Scotch ales are delicious beers with a solid alcohol presence and a big, bold malt flavor. If you think of Scottish beers like Belgian beers, scotch ale (sometimes referred to as wee heavy) is like quads/dark strong ale. It is the highest alcohol and boldest flavor. That doesn't mean that a scotch ale should burn going down. The malty backbone should provide a sweet and complex flavor that is aided by the warmth of the alcohol. Because these beers are 7% or more they are good beers for aging and often because of how strong they are, they need to be aged. It's a style that doesn't need oak or barrel aging but develops nicely with it.
There is a lot of debate over whether scotch ales need a smoke element to the flavor. Some people think they should include peat malt, which lends a very distinct smoke flavor. Others think no smoked malt should be used but a good scottish yeast strain should create smokey phenols. Still others prefer no smoke flavor at all. Commercial scotch ales, like scotch, range from very smokey to no smoke at all. It's just a question of preference. Personally, I like enough smoke to make the flavor interesting (but more smoke in my scotch) but not overpowering. I find adding a little smoked malt adds that flavor without being offsetting. If you want smoke flavor but don't want to buy an entirely new strain of yeast for one beer I would recommend, as I do here, using a little smoked malt and fermenting with a neutral strain. Although English beers are known for their esters and diacetyl, scottish beers should be neutral or phenolic.
It is also very common of this style to see the first runnings boiled down to a syrup to create caramelization and then sparge additional water to produce the appropriate boil volume. I chose not to do that here and instead opted for a triple decoction mash, which produces similar effects but should offer improved mouthfeel. If you want to boil down first runnings you may want to substitute crystal malt or carapils to make for a thicker beer.
This recipe is for a lighter alcohol scotch ale. It is easily adjusted up if you prefer a stronger brew. It is also a one gallon recipe, so scale as necessary.
2.5lb Maris Otter
4 oz Munich
2 oz Amber Malt (may substitute appropriate lovibond crystal malt)
1 oz Roasted Barley
1 oz Smoked Malt
Triple Decoction mash at 122/148/158 (alternatively you could boil down your first runnings to create caramelization and then add water back to boil volume)
Boil volume: 1.14gal
Boil additions (60 min boil):
.45oz Fuggles 4.5 AA at 60 min
.07oz Fuggles 4.5 AA at 15 min
.15 tsp Irish moss at 10 min
Ferment 4 weeks with 1338
I will probably tweak this recipe before I brew it next to improve mouthfeel. I might also try boiling down the first runnings. Anyway, it's a good solid recipe. If you decide to make a scotch ale, I do recommend brewing more than a gallon because you'll want to age some of it and one gallon just doesn't cut it. I've drank about half of the batch and I'm trying to ration out the rest because it's tasty (and I'm trying to cut back on how much I drink) and I want to see how it improves over time.