For Christmas this year, I wanted a special small-batch beer to sip on a cold, dark evening. I usually buy some barrel-aged commercial beers (Firestone Walker’s 2019 Old Man Hattan is particularly nice), so that flavor profile didn’t terribly appeal to me as a homebrew, especially not in larger volumes. After a bit of thought, I settled on a smoked ale. I’ve done a handful of those over the years, trying out the porter and brown ale styles previously. For this iteration, something in the Scottish ale space was appealing. I could get plenty of malt and plenty of body, and it would (hopefully) stand up well to any smokiness. Thus, the Yule Log Smoked Scottish Ale was born!
The recipe is built around the Scottish Export Ale BJCP style, which according to my reading sometimes is made with smoked variants. My version was based in part on Brulosophy’s Short & Shoddy Wee Heavy Recipe. To add a bit of smoked character, I put in two pounds (~16% of the total grain bill) of Briess cherrywood smoked malt.
In the spirit of the Short & Shoddy series, I cut a ton of corners in the brew day. I only did a 30 minute, full-volume mash, and a 30 minute boil. I used some oldish yeast, which meant I needed three packages total.
Yule Log Smoked Scottish Ale
- 9 lbs. Maris Otter malt (Crisp)
- 2 lb. Cherry wood smoked malt (Briess)
- 5 oz. Biscuit malt (Dingemans)
- 5 oz. Caramel 120° malt (Briess)
- 5 oz. CaraPils malt (Briess)
- 4 oz. Crystal 75° malt (Bairds)
- 1 oz. Whitbread Golding Variety hop pellets (8.7% alpha), 15 minute boil
- 2 pkg. Tartan yeast (Imperial Yeast #A31)
- 1 pkg. Safale American ale yeast (US-05)
- 1.063 s.g, 1.019 f.g., 5.8% abv, 21 IBU, 15 SRM
- 3.25 gallon batch
- Full volume infusion mash, 156° target temperature
- Claremont tap water, with Campden tablet treatment to remove chloramines
- I mashed in with 5.35 gallons of water at 165.5°, hitting a mash temperature of 155°. By the end of the 30 minute mash, temperature was down to 152°.
- I vorlaufed and collected 3.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.068, for 56% mash efficiency. This is a bit “thicker” than targeted, so I added 0.5 gallons of water to get 4.25 gallons of wort at a slightly lower gravity.
- I boiled for 30 minutes, adding hops at the 15 minute mark. I then chilled down to 70°, transferred to the fermenter, and pitched the yeast.
- Starting gravity was 1.066, on 24 November 2019. I fermented at 67°.
- I kegged the beer on 10 December 2019. It had a final gravity of 1.014, for 6.9% abv.
- Copper colored beer, moderately hazy, with a thin but persistent head.
- Faint smoke aroma, but not overbearing. Slight caramel note, and very mild fruity esters as the beer warms up.
- Modestly smoky, balanced nicely against the caramel and bready aspects of the malt. Bitterness is moderate, clean, and just about perfect for this beer. There is a very slight but pleasant sweetness to the beer. As I finish a glass, the smoke disappears behind the rest of the beer. On the one hand, it would be nice to smokiness be a bit more prominent, but on the other hand I think the drinkability would suffer. This is a rare smoked beer that can stand up to multiple pints!
- This beer has a reasonable bit of body, and a medium-sweet finish. Carbonation level is moderate.
- Would I brew this again?
- I liked this beer pretty well! I find commercial smoked beers to be hit or miss, and I think the very moderate level of smoked malt I use paid off. Pretty much everything works about this one, and it’s a nice beer to enjoy on a cool SoCal winter day. I wish the clarity was a bit better at this point, but I never bothered to cold-crash the beer, nor did I use gelatin or even hot-side finings. I expect a combination of these would clear things significantly. I might also mash just a touch higher, as this beer would benefit from a slight bump in body.