Friday, October 16th, 2015

When Blue Lightning strikes a Scotchie Scotchie Scotch

Blue Lightning Brew co-founder and head brewer Toren Heald / photo credit: Pappi Swarner

My first sip of alcohol at age [fill in the blank] was from a bottle of Johnny Walker passed to me by older roughians. We listened to Led Zeppelin on the 8-track (yes, 8-track — it only played one way, no rewind) and polished off the bottle. It didn’t go well for me. Lesson learned. It was years and years before I was brave enough to try scotch again, and single malt peated whisky from Islay became my choice. When I drink Islay scotches, I always think of building a fire (maybe with damp wood from an old boat) on a rocky shoreline in blustery weather. Like the fire, the scotch is smoky and warming with notes of brine, iodine and peat. Peat is compressed vegetable matter that lies beneath the ground all over Scotland; it is dug out in logs that are burned to dry the grains used for making whiskey. Peat is responsible for the scotch category’s distinctive flavor.

Tuesday, the smoky Scotch goodness returned in the form of Blue Lightning Brew’s Scotchie Scotchie Scotch, a 6.9% ABV Scotch Ale smoked for six hours in a barbecue rig with apple wood. Scotch Ale, also called Wee Heavy, is boiled until the wort caramelizes, making it richer in both color and flavor. This also concentrates the alcohol — Scotch Ales range from 5.5% to well over 7% ABV with many of the higher alcohol volumes coming in American versions. Blue Lightning co-founder and head brewer Toren Heald, a former beer columnist with the Woodinville Weekly (I knew I liked this guy), imports peat from the Highlands, chars it and dumps it straight into the second fermentation. OK, not really, but there’s enough smokiness here to make Groucho Marx give up his cigars.

Seconds before ordering a second Scotchie Scotchie Scotch, Heald heeded my happiness and wandered over with his Wicked Whiskey Scotch Ale.

“Ka-boom!” stated Heald as I took my first sip.

The Scotchie Scotchie Scotch is aged for months in a Woodinville Whiskey whiskey barrel dramatically changing the taste. Yes, the ale swirls with nutty, earthy aromas, thanks to the original SSS. But, the smokiness here is faint. It’s balanced with oak, sweet caramel and vanilla notes, with a warm, smooth, mostly sweet aftertaste. Wicked Whiskey Scotch Ale works.

Head to Blue Lightning, sip either beer, and listen to Heald’s story on how the Woodinville brewery grew from a Groupon deal brewery class. Fun story. Fun guy. Scotch, scotch, scotch.

BLUE LIGHTNING BREW, 2-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 19405 144th Ave. NE, Woodinville, 425.908.7085