YET ANOTHER animal-themed beer in a fauna-focused lineup, Big Sky’s Heavy Horse Scotch Ale is a garnet-and-brown, 6.7% ABV brew that goes down much swifter than the average Wee Heavy sipper. The pour yields a smallish head that’s creamy in color and fairly large in bubbles, nicely framing edges that turn towards caramel gold in the light. Modest lacing. First aroma impressions are intensely of red fruit–cherry and raspberry–which lingers for a time before giving way to the expected base of toffee, hearty grain, and some general nuttiness. Hops are not present.
Despite that last obvious nod to Scotch Ale standards, Heavy Horse overall seems more like a brown ale at first: a moderate body; relatively few leather, smoky, or tannic notes; and fairly pronounced carbonation that foams into the finish almost like soap. Alcohol warmth is also a non-factor, though that’s less surprising given the beer’s relatively modest strength in a category that often scrapes 9%. A little metallic note is also present both in the aroma and flavor, not unpleasantly strong, and perhaps even useful in a beer with virtually no discernible bitterness (20 IBU). Big Sky indicates softening their water particularly to achieve a more authentic profile, though it’s a mite odd that they would make that effort while avoiding Scotch Ale’s more signature qualities. But Montana is a place for individualism if nothing else, and Big Sky tends to be strong on the fundamentals with a few precise tweaks here and there. Heavy Horse continues that steady-on trend rather well: an inviting and easy chum to belly up alongside at the bar more than a stalwart companion for standing back-to-back atop some Highland moor.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 12/12/13