Ahh Robert the Bruce – the man and the beer. We’ll start with the man that inspired the name for this beer – king of the Scots from 1306-1329 (yes I got this off Wikipedia). After brewing this I actually read quite a bit about Robert and was not surprised to see how historically inaccurate Braveheart is, but I still love that movie. It was the first ‘R’ rated movie I ever saw – I still wonder what my parents were thinking – I was maybe 11 by the time I saw it. It’s still a movie I watch once (or many) times a year. I’ve always thought the character Robert the Bruce was the most compelling in the entire film, largely because of the acting of Angus Macfadyen (FAATHHERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!). If you can get some Robert the Bruce (or another Scottish Ale) there is a fun and simple drinking game to play while watching Braveheart – every time someone on screen says “freedom” you raise your glass and say “Robert!” and take a healthy sip, if the English are on screen you say “dirty English bastards!” and drink.
Because of my interest in both Scottish Ales and Robert the Bruce I was intrigued when a friend of mine told me about a beer called Robert the Bruce by 3 Floyds. It’s a Scottish Ale that falls between the Scottish 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale (so I guess it’s about a 100/- ale) style categories in terms of gravity. Their website says that it’s 7%, but everywhere else has it at 6.5%. I figured I’d target 6.5% and ended up hitting 7% so either way I’m in the neighborhood. The main info floating around the internet is that it’s bittered with Centennial to about 30 IBU and uses crystal, roasted and melanoiden malts. I found a recipe (below) that was supposedly from Nick Floyd on a forum from a post about 8 years ago and figured I’d try using the recipe as a starting point as it matched up with the rest of what I could find on this beer.
Ibus:30 All at begining of Boil (Centennial)
90 Minute Boil
MashIn 162 F Hour Rest
Colour 18 Srm
Malt 85% 2Row US
1%Black Patent UK
5%Caramunich 40 German
3% Crystal 10 US
2% Melanoidin German
3%Crystal 55 UK
Ferment on the cold side 62-65 F
From there I degassed a sample and saw that it finished at 1.016, not 1.022. I decided to keep the same grist percentages and to target 1.065 OG and 1.016 FG for 6.5% ABV.
Here is the recipe I brewed:
Mash @ 149F
85% Rahr 2 Row
5% Weyermann Caramunich I
3% Simpson’s Medium Crystal (50-60 = 55ish)
3% Briess Caramel 10
2% Weyermann Melanoiden Malt
1% Simpson’s Roasted Barley
1% Simpsons English Black Malt
Centennial @ 90 mins to 30 IBU
WLP002 – ferment at 62*, ramp up to 66* as fermentation slows down.
Homebrew left, Robert the Bruce right
It ended up at 1.067 OG and finished at 1.014 (7% ABV) so the mash temp was a bit low. Like most Scottish Ales it really didn’t taste great until it had been cold conditioning for about a month – was almost cloyingly sweet and the flavors just hadn’t blended yet. As you can tell in the picture, the homebrew version is a fair bit darker, it worked out to 19.8 SRM in Beersmith, but I wanted to start with this grist anyway since it was the only recipe I could find online that looked like it could be right. When we tried this side by side the commercial bottle was a bit old and oxidized so we really couldn’t do a true side by side so I’ll just describe how the homebrew version tastes.
The aroma is all malt, caramel, chocolate, dark fruit and just a hint of alcohol and esters. When I first take a sip I get a lot of chocolate and some bitterness and it changes quickly to caramel, dark fruit and just pure Scottish Ale malt character (sorry I can’t describe that better). It’s definitely got a clean malt profile and the perfect balance of good old Centennial bittering. It’s crazy how the flavors change within a single sip – the finish is dark fruit and than suddenly a hint of chocolate. It’s been a while since I’ve had a fresh Robert, so I can’t really say that this is cloned, but its in the ballpark for sure. Robert is a bit more drinkable so I think getting this down to 6.5% would help. My regulator also went crazy and this is slightly overcarbonated, been slowly degassing it so that would also make it a bit more drinkable. I’ll have to reduce some of the character malts to lighten the color a bit as well. I remember the malt hitting me a bit harder so I will probably increase the melanoiden next time. Some friends might be heading near the brewery in the next couple of months so if they are able to bring back some more Robert I’ll tweak the recipe and rebrew this. In the meantime I’ll probably use a similar grist makeup to make a Scottish 60/- or 70/-.
I entered this in the March Mashness competition as a Specialty Beer with the description, “This is a Scottish Ale brewed between the Scottish Export 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale styles.” Not sure what to expect – never entered a Specialty Beer. I call it “Northfarthing Ale” as I thought the description of the Northfarthing of the Shire to be a lot like Scottland – (from LOTR Wikia):
The Northfarthing or the North Farthing was the least populated part of the Shire.
It was known for having a slightly cooler climate then the rest of the Shire and snow was more common here.
The soil tended to be somewhat rocky but was good enough to allow for farming and was where the Shire’s barley for their beer came from.
There was also much hunting done here.