Style Details

Wee Hea­vy
Strong Bri­tish Ale
BJCP Style Code
17 C
Light cop­per to dark brown color, often with deep ruby high­lights. Clear. Usual­ly has a lar­ge tan head, which may not per­sist. Legs may be evi­dent in stron­ger versions.
Deep­ly mal­ty, with a strong cara­mel com­po­nent. Light­ly smo­ky secon­da­ry aro­mas may also be pre­sent, adding com­ple­xi­ty; peat smo­ke is inap­pro­pria­te. Diace­tyl should be low to none. Low to mode­ra­te esters and alco­hol are often pre­sent in stron­ger ver­si­ons. Hops are very low to none, and can be slight­ly ear­thy or floral.
Rich­ly mal­ty with signi­fi­cant cara­mel (par­ti­cu­lar­ly in stron­ger ver­si­ons). Hints of roas­ted malt may be pre­sent (some­ti­mes per­cei­ved as a faint smo­ke cha­rac­ter), as may some nut­ty cha­rac­ter, all of which may last into the finish. Peat smo­ke is inap­pro­pria­te. Hop fla­vors and bit­ter­ness are low to medi­um-low, so the malt pre­sence should domi­na­te the balan­ce. Diace­tyl should be low to none. Low to mode­ra­te esters and alco­hol are usual­ly pre­sent. Esters may sug­gest plums, rai­sins or dried fruit. The pala­te is usual­ly full and sweet, but the finish may be sweet to medi­um-dry, some­ti­mes with a light roasty-grai­ny note.
Medi­um-full to full-bodi­ed, with some ver­si­ons (but not all) having a thick, che­wy vis­co­si­ty. A smooth, alco­ho­lic warmth is usual­ly pre­sent and is quite wel­co­me sin­ce it balan­ces the mal­ty sweet­ness. Mode­ra­te carbonation.
Over­all Impression
Rich, mal­ty, dex­tri­no­us, and usual­ly cara­mel-sweet, the­se beers can give an impres­si­on that is sug­ges­ti­ve of a des­sert. Com­plex secon­da­ry malt and alco­hol fla­vors pre­vent a one-dimen­sio­nal qua­li­ty. Strength and mal­ti­ness can vary, but should not be cloy­ing or syrupy.
Typi­cal Ingredients
Well-modi­fied pale malt, with roas­ted bar­ley for color. May use some crys­tal malt for color adjus­t­ment. Slight smo­ke cha­rac­ter may be pre­sent in some ver­si­ons, but deri­ves from roas­ted grains or from the boil. Pea­ted malt is abso­lut­e­ly not traditional.
More rela­ted to his­to­ri­cal brews than modern lower-strength Scot­tish ales, the­se beers have their roots in the strong ales of the 1700s and 1800s, alt­hough for­mu­la­ti­ons and methods have chan­ged. A pre­mi­um pro­duct, often pro­du­ced for export. Modern ver­si­ons have lower start­ing and finis­hing gra­vi­ties than their his­to­ri­cal ancestors.
Also known as “strong Scotch ale.” The term “wee hea­vy” means “small strong” and traces to the beer that made the term famous, Fowler’s Wee Hea­vy, a 12 Gui­nea Ale. His­to­ri­cal­ly, the stron­gest beer from a Scot­tish ale parti-gyle.
Com­mer­cial Examples
Bel­ha­ven Wee Hea­vy, Gor­don High­land Scotch Ale, Inver­al­mond Black­fri­ar, McEwan’s Scotch Ale, Ork­ney Skull Split­ter, Traquair House Ale
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
1.070 - 1.130 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.018 - 1.040 SG
14 - 25 SRM
6.0 - 10.0 %vol
17 - 35 IBU