hops grow so poorly in Scotland, they needed to be imported. The closest area that has hops is England, so English hops make up the hop bill in most Scottish beers. Much like the Scottish light, hops such as Target, Progress, Sovereign, East Kent Goldings, Fuggle, and Challenger will be on the list to choose from for a Scottish Light.

Since hop characters are not really prevalent in this style, the hop itself is very seconrady. Look for hop additions to only consist of the bittering charge at 60 minutes for this style.


A yeast that is clean and neutral with minimal flavor additions. Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale, or White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale are both good choices. Safale S-04 or Danstar Winsor are the dry yeast choices.


Usually a beer can ferment in about a week’s time if not less. Since Scottish ales ferment much cooler, it can take up to three weeks in primary to finish. Traditionally, cold conditioning in a secondary for up to six weeks to aid in clarity and accentuate the malty profile.

Scottish Heavy By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 13 – 22 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.035 – 1.040 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.015 FG
  • IBU Range: 10 – 20
  • ABV Range: 3.2 – 3.9%

Martin Keen’s Scottish Heavy Recipe


  • 72% 6 lbs Maris Otter Malt
  • 14% 1 lb Crystal 45 Malt
  • 7% 8 oz Chocolate Rye Malt
  • 7% 8 oz Roasted Barley


Fuggle Hops - HopUnion 1oz.

English-type aroma hop, for use in all types of English or Scottish brews.

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Scottish Ale Activator Wyeast 1728- 4.25 oz.

Flocculation: high - Attenuation: 69-73% - Temperature Range: 55-75° F (13-24° C)

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  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Heavy Beer?

A heavy beer, often referred to as a Scottish Heavy, is a style of beer originating from Scotland. It’s a sub-category of Scottish ales and is known for its malt-forward profile and moderate alcohol content.

Unlike the name might suggest, “heavy” doesn’t refer to the body or alcohol content of the beer, but rather is a traditional Scottish designation stemming from how beers were taxed based on their strength. In Scotland, ordering a “pint of heavy” usually refers to a beer of this style.

What distinguishes a Scottish Heavy from other Scottish Ales?

Scottish Heavy is one of the lighter Scottish ales in terms of alcohol content, positioned between the lighter Scottish 60/- (60 Shilling) and the stronger 80/- (80 Shilling) or Scotch Ale.

The primary distinction lies in the malt character, which is pronounced but not as rich or sweet as in the stronger Scotch Ales. Scottish Heavy beers emphasize a clean, malt-forward taste with a moderate hop bitterness.

Can you provide a basic outline of a Scottish Heavy Beer recipe?

Certainly. A typical Scottish Heavy recipe involves a variety of malts to achieve the desired flavor and color. Common malts include Pale Malt as the base malt, along with small amounts of Crystal, Munich, and perhaps a touch of Chocolate malt for color.

The hops used are usually of a low to moderate bitterness level, with East Kent Goldings being a traditional choice. The beer is fermented with a clean, well-attenuating ale yeast, which allows the malt character to shine through while achieving a balanced finish.

How does the term ’70 Shilling’ or ’80 Shilling’ relate to Scottish Heavy Beers?

The terms ’70 Shilling’ and ’80 Shilling’ (70/- and 80/-) are traditional Scottish classifications indicating the strength and price of the beer, which was historically taxed by alcohol content.

’70 Shilling’ or ’70/-’ is a designation for a lighter Scottish Ale, while ’80 Shilling’ or ’80/-’ refers to a stronger beer, often categorized as a Scottish Heavy. These terms are still used today to help classify the different types of Scottish ales.

In brewing a Scottish Ale, is there a significant difference between an all-grain and extract recipe?

Yes, there is a difference. An all-grain Scottish Ale recipe allows for greater control over the final flavor and color of the beer, as it involves brewing from the raw grains. This process can be more labor-intensive but is often preferred for its ability to yield a more complex malt profile.

On the other hand, an extract recipe utilizes malt extract, which simplifies the brewing process but may result in a less nuanced malt character.

Both methods can yield a delicious Scottish Ale, but all-grain brewing is often preferred by those looking to closely replicate traditional Scottish beer flavors.

Transcript: If like me, you’re not all that familiar with the beer style of Scottish heavy, you might be surprised to learn that this heavy beer is actually a low alcohol session beer. This is going to come out at about 3.4%. I’m going to brew one while reusing some yeast from a previous batch. Let’s do it.

Hi, I’m Martin Keen. I’m taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks.

Now, Scottish ales come in three sets of weights, much like the English bitters did. So when I assumed the English bitters, there was ordinary bitter, best bitter, and then extra special bitter. And they were all basically the same beer type. And really the difference was just in the strength.

The same is true with these Scottish shales where the lightest one is Scottish light. Then this one is Scottish heavy, and then you have Scottish export. And they’re also known as 60 shilling, 70 shilling and 80 Schilling, which was based on how they were taxed back in the day.

So when putting together a beer like this, we really want to draw out those classic Scottish ale characteristics of biscuit and caramel and no real discernible hop bitterness. So we’re going to build a beer with an original gravity of a 10 35 for a robust 3.4% beer.

The grist is going to consist of a base malt, Maris Otter that makes up 72% of the grist. Also be adding in crystal 45. That was 14%, then white wheat malt at 7%. And just to add a little touch of spiciness, gonna add chocolate rye at 7%. I think this will be the first time I’ve used any sort of rye malt in a beer in the Homebrew challenge,

Now chilling in here is last week’s beer, Scottish light, and this is the beer I’m going to collect yeast from, to put into the Scottish heavy.

