9B – Scottish 70 Shilling (70/-)

The Scottish 70 Shilling is a light bodied ale (less than 4% ABV). The beers in the Scottish Ales category are so similar that they have the same descriptions. None are widely available in the US. These beers are called “heavy”, but they are by no means heavy by most American’s standards. They are in fact light session beers that are very drinkable and enjoyable.

Even though the beer is light in alcohol, it still has a soft and chewy character. To obtain this character, a higher mash temperature should be used, around 158°F (70°C). Scottish ales, even the light ones, are noted for their malt profile and kettle caramelization. Some of this caramelization, which was originally obtained form a long boil, can be acquired by the use of specialty malts such as crystal and chocolate malts or roasted barley.

Traditionally, Scottish 70 Shilling ales require a cool fermentatio and a low attenuating yeast to achieve the flavor profile. As homebrewers, it is a must that you use temperature control and ferment in the mid 60s (18 – 19°C). It’s not critical that you use an English or Scottish ale yeast, a good neutral ale yeast and cool fermentation temperatures will emulate the clean profile of most Scottish 70 Shilling ales.

Use a good English variety of hops and just enough to keep the malt from being too sweet and cloying. Usually a single addition for bittering is enough. You will usually not notice any hop aroma or flavor in Scottish 70 Shilling session beers. Using low hopping rates will keep the beer focused on the malt which is where it belongs in the Scottish 70 Shilling.

Even though you may read otherwise, it is not appropriate to use peat malt in these beers. If you must, enter the beer in the other smoked category.

An extensive period of cold conditioning is helpful with these beers. Try to condition at or around 40°F (4.4°C) for at least two months to allow this beer to mellow and clean itself up.

  • Aroma: The Scottish 70 Shilling has a low to medium malty sweetness, sometimes with some low to moderate kettle caramelization. Some examples have a low hop aroma, light fruitiness, low diacetyl, and/or a low to moderate peaty aroma (all are optional). The peaty aroma is sometimes perceived as earthy, smoky or very lightly roasted. These days, many Scottish brewers are adding more hops to their beers and many are becoming similar to English bitters.
  • Appearance: They are deep amber to dark copper in color, Usually very clear due to long, cool fermentations, and have low to moderate, creamy off-white to light tan-colored head.
  • Flavor: For all Scottish beers, the balance is toward the malt. In the lower gravity session beers, the malt will be forward but now strong. The initial malty sweetness is usually accentuated by a low to moderate kettle caramelization, and is sometimes accompanied by a low diacetyl component. Fruity esters may be moderate to none. Hop bitterness is low to moderate, but the balance will always be towards the malt (although these days, not always by much). Hop flavor is low to none. A low to moderate peaty character is optional, and may be perceived as earthy or smoky. Scottish 70 Shilling beers generally have a grainy, dry finish due to small amounts of unmalted roasted barley.
  • Mouthfeel: A Scottish 70 Shilling will have a medium-low to medium body even though it low in alcohol. It will also exhibit low to moderate carbonation, sometimes a bit creamy, but often quite dry due to use of roasted barley.
  • Overall Impression: These beers are clean and malty with a dry finish, perhaps a few esters, and on occasion a faint bit of peaty earthiness (smoke). Even though this is in the BJCP description, I wouldn’t make a beer with peat malt as most judges are more aware of the overuse of that malt in the past. Most beers finish fairly dry considering their relatively sweet palate, and as such have a different balance than strong Scotch ales.
  • Comments: The malt-hop balance is slightly to moderately tilted towards the malt side. Any caramelization comes from kettle caramelization and not caramel malt (and is sometimes confused with diacetyl). Even though the preceding statement is in the guidelines, it is possible to make a good approximation of this character using caramel, chocolate and roasted barley malts in the recipe. Although unusual, any smoked character is yeast- or water-derived and not from the use of peat-smoked malts. Use of peat-smoked malt to replicate the peaty character should be restrained; overly smoky beers should be entered in the Other Smoked Beer category (22B) rather than here.
  • History: Traditional Scottish session beers reflect the local ingredients (water, malt), with less hops than their English counterparts (due to the need to import them) and more malt (due to the large amount grown in Scotland).
  • Ingredients: Scottish or English pale base malt such as Maris Otter, small amounts of roasted barley for color and flavor, (which also lends a dry, slightly roasty finish). English hops. Clean, relatively low attenuating ale yeast. Some commercial brewers add small amounts of crystal, amber, or wheat malts, and adjuncts such as sugar. The optional peaty, earthy and/or smoky character comes from the traditional yeast and from the local malt and water rather than using smoked malts.
  • Vital Statistics: OG: 1.035 – 1.040 FG: 1.010 – 1.015 IBUs: 10 – 25 SRM: 9 – 17 ABV: 3.2 – 3.9%
  • Commercial Examples: Caledonian 70/- (Caledonian Amber Ale in the US), Belhaven 70/-, Orkney Raven Ale, Maclay 70/-, Tennents Special, Broughton Greenmantle Ale.

References: Information for this page was adapted from the 2008 BJCP Style Guidelines, Brewing Classic Styles, 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew, by Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, the article Scotch and Scottish Ales in All About Beer Magazine, by Ray Daniels, and the GABF Style Listings for Scottish Style Light Ale.

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