What is a Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy?
Unraveling Scotland's gift in a bottle.
Written by Caroline Southern
Image by Kinsley Stocum
“Wee Heavy”: eighth dwarf or beer style? And is it actually heavy or is it just a little bit heavy? Spend a few minutes searching for a definition on the Internet and you won’t find a simple answer.
Scottish Ales were traditionally brewed in Scotland and were either “light” (under 3.5% ABV), “heavy” (between 3.5 and 4% ABV), “export” (between 4 and 5.5% ABV), or “wee heavy” (over 6% ABV). Scotch Ales, now synonymous with the category “Wee Heavy,” are a product of the twentieth century and represent mostly American and Belgian interpretations of the style.
Scotch Ales/Wee Heavies are rich, malty beers that typically range in color from light copper to dark brown. Scotland’s climate is not conducive to hop production, which explains the low hop content in both Scottish and Scotch Ales. Usually the ABV on these beers runs at 7 percent or higher, so sip slowly and savor the caramel-like qualities of this full-bodied beer. If you’d like, pretend you’re staring out over a drizzly Scottish countryside. Say “wee heavy” out loud a few times to get into character.