How To Brew Scottish Light Beer | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: October 20, 2020


Scottish Light, or Scottish 60 Shilling as it was originally known as, originated in a land where brewing has existed for a really long time.

There is evidence that brewing was taking place in Scotland back in the 3rd millennium BC.

There is proof that a 30-gallon vessel used for fermentation and residue from barley lipids pointing to brewing existed during the Neolithic Age.

Instead of Hops

There has been further evidence of brewing that points to the Island of Rum, on the west coast of Scotland. Heather, meadowsweet, and royal fern was being used for brewing by the Scots.

Meadowsweet has shown through experimentations to actually extend the shelf life of beer for several weeks. Heather has been used in brewing instead of hops. After hops became commonly used throughout Europe in the 11th century, the British held out to using them for another 400 years.

The Mystery

Scotland’s desire to brew low hopped and malt forward beers has always been a bit of a mystery. The water quality in Edinburgh matches that of Burton upon Trent and is well suited for hoppy ales.

At one point in time, Scotland produced stouts, porters, and pales. The cool temperature in Scotland caused many of the brewers to import their hops since the climate was not right for growing their own. This could be one reason for the Scot’s desire to focus more on malty beers.

The other reason for the malt forward beers is the climate being perfect for cooler fermentation. The Scottish ales are yeast neutral, which is imparted by cooler, longer temperatures.

Also, cooler weather also calls for malt forward beers. Scotland also yields a good amount of barley, oats, and wheat. They may as well focus on what they have easy access to.

Style Profile for Scottish Light

Appearance

Pale amber to dark copper. The head on this beer should be creamy and off white with a suburb clarity.

Aroma

Malt character is low to medium with notes of caramel and butterscotch. Low English hop character, fruitiness and diacetyl.

Mouthfeel

The mouthfeel is usually medium-low to medium.

Taste

The flavor of this beer is all malt. Sweetness ranges from caramel to toastines. Low diacetyl and low to moderate hop bitterness. Little to no hop flavor. Rich grainy finish to this beer with a drying character. Peat smoke is not appropriate in the flavor of a Scottish Light.

Food Pairing

The characteristics of a 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 Light

Grain

Traditionally, 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. 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.

Hops

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. 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 secondary. Look for hop additions to only consist of the bittering charge at 60 minutes for this style.

Yeast

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.

Fermentation

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 Light By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 17 – 22 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.030 – 1.035 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.013 FG
  • IBU Range: 10 – 20
  • ABV Range: 2.5 – 3.2%

Martin Keen’s Scottish Light Recipe

Grain

84% 6 lbs Maris Otter Malt

8% 8 oz Crystal 8010%

6% 6 oz Pale Chocolate Malt

2% 2 oz Roasted Barley

Hops

1 oz Fuggle – Boil 60 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg Wyeast Scottish Ale 1728

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins

[cboxarea id=”cbox-ArY15CJqu6AJ2ZQq”]

Transcript: Today as I continue my journey through the British beer styles. We’re heading North of the border for a Scottish ale that is incredibly light in alcohol, but not so much in taste. And after flirting with fermenters that can hold pressure, I’m finally going all the way from my first ever pressurized fermentation.

And I’m doing it in this Fermzilla.

Best Selling Pressure Fermenter
FermZilla Conical Fermenter
$138.16

For brewers that want all the advantages of a conical fermenter without the price tag of a stainless steel unit. Allows you to dump trub, harvest yeast, carbonate, and serve – all in one vessel!

Detail Page Learn More
03/05/2021 09:29 pm GMT

Hello, I’m Martin Keen, taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And thank you for joining me for the next 10 minutes. As we explore brewing, fermenting, and tasting a beer style that I’ve never actually tried before.

Scottish light really does live up to its name of light 2.9% light in this case. So with a beer of this sort of gravity, you might expect it to be a bit lacking in the taste department, but that should not be the case. This should have quite a forward malt profile. It’s a caramelly taste. And let’s talk about how we’re going to do that with ingredients.

Original gravity for this beer is 10 31, 10 31 is his super low starting gravity. The, even my American light lager was about 10 40.

Now the base malt for this beer is Maris Otter, and I’m using 84% Maris Otter. Then as for the specialty malts. Well, they’re all going to be a little bit dark and caramely as the, as is required by the style.

So I have 8% of caramel, 86% of pale chocolate and 2% of roasted Barley. And if you want an easy way to assemble all of those ingredients, head on over to Atlantic brew supply, where you can buy a recipe kit for this very beer in all grain or extract form.

I’m doing a 2.5 gallon batch of Scottish ale and the grain bill, hold on. Yeah, this is it. And so begin with my mash at 152 Fahrenheit.

Pressurized Fermentation

So far of the pressurized fermenters that are available. I’ve been using this. This is the Fermzilla all-rounder, or now I’ve not done a full pressurized fermentation in this, but I have used this for a closed transfer. And also as a serving vessel.

This guy is also a Fermzilla and it has a few extra features. Now like the all-rounder, this is a P E T fermenter plastic fermentor, and it holds up to 35 PSI of pressure. But the difference is where the all-rounder was really just the fermentation vessel itself. This actually has something extra. It has a dump valve on the bottom here, which you can pull down and actually dump yeast or hops or whatever it is that you want to dump out of this thing. So it’s a little bit more advanced and actually that’s how I’m going to use it.

