NOTE: The 2021 BJCP Style Guidelines state there are only three traditional beer styles widely available in Scotland today. This includes the 70/- shilling Scottish Heavy, the 80/- shilling Scottish Export, and the Strong Scotch Ale (Wee Heavy, style 17C). The 60/- schilling Scottish Light is rare and often only available in casks but does look to be having a bit of a renaissance recently.
The Scottish 60 Shilling 60/-, 70/-, and 80/- are all reclassified as Style 14A Scottish Light, Style 14B Scottish Heavy, and Style 14C Scottish Export in Category 14 Scottish Ale.
The Light, Heavy, and Export Scottish ales have similar flavor profiles and are produced through the parti-gyling process, while as the gravity of the beer increase, so too do the flavor and character of the beer.
In general, these Scottish beers are weaker, sweeter, darker, lower in attenuation, and less highly hopped than modern-day English beers. Many of the divergences from English beer happened between the late nineteenth century and mid-twentieth century.
Why Are Scottish Beers So Different From English Beers?
Since the medieval period, around the 12th century, Scottish brewers have been using local botanicals like heather, meadowsweet, and royal fern in their brewing process.
Even after hops became popular in the late 16th century and early 17th century with English brewers, most of Scotland held out on the use of hops.
When asking why Scottish beers are so malt-forward and low in hops, the climate is probably the best answer. The cooler climate limits any of the local breweries from growing their own hops and therefore needing to import them.
The Scots are quite well known for being frugal with their money (tight some would say, but not me!) and lots of hops were only used in a beer if it was to be exported so some of the cost could be recouped.
The climate also made cooler fermentations possible with Scottish ales being yeast neutral.
Also, there’s the simple fact that colder weather creates a desire for malt-heavy beers rather than hoppy refreshing light beers.
Scotland also has good land which yields plenty of high-quality cereal grain crops in particular barley, oats, and wheat (just look at how many “malt” whiskies Scotland produces!).
This could have been a desire to highlight the quality of this native crop which kept the local brewers from extensively using more hops.
Traditional ingredients for these three Scottish ales include dextrinous pale ale malt, corn, dark brewing sugars, and brewers caramel for coloring.
Post-WWII recipes often add dark malt and lower percentages of crystal malts alongside other ingredients such as amber malt and wheat.
Another brewing practice that helps distinguish Scottish ales from other British ales is a higher mash temperature and the early use of sparging.
Higher mashing temperatures make for a more dextrinous wort, which works well with these fuller-bodied ales.
The English brewer was still doing a repeated mashing and draining process to produce multiple brews at decreasing strengths while the Scots were sparging.
Sparging increases the boiling times, which creates the caramelization in the brew kettle these ales are synonymous with.
Why Use the Term Shillings for Scottish Beers?
The use of the “shilling” designation (/-) is something of a curiosity in Scottish brewing. A shilling was a pre-decimal coin introduced during the reign of King George VI.
Traditionally, when used for a beer name, it referred to the price of a hogshead barrel of beer. As there was no way the price of a beer remained consistent, and British shillings aren’t even used in Scotland any more, the name stuck as shorthand for a type of beer.
The original meaning of the price of a hogshead stopped being the real price during WWII.
The larger the number in general, the stronger the beer, at least for beers within the same brewery. Between the World Wars, some brewers used the price per pint rather than shillings, for example, Mclay 6d for 60 /-, 7d for 70 /-, and 8d for 80 /-.
Even more confusingly, during this time, 90 /-pale ale was a low-gravity bottled beer.
The information below is still accurate for the older style, but if you’re studying for the current BJCP exam, use this page in conjunction with the current description.
Scottish Light / 60 Shilling Beer
The Scottish 60 Shilling is a very light-bodied ale (less than 3.5% ABV). Even though the beer is light in alcohol, it still has a soft and chewy character.
To obtain this character, a higher mash temperature will have been 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 from a long boil, can be acquired by the use of specialty malts like crystal and chocolate malts or roasted barley.
- Aroma: The Scottish 60 Shilling has a low to medium malty sweetness with caramel and toffee notes, and a light toasty quality reminiscent of toasted breadcrumbs or ladyfinger biscuits. A light pome fruitiness and light English hop aroma, which is earthy, floral, and orange-citrus spicy are allowable. These days, many Scottish brewers are adding more hops to their beers and are becoming similar to English bitters.
- Appearance: They are deep copper to dark brown in color. Usually very clear due to long, cool fermentations, and have a low to moderate, creamy off-white 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). The hop flavor is low to none. A low to moderate peaty character is optional and may be perceived as earthy or smoky. Scottish 60 Shilling beers generally have a grainy, dry finish due to small amounts of unmalted roast barley.
- Mouthfeel: A Scottish 60 Shilling will have a medium-low to medium body, even though it’s low in alcohol. It will also exhibit low to moderate carbonation, sometimes a bit creamy, but often quite dry due to using roasted barley.
