Here we have a good chance to see some of the history of Scotch Ale. I don’t mean the type sold in Scotland, but those brewed for the Belgian market.
In the 20th century, Belgium was a big importer of British beer. After the gravity drop in Britain caused by WW I, this was usually specially brewed for the Belgian market. In reality, they were much like the beers sold in Britain before WW I.
These beers show us the difference in strength between beers for domestic sale and those for the Belgian market, as well as the different naming. In Scotland, it was marketed as Strong Ale, in Belgium Scotch Ale.
The Gordon’s brand is still around, though it’s now brewed in Belgium. Which means one of George Younger’s brands has lived on more than 50 years after the brewery closed. Actually, it’s not the only one of their brands that’s still knocking around. For they were also the original brewer of Sweetheart Stout.
Younger’s Scotch Ale and Strong Ale look like versions of the same beer, just with the domestic version a good bit weaker. Oh, and the colour, too. Strong Ale is a dark brown, while the Scotch Ale is on the border of dark amber and pale brown. But that doesn’t mean a different recipe was used. The colour probably just comes from a caramel addition somewhere late in the brewing process.
|George Younger Strong and Scotch Ales 1950 - 1955|
|1950||Gordon Highland Scotch Ale||Scotch Ale||bottled||0.90||1031.1||1091.2||1 + 40||7.81||65.90%|
|1950||Gordon Xmas Ale (bottled in Antwerp)||Scotch Ale||bottled||0.10||1032.3||1090.7||2 + 40||7.58||64.39%|
|1952||Gordon Highland Scotch Ale||Scotch Ale||bottled||0.08||1026.5||1081.8||2.5 + 40||7.19||67.60%|
|1953||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||14.5d||nip||bottled||0.06||1021.9||1067.6||13 + 40||5.93||67.60%|
|1954||Gordon Highland Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium)||Scotch Ale||bottled||0.06||1028||1090.9||60||8.20||69.20%|
|1955||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||15d||nip||bottled||0.05||1022.3||1067.6||100||5.87||67.01%|
|1955||Gordon Highland Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium)||Scotch Ale||bottled||0.07||1029.9||1090.3||55||7.86||66.89%|
|Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive|
|Whitbread Gravity Book document LMA/4453/D/02/002 held at the London Metropolitan Archives|
From the brewing records I’ve seen, Scottish brewers rarely used coloured malts, except in Stout. And I know some Scottish brewers had multiple versions of the same beer coloured with caramel to different shades, depending on where the beer was going to be sold. That’s also how they managed to parti-gyle 60/- with 70/- and 80/- even though 60/- was much darker – basically like Dark Mild – than the other two.