One of my favorite all-time Simpsons characters has to be Groundskeeper Willie. Between his appearances in the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, his overall surliness and catch phrase, it’s hard to find a Simpsons fan out there who doesn’t appreciate ol’ Willie. According to the internet (so it has to be true), Willie’s character was originally just supposed to be an angry janitor. Dan Castellaneta, who does the voice, originally tried out the character in a Spanish accent, secondly as an “angry Swede”. For the third try, he did angry Scotsman, and it clicked. The rest, as they say, is history.
What does Groundskepper Willie have to do with this beer? Well, as Simpsons fans will certainly recall, Willie wrestled a wolf in Episode 7 of Season 4 in “Marge Gets a Job.” Bart is accused of “crying wolf”, when there is an actual Alaskan Timber Wolf in the school, which had gotten loose during a taping with Krusty the Clown. The wolf ends up attacking Bart, and he is saved by Willie. After the fight, a clearly defeated wolf is sitting next to Willie, who is offering him some alcohol. Willie says, “Don’t feel bad fer losin’. I was wrestling wolves when you were still suckling at yer mother’s teat.” And since there are at least 3 other breweries making Scottish beers named “Groundskepper Willie”, we decided to be a bit more original and name it after one of his most famous scenes. Plus, as fans of the brewery probably already know, I’m a sucker for alliteration.
Anyways, let’s get to the beer, shall we? Wee Heavys are a Scottish style ale that have their roots in the 1700-1800’s. Modern Scottish beers are quite a bit lower in alcohol, where Wee Heavy’s typically range between 6.5-10% abv. Ours comes in at a “modest” 7.2% abv, so it’s a little lower on the scale. However, I don’t know if a Wee Heavy necessarily needs to be near the top of the alcohol range to be a fantastic beer. Alcohol is good, but usually the higher you go, the more time you need for the beer to age and mature to remove the rough edges that normally accompany it. At 7.2, it’s currently the 3rd highest abv beer we have on the menu, so it’s still going to get the job done, but you’ll be able to have a 2nd glass and still keep your wits about you.
One trend I’ve seen in craft brewing over the past few years is the inclusion of Peat Malt in Wee Heavys. Peated malt is a smoked malt that gets it’s flavor from the burning of peat moss during the malting process. Traditionally, peated malt is used in the distilling process of Scottish whiskey (Scotch). For whatever reason, homebrewers and some commercial brewers have started including peated malt while making Wee Heavys, perhaps because they are also known as Scotch Ales. Just because they are also known as Scotch Ales doesn’t mean they should taste like Scotch! I have not been to Scotland, but from what I’ve heard, the Wee Heavys there do not taste like Peat. I hear some pick up a slight smoky character from the combination of the water and yeast, and perhaps that’s why some brewers have incorporated Peated Malt into their recipe to mimic that nuance. The Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP, is very clear about this, as taken from their 2015 style guidelines: “Peated malt is absolutely not traditional.” I am not a big Scotch drinker, although my brother is. I’m sure peated malt makes fine Scotch, but for me, it makes beer taste like an ashtray. Therefore, as you have probably already surmised, we did not add any peated malt into this beer.
Instead of talking about what’s not in the beer, let’s talk about what’s actually in it! We used 5 different European malts, including Maris Otter, two types of English crystal, English pale chocolate and a touch of Belgian biscuit. We bittered with two additions of East Kent Goldings and fermented with a famous Scottish yeast. The result is a malt based beer with rich breadiness, strong caramel, dark dried fruit and faint roast. It finishes slightly sweet with just enough bitterness to balance out. There is a slight warming sensation from the alcohol as it goes down with a medium-full body. The alcohol is 7.2% abv, IBUs are 30 and the color is about 19 SRM.
Hops are certainly all the craze in America right now, and with good reason. There are so many new hop varieties coming out that provide fantastic and interesting new flavors. Playing around with these hops and experimenting is a perk of the job and incredibly fun. But there is also something about a rich malt based beer that satisfies the soul, especially at this time of year. So I invite you to channel your inner Scot and join us for a pint. No kilts are required, although if you wear one into the brewery, we’ll most likely give you a big high five. As Willie also said in the same episode, “Put down that hors d’oeurve, it’s time fer tha main course!”