BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Drink a toast to trailblazing New Albany brewer Hew Ainslie with a McEwan’s Scotch Ale.

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Let’s drink to our next meeting, lads,
Nor think on what’s atwixt;
They’re fools wha spoil the present hour
By thinking on the next.
— Hew Ainslie

In 1840, Hew Ainslie became New Albany’s first officially recorded brewer, setting up shop with a partner named Bottomley in the vicinity of today’s Best Western at Spring and W. 5th Street. Their brewery didn’t last long, being a victim of fire, and by 1841 Ainslie was working in Louisville.

I believe Ainslie deserves some manner of recognition. After all, too many plaques are mounted in honor of underachieving politicians, and too few to men like Ainslie. In addition to brewing, he was a published poet and an ardent Scottish nationalist.

I’m telling you abut Ainslie because a spoonful of McEwan’s Scotch Ale helps the history lesson go down. First, today’s Pints&union story links:

New pub brings authentic English flavor to downtown New Albany, by Rachael Krause (WAVE 3)

SNEAK PEEK: This new Louisville-area bar focuses on classic beers, by Bridgett Weaver (Business First)

Any thoughtful consideration of classic ales from Scotland must include McEwan’s Scotch Ale, which is available in the bottle at Pints&union. Owing to brewery consolidations and buyouts, it has been orphaned several times, and nowadays this quintessential Wee Heavy is brewed at Marston’s.

Known as a “wee heavy.” Fermented at cooler temperatures than most ales, and with lower hopping rates, resulting in clean, intense malt flavors. Well suited to the region of origin, with abundant malt and cool fermentation and aging temperature. Hops, which are not native to Scotland and formerly expensive to import, were kept to a minimum.

At the time of this review five years ago, McEwan’s was the property of Wells & Young’s Brewing Co. Now it is being brewed by Marston in Bedford, UK. Almost any traditional ale of Scottish origin at this potency can be trusted to be rich, malty and sweet. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, neither is tea itself.

MCEWAN’S SCOTCH ALE (All About Beer)

 … Nicknamed the “Red Top,” this traditional “wee heavy” was first brewed by William McEwan in Edinburgh in 1856.

ABV: 8
ABW: 6.4
COLOR: 37
BITTERNESS: 23

 … Nut brown with gorgeous ruby highlights, it has a fine tan head that won’t disappear. The nose is reminiscent of the delicious aroma encountered when entering a brewery. On the palate, it is rich, flavorful, and well-balanced; almost fruity with a clean treacle finish. A little too sweet for many dishes, we enjoyed it with bowtie pasta with basil-spinach pesto, topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by fresh fruit and sponge cake for dessert.
– Charles Finkel

A very dark and deep presentation topped off with a head that lingers memorable wisps. Rich toasty, toffee aroma sets up rounded expectations. Malt characters insist on dominating. Chewy mouthfeel. Extraordinary well-balanced Scotch ale with warmth of alcohol instilling my mind. Unusually clean aftertaste for such a big beer. Well-brewed. A very excellent example of a classic style.
– Charlie Papazian

For many beer drinkers, a sipping beer like McEwan’s Scotch is better suited to cooler weather, although to me air conditioning is the great leveler. If you have one, let me know what you think — and be sure to raise your glass to Hew Ainslie.

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