They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


AleSmith Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale

AleSmith Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale

Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale

ABV: 10%
Origin: San Diego, California, USA

I first heard about the buzz around beer in San Diego from some itinerant locals who struck up a conversation with me at Belgium’s Zythos Bierfestival in 2008. They also very kindly gave me a bottle of AleSmith’s celebrated Speedway Stout, which placed one of the city’s numerous highly admired breweries firmly on my map.

Like many new US craft breweries, AleSmith – in the northern suburbs of San Diego not far from the US Marine Corps air station at Miramar – is firmly rooted in the homebrewing movement. Founded by home brewers Skip Virgilio and Ted Newcomb in 1995, it was bought out in 2002 by another home brewer, Peter Zien, also an experienced beer judge, though brewer Tod Fitzsimmons, who has been there almost since the beginning, remains a major influence on the products. The preference is for strongish beers in big, smart bottles that are especially bold and distinctive even by southern Californian standards.

Wee Heavy, originally named J P Gray’s Wee Heavy after co-founder Skip Virgilio’s grandfather, was a relatively early American craft foray into the 90/- style of strong Scottish ale that is now all too rare in its homeland. It’s since become recognised as something of a benchmark, with several awards to its credit.

The beer derives colour and character from dark roasted malt, pouring a rich deep ruby brown with a fine yellowish head. A smooth, winy, slightly woody and chocolatey aroma has notes of rich raisin-tinged malt.

The palate is also full, smooth, rich and winy, but notably dry, balanced by roasted malt, more woodiness and generous hops lending bitter herb and fruit notes. A long and warming finish has bitter herbs, chocolate, a burr of roast malt and tannic cherry-inflected wood. Overall it’s an outstanding example of how US craft brewers have reinterpreted endangered European styles with flair.

My notes are based on a 750ml bottle from City Beer in San Francisco.

2 comments to AleSmith Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale

  • 90/- Ale is a low-gravity bottled Pale Ale. Or was until someone in the 1970’s or 1980’s decided it was the logical name for a beer stronger than 80/-.

    The original Wee Heavy, Fowler’s, was a 12 Guinea Ale.

    Apologies for the pedantry.

  • Des

    Your pedantry is very welcome, Ron, and explains the considerable jump in gravity from 80/- to 90/- which always seemed troublingly misaligned with a mere 12.5% increase in price. 252/-sounds more realistic! Do you know what the OG or ABV of the Fowler’s was?

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