903 Brewers Goes Massive With Its Wee Heavy Brew, Kilt Switch. But Beyond Its High ABV And Clear Sweetness, Is There Much Going On Here?

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on 903 Brewers’ Kilt Switch.

Fast Facts on 903 Brewers Kilt Switch.
Style: Wee Heavy (Strong Scotch Ale).
ABV: 12.9 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): Not available.
Color: Deep copper.
Availability: Cans and kegs.

Overview.
Ah, the wee heavy. It’s a style that I almost never drink, and yet, here I am trying it out in the dog days of summer. This style typically requires a helmet, and it demands respectful, slow sipping. 903 Brewers is a brewery that doesn’t shy away from some larger beers, and it has been nailing it lately with its bigger beers. So I’m confident that Kilt Switch will follow suit. Will it? Let’s see!

Background on Wee Heavy.
The Wee Heavy (or Strong Scotch Ale as it’s also known) comes to us from high-gravity historical strong ales from the Scotland. Historically speaking, brewers used to brew more than one beer from the same batch of grains: a strong ale, and a smaller table beer. The Wee Heavy represents that higher-gravity first batch runs from the parti-gyle process. This style is rich, malty and caramel-y sweet. Some people might even think of the Wee Heavy as a dessert-style beer. And while this is a massively-boozy brew with plenty of residual sugar on the finish, it shouldn’t taste cloyingly sweet or overpowering. Alcohol notes and are warming sensation are commonplace, and this trait helps balance out the large grain bill’s sweetness. Hops are not the star of the show on this beer; they should remain in the background and they provide little balance on this style – after all, it’s all about the malt here. Normal ABV for the style ranges from 6.5 percent to 10 percent. From a grain bill perspective, pale malts are used as the base malt, and then crystal malts add body, and roasted barley for color. A hint of smoke can be present on this style from the boil itself or from the highly-kilned malts. One note that the BJCP guidelines state explicitly is that peated malt, though used sometimes, is not traditional to the style.

Appearance.
Kilt Switch pours a deep reddish copper color into the glass. I see a nice layer of foam here, and it looks delicious. Clarity is so-so on this beer. It was brilliantly clear through the first half of the pour, but the last bits clouded up the beer a bit.

Aroma.
At first, I get a massive caramel sweetness on the nose, and then the boozy warming aroma floods my nostrils. Kilt Switch does have a dessert thing going on, except with an additional hint of something herbal and peaty. I also notice some plum and dates on the nose here. The hop aroma is very low, with nothing much doing. All in all, the aroma is tip-top here and I can’t wait to dive in.

Flavor.
Right off the bat, I get a tongue-tingle and warming sensation with Kilt Switch. It’s like a teeny tiny bit of instant coating and numbing on my tongue and it’s weirdly enjoyable. With a beer clocking in at 12.9 percent ABV, it’s rather tough to hide the booze. And Kilt Switch gives it a really good college try here. The immense malt bill has a large amount of non-fermentable sugar hanging around after fermentation, and it helps balance out the wallop and tingle from the warming alcohol. As I get about half-way through this beer, I can feel my face warming and the general annoyances of life fade away. The beer approaches being too cloyingly sweet for me, but I keep coming back for more.

Mouthfeel.
There’s no doubt that this is a very full-bodied brew. It asks me to take my time with it. Any quicker and I might approach sugar-and-booze overload, like the booze version of a brainfreeze. Carbonation is medium-high, and it provides extra tingle for the warming sensation that floods my tongue.

Overall Impression.
Kilt Switch fills a spot in the North Texas craft scene that not a whole lot of other breweries will dare go – the high-alcohol Wee Heavy. So, props to 903 Brewers for rolling the dice! I think that this beer is a smaller portion type of beer, where you crack a can and split it 4 or 5 ways, or order it as a small pour at a bar. I’m having a tough time getting through the beer, but not for any flaws or off flavors. Make no mistake: This is a very good beer, it’s just a whole lot of sugar-and-flavored filled tiny sips to get through.

Score.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give 903 Brewers Kilt Switch a 7.5.

Previous On Tap Reviews:

• Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
• Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Freak Flag: 10.
• Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Boysenbarrel: 10.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community’s Legion: 10.
• Martin House River Horse: 9.75.
• BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
• Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
• 903 Brewers’ Birthday Sasquatch: 9.5.
• TUPPS Brewery’s Full Grown Scallywag: 9.5.
• On Rotation’s Flocculation of Seagulls: 9.5.
• Braindead Brewing’s P-Wing: 9.5.
• Lakewood Brewing Company’s Coconut Temptress: 9.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
• Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s SMaSHY: 9.25
• BrainDead Brewing’s Galactic Federation of Might: 9.25
• On Rotation’s Lingonberry Sahti: 9.25.
• Martin House Brewing Company’s The Morrigan: 9.25.
• On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
• Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
• Braindead Brewing Company’s Dr. Dreipricot: 9.
• Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
• Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
• Bankhead Brewing Co.’s Giggle Water: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Cedar Creek’s Poblano Paradise: 8.75.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest: 8.75.
• Lakewood Brewing Company IPA: 8.75.
• Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Passiflora: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Community Beer Company’s Wit ‘N Wild: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Prime Minister: 8.25.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer: 8.25.
• Noble Rey Brewing’s Barampus: 8.25.
• Martin House’s Possum Kingdom Pilsner: 8.25.
• Community Beer Company’s Brett’s Get It On: 8.25.
• Bankhead Brewing Company’s Aoogah!: 8.25.
• Lakewood’s Peach Artsy Tarsty: 8.25.
• Lakewood Brewing Grand Allowance: 8.
• HopFusion Ale Works’ Hairpin: 8
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Greenbelt Farmhouse Ale: 8.
• Community’s Texas Helles: 8.
• On Rotation’s Moar Blackberry: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Paleta de Mango: 8.
• Peticolas Brewing Company’s Doctor’s Orders: 8.
• Lakewood’s Thread Spinner: 8.
• Bishop Cider Co.’s Sour Cherry: 8.
• Texas Ale Project 50 Ft. Jackrabbit: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewing’ Nine Volt: 8.
• Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
• Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
• Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s Cannoneer: 8.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s Sixth Floor: 8.
• Lakewood’s On Call: 8.
• Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
• Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum’s Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver’s Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
• Four Corners Brewing Company Homie Brew: 7.75.
• Community Beer Company’s Snickerdoodle: 7.75.
• Pegasus City Brewery’s High Point: 7.75.
• Cedar Creek’s Grapefruit Haze: 7.75.
• Martin House Brewing’s Big Hoppa: 7.75.
• TUPPS Full Grown Man: 7.75.
• 3 Nations American Wit: 7.75.
• Armadillo Ale Works’ Dapper Apple: 7.75.
• Chimera Dirty Dog: 7.5.
• 3 Nations Brewing Company’s Imperial Milk Stout: 7.5.
• Legal Draft’s Accused Amber Lager: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
• Noble Rey Brewing Company’s Frooty Tang: 7.5.
• Martin House Brewing’s Pretzel Stout: 7.5.
• Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
• Texas Ale Project’s Good To Go: 7.5.
• Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
• Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
• On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
• True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
• Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek Brewery Clover Kicker: 7.25.
• Noble Rey Sex In A Canoe: 7.25.
• Legal Draft Beer Company Free & Clear: 7.25.
• Oak Highlands Brewery’s Oktoberfest.: 7.25.
• Unlawful Assembly’s Public Dissent: 7.
• Deep Ellum Rye Pils: 7.
• 3 Nations Mango SMASH IPA: 7.
• Legal Draft Chief Justice Stout: 7.
• Legal Draft’s Black Letter Law: 7.
• Noble Rey Brewing Company’s Mother Night: 7.
• TUPPS Brewery’s Imperial Saison: 7.
• Manhattan Project’s Plutonium-239: 7.
• Panther Island Brewing’s Sweet Fang: 7.
• Backcountry’s Texas IPA: 7.
• Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
• Wild Acre Brewing Company’s Billy Jenkins: 7.
• Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
• Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
• TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
• Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
• BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
• Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
• Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
• Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
• Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
• Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
• Martin House’s River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
• Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Texas Ale Project’s Hawaiian Roadrunner: 6.75.
• Whistle Post’s Shoofly Coconut Lime Ale: 6.75.
• Community Brewing Company’s Silly Gose: 6.75
• HopFusion Ale Works’ Feisty Blonde: 6.75
• Martin House’s Queen of the Mist (Prickly Pear): 6.75.
• Three Nations Texas Xmas Hazelnut Ale: 6.5.
• Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
• Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
• Four Corners’ Celebración: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek’s Maui Wowie: 6.25.
• On Rotation’s Mexican Barleywine: 6.25.
• Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
• Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
• TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
• Cobra Brewing Company’s Dawn of the Dank: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
• Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
• Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Woodcreek’s Lakeside Cerveza: 5.
• Legal Draft Beer Company’s Smash & Grab IPA: 5.
• Martin House Cuvee Pumpkin Latte: 5.
• Intrinsic’s Crunktoberfest: 5.
• Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
• 903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
• Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
• TUPPS’ Day Off: 4.75.
• 3 Nations’ Lady Luck Horchata Ale: 4.5.
• Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Audacity’s Checkered Past: 4.
• Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
• Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
• Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
• Good Neighbor Brews’ Slim Sweetness: 3.
• Good Neighbor Brews’ O’Carrol’s Irish Red: 3.
• Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• 903 Brewers’ Mythical Creatures: 2.5.
• Miller Lite: 1.

All photos by Ben Smithson. 

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