In the wake of their win at the Great American Beer Festival this month, Bear Republic is rightfully crowing about taking a Bronze home in the Scotch Ale category for their beer Heritage.

(The only other Sonoma County winners were Third Street Aleworks, which took two medals, and Russian River with one. Nearby Moylans also picked one up).

This week,  the brewery sent out a little essay explaining the name and the beer, which is in a malt-centric style that the hop-forward brewery is not normally associated with. And the story is interesting, not least because Brewmaster Richard Norgrove credits the Scotch ale style as the base for many of his more familiar recipes, including Red Rocket Ale and even the flagship Racer 5.

The brewery says the Norgroves originally wanted to call  their brewery “Heritage,” but that name was taken by an English brewery so they went with Bear Republic. The family has visited Scotland several times in a quest to perfect the Scotch Ale recipe, visiting the