Now, when I brew this originally, I just left it fermenting in my basement because I couldn’t fit this fermZilla fermenter into my chest freezer. The, uh, the stands just meant it was too big. But what I figured out actually is if I remove the stand and unscrewed, the little collection jar underneath, then this would actually sit on the floor in my fermentation chamber here in my chest freezer. So I’ve been leaving in here to cold crash.

Now when collecting yeast, it’s pretty important, I think, to do a cold crash because that way I can ensure that all of the yeast is not going to be in solution in the beer. It’s all gonna fall into the bottom, which is exactly where we need it to be in order to collect it.

Now, my only concern about having yeast from this particular beer, Scottish light, is that the fermentation for this thing was pretty uneventful. Normally when you ferment in a clear fermenter like these fermzillas, it puts on quite a show, the krauzen rises up, you see all sorts of things going on in the beer.

This was definitely a bit of a, a non event. It wasn’t much to see. And I think that comes down to the fact that this is such a low gravity and low alcohol beer. This is going to be sort of a 2% beer. So not an awful lot was going on. That makes me wonder how much the yeast have propagated in this beer and how much they will be to collect.

For hops. I am going with just one charge of hops and that’s a bittering hops. That’s Fuggle. I’m going to put this in at the start of the boil to get about 19 IBU of bitterness.

Now, thanks to everybody who’s weighed in on my, a drippy range hood was dripping back down during the boil. Um, what I’m trying today is I’ve removed these grates and I’m just going to let the condensation go straight up here and see what happens.

Well that didn’t help at all. What’s happening now is the water’s hitting the metal inside of the hood. And then it’s, condensating back to water and dripping back down. At least I’ll put these back in now, at least with these in, uh, there’s somewhere for the water to be caught before it drips disgusting me back into my boil kettle. So, uh, still some work to do here.

Beer is in the fermenter. Everything went fine. It’s easy to do these boils when there’s just one hop addition. Uh, so yeah, it came out at 10 35, everything looks great. So it’s now time to get some yeast to put into this beer.

Uh, so I am now going to collect, connect this collection jar, which I have sanitized. I’m going to screw it to the bottom of this fermzilla, and then I’m going to open the dump valve and see what I get. Alright. That seems to be fairly securily on now, flipping the dump valve and see what happens.

Okay. Got some stuff in there. Now the other thing to consider here is that this is under pressure, which means that this is also now under pressure. And if I attempt to remove this while under pressure, I’m likely to get a bit of a foamy mess.

So that’s where these caps on the side really help, because I’m just going to lossen some, one of these caps just to let the pressure out a little bit and hopefully not spill everything everywhere.

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Well, I think my fear about there not being much of a yeast cake at the bottom of the scottish light is really unfounded. This is a very flocculant looking, yeast. Now, if this were going into a beer style, that was much different from the beer that I’ve just brewed. I might really want to spend a bit of time separating the liquid from the yeast.

The easiest way actually, probably to do that would be just to let this settle for a bit longer at a really cold temperature, and then just kind of pour the stuff off the tops. Same as you might do with a yeast starter. Um, the fact that the Scottish light and Scottish heavy are such similar beers means I’m just gonna skip that whole step entirely and just pour this directly in to my beer.

And for those following along at home, that maybe don’t have an existing yeast cake to steal from I’m actually using here. Wyeast 1728 This is Scottish ale yeast. And yes, I do have an extra packet at home just in case this doesn’t work out,… one way to find out.

Alright, Lauren, back for more Scottish beers. So this one, my goodness, it fermented quickly within a day of adding in the harvested yeast from the Scottish light, fermentation had completed this, the fastest fermentation I’ve ever seen.

Um, so let’s compare this one to the lighter version, the Scottish light that we tasted last week. Can you notice any difference in, in appereance, from the light?

To me it kind of looks the same. I mean, it’s got that dark color. Yep. Caramelly. If you really hold it into the light.

Right, right. This sort of a dark caramel color to it. I think if you put the two beer side by side, pretty hard to tell them apart right now, let’s see if you’re getting anything on the aroma this time.

Okay. Well, compared to the light and this one, this has more of a smell to it. I’d say it’s definitely a bit more maltyness coming through.

Yeah, definitely. Some, some malty caramel notes. It was much more subtle on the light, I think. So how about the taste keeping in mind your, uh, your comment on the taste last time was, was what?

It’s just pointless. Yeah, he does point something. It doesn’t even taste anything. So let’s see, let’s see about this. Well, I think this one does have a bit more taste. What do you think?

There’s definitely a, it kinda takes how it smells with the malty notes in it too. It also, I personally think it takes a bit like chocolate too. A bit of a chocolate taste. Yeah. Yeah. I get that. Yep. Sort of you have getting those dark roasted malts in the flavor of it.

So of the two beers you’ve tried so far, Scottish light and Scottish heavy, which would you say was your preference?

This is probably my preference. Just because it tastes more of a beer, the light one, like I said, didn’t really have anything that kind of jumped out at you when you drank it. Whereas this one, like I know I’m drinking it.

Okay. And that’s always a good sign that, you know, you’re drinking a beer and not some sort of carbonated water. Yeah. Well, this is a two or three in the Scottish beers. It’s Scottish export next week.

We’ll see how that one turns out. But for now, cheers!

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