- Overall Impression: A lower alcohol malty beer with light flavors of caramel, toast, toffee, and fruit. The slight roast dryness is offset by a residual sweetness in the finish of this ale, with a little bitterness detected just to prevent the beer from cloying.
- 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 roasted finish). English hops is a 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: 1.030 – 1.035 FG: 1.010 – 1.013 IBUs: 10 – 20 SRM: 9 – 17 ABV: 2.5 – 3.2%.
- Commercial Examples: Belhaven 60/-, McEwan’s 60/-, Maclay’s 60/- Light (all are cask-only products not exported to the US).
Scottish 70 /- Shilling Beer
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 Americans’ alcohol levels. 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 similar to the 60 /- but with a little more body and a bite from the slightly higher alcohol content.
Traditionally, Scottish 70 Shilling ales require a cool fermentation 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. Rather, good healthy 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 usually won’t 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 medium-low to medium malty sweetness, sometimes with caramel and toffee notes. A light toasty and sugary quality is slightly reminiscent of toasted breadcrumbs or ladyfinger biscuits. Some examples have a low hop aroma, light fruitiness, low diacetyl, and/or a low to moderate peaty aroma (all are optional).
- Appearance: They are pale copper to brown in color and have low to moderate, creamy off-white to light tan-colored heads.
- Flavor: A medium toasty-bread malt flavor with caramel and toffee overtones, finished with a slightly roasted dryness. A wide range of caramelized sugar and toasted bread flavors can be evident with a clean maltiness and fermentation profile. Light esters and hop flavors are allowable too. 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 with a low to moderate carbonation, sometimes a bit creamy, but often quite dry due to the 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). Most beers finish fairly dry, considering their relatively sweet palate, and as such have a different balance than strong Scotch ales.
- Ingredients: At its simplest, a 70/- Scottish Heavy will use pale ale malt and colored malt, but can also use corn, wheat, coloring agents, and a variety of other grains. Clean yeast is normally used with soft water but there should be no pettiness to any of the ingredients. The use of colorants in this type of beer means you can get many different colored beers in the same category.
- 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.
Scottish 80 /- Shilling Ale
A Scottish 80 Shilling 80/- is sometimes called an “export.” It is the strongest of the Scottish Shilling ales and will have a higher alcohol content, a bigger malt profile, and more hops to balance the malts.
This ale is similar to the other two beers in the Scottish Ale style, the 60/- and 70/-. You will notice that there are just enough English hops to keep the big malt profile from becoming cloyingly sweet.
These days, brewers in Scotland are brewing beers that more closely match the English-style bitters. This category doesn’t reflect that, and eventually, homebrewers and American brewers may be the only ones left brewing the style.
This is a nice malty beer that many brewers like to keep on tap, as their session beer when the bigger beers are a bit too much.
Traditionally, Scottish 80 Shilling ales also require a cool fermentation and a low attenuating yeast to achieve a clean flavor profile.
Slightly heavier hopped than the other ales in the shilling range, it’s just enough to keep the malt from being too sweet and cloying. Usually, a single addition for bittering is enough. You likely won’t notice any hop aroma or flavor in Scottish session beers.
Using low hopping rates will keep the beer focused on the malt, which is where it belongs in the Scottish 80 Shilling.
Again, an extensive period of cold conditioning is helpful with a Scottish 80 Shilling. 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 80 Shilling has a medium maltiness, often with those notes of toffee and caramel exhibited by the other shilling beers.
- Appearance: They are pale copper to brown in color with a low to moderate off-white creamy head.
- Flavor: Medium toasty-bread malt with caramel and toffee overtones finished with a slight dryness from the use of roasted malts. A wide range of caramelized sugar and toasted bread flavors can often be detected. The cooler fermentation process gives a clean maltiness to this ale. Hops are slightly more evident than the weaker shilling beers, but still very moderate compared to most other British beers.
- Mouthfeel: A Scottish 80 Shilling will have a medium body with a medium-low to moderate carbonation and have a creamy sensation, but are often quite dry due to using roasted barley.
- Overall Impression: A moderate-strength beer with the same light caramel, toffee, and fruit flavors found in the other shilling categories. Again, it’s only slightly bitter to prevent cloying, and a slight roast dryness is balanced with a residual sweetness.
- 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 roasted finish). English hops. Clean, relatively un-attenuative 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: 1.040 – 1.054 FG: 1.010 – 1.016 IBUs: 15 – 30 SRM: 9 – 17 ABV: 3.9 – 5.0%.
- Commercial Examples: Orkney Dark Island, Caledonian 80/- Export Ale, Belhaven 80/- (Belhaven Scottish Ale in the US), Southampton 80 Shilling, Broughton Exciseman’s 80/-, Belhaven St. Andrews Ale, McEwan’s Export (IPA), Inveralmond Lia Fail, Broughton Merlin’s Ale, Arran Dark