Now, if I take this apart a little bit at the top here, we’ve got two posts, one for liquid and one for gas, and you’ll see that the liquid post is connected to this float here. And just like with the all rounder, this floats on top of the liquid and pulls liquid from the top, when you were trying to get stuff out of here. The other one is then for the gas post, which will be useful for actually maintaining a certain pressure. On the bottom here, we do have this dump valve here. So if we pull this, it would allow what’s in the bottom of the fermentor to come down to here and then this can be unscrewed. So if, for example, you’re trying to harvest yeast, then you will have all of that in this container here.

What is Pressurized Fermentation?

Pressurized fermentation means that we’re going to add yeast and ferment under pressure here. So we’re going to actually put everything under a certain PSI. I’m going to use, I think, 15 PSI, and then everything will ferment under pressure here. What that means is, well, there’s a few benefits or notable characteristics of a, um, a pressurized fermentation. One is that if you bring a particularly hoppy beer, then you will get a little bit more hop utilization. So it’s, it’s nice for hoppy style beers.

That’s not the case with Scottish light. The other thing is that it reduces the amount of esters created by the yeast. Now, if you’re looking for esters, if you’re bringing a hefevizen for example, this would not be a good choice, but if you’re looking for something that’s going to give you quite a clean character, then pressurized fermentation could be something interesting to try.

Now, the way that we’re going to maintain 15 PSI of pressure is that we will put the pressure in here just using a CO2 tank initially, to get it to 15 PSI. And once it’s there, I’m going to use a spunding valve to regulate how much pressure is in this thing. So this is a spunding valve I can set that I want no more than 15 PSI of pressure. And if the pressure builds up more than that, which of course it will do as the beer ferments, then it will just be exited out from here. So we will maintain 15 PSI of pressure.

What this should also mean is when the fermentation is done, the beer will be carbonated. So there’s no extra stage to worry about carbonating the beer here. It’s going to be carbonating while its fermenting.

Hops: This beer only has bittering hops. I’m using Fuggle hops for my bittering. I’m going to throw these in, at the start at the boil to yield about 19 IBU of bitterness.

Now I need to sanitize this before I use it. So I’m just going to take the hose that is running all through my plate chiller. I put some starsan in here and add some water.

I’ve also given it a little bit of pressure just to make sure that everything is sealed properly. And I’ve just put a little picnic tap on here so that I can run some starsan through the beer line, this inside this thing.

Just, before you add the wort, it is worth making sure that this valve is closed. We don’t want anything going into this, through this dump valve, to this collection jar at the bottom just yet. So this is closed. It’s ready now to receive the beer. So this beer is Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale. What else?

Now, the beer is in the fermentation vessel and I’ve added in some pressure. It actually isn’t required to add in pressure because obviously the fermentation will build pressure in this guy anyway, but I did set this to 15 PSI just using the regulator in my teaser here. And the reason I do that is because it makes setting the, um, the spunding power a little bit easier. So I have this set now to 15 PSI.

That’s what the spunding valve was reporting. I was just twiddled with this little knob here just enough so that I can start to hear a little bit of gas coming out. So I know that I’m at about 15 PSI and once they get above that, it will start relieving pressure.

Now this is too big to fit in one of my fermentation chambers, but the ambient temperature in the basement this time of year is about 68 Fahrenheit. So I’m just going to let it ride ambient temperature. And watch the show.

Right then, let’s try this welcome Lauren, to Scottish Light. Now this beer is a very light beer. I think maybe the lowest beer alcohol percentage I’ve done the percentage wise is two point something.

So, yeah. Uh, so what do you think about the color of this beer?

I’m holding it to the light. It is in the middle of light and dark. It’s kind of a caramelly look to it. Yep. Great. Um, for aroma? I can’t really tell anything. I think my sense are off. No, there’s not much to it. So this only had bittering hops and most of the smell often comes from the hops and there were no hops added later on where most of the flavor would come from. So there’s a very malty smell to it. I think if I was blind, probably I could tell it to sort of a caramel sort of beer.

But other than that, no, I obviously haven’t been falling over drunk, but let’s take a little sip of this. A 2% beer don’t really taste of anything. No. Well, what did you expect it? 2%, right? I think there’s a little bit of molten caramel aspects to it. I can see that, but yeah, there’s not a huge amount of flavor. I don’t think it’s like bud light kind of no taste. There is a little bit of that.

Yeah. There’s, there’s something going on with it. It’s like not completely flat tasted at all. Like there’s definitely like said like caramel note or something, but it’s, it’s, it’s light. Like not what I expected with doing like us a scotch beer.

Cause previously when we were talking, like I don’t, I’m not a big fan of scotch beers. Cause man, just not my taste, but this yeah, it’s, it’s a drinkable beer. Um, I was going to say it’s like a nice hot weather, sunny beer, which is kind of ironic if it’s a Scottish, I don’t hate it.

Well, I think when it comes to Scottish beers, that’s a ringing endorsement. So I will take that. Cheers. Cheers.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.