Sheep Eater Scotch Ale’s First Birthday
We bottled our Sheep Eater Scotch Ale just about a year ago. At the time it was a big, rich, smoky beer that was pretty challenging to drink. The peat-smoked malt used in this brew was aggressive at bottling time, and I have been looking forward all year to see how this beer has mellowed and matured. Today’s tasting will show us if this beer has been tamed with time or if it is still as bold and brash as ever.
Sheep Eater Scotch Ale
7.5% Alcohol by Volume
Bottled January 2010
Original Description: Scotch Ales are some of the world’s most flavorful beers. Scotland’s cold, blustery climate lends itself to the growing of barley and oats, but not to the production of hops, which are almost always added sparingly.
The yeast must work at cooler temperatures than is customary for ales, resulting in maltier, cleaner, less fruity or estery, beers. The color often comes from black roasted malt, which imparts some dryness, but because of the lower attenuation and hopping rates, Scottish ales are almost always slightly sweet and incredibly drinkable.
Ours was brewed with black roasted barley, biscuit and peat-smoked malt. It was gently hopped, fermented cool and aged cold for weeks for smoothness. It is copper-brown in color, with some sweet maltiness and plenty of body.
Tasting Notes from January 2011:
Fills the glass a deep, deep garnet color. A thin tan head rests on top of the liquid filled with big, irregular bubbles that leaves sticky lacing all over the glass. A big raisin and dried plum aroma wafts out of the glass first, followed by a light, earthy smokiness.
The flavor is difficult to describe, because there are so many subtle flavors all playing together. Molasses and very dark caramel flavors play well together, and a toasted cracker brightness helps to contrast the richness. The mouthfeel is soft and mild, which is really perfect to keep all these flavors on the tongue instead of washing them away. After a few sips a surprising vanilla aroma shows up, with a bittersweet chocolate finish.
This somewhat bitter finish is actually the saving grace of this beer. This beer is rich and sweet, but having an astringent finish keeps the sweetness from becoming cloying, and clears the palate for the next sip. The smokiness ebbs in and out of the flavor, lending itself to anything from medicinal notes to smoky grilled meats.
Cellar Master Says: After one year in the bottle Sheep Eater has definitely mellowed. What was once a dominant smoke flavor has become a team player, melting into the richness of dark fruits and sugars. I would recommend uncapping this one soon. I think it will continue to develop for a few more months, but it seems to be teetering on a tipping point before the flavors begin to degrade. Serve at 55 degrees in a wide tulip or oversized wine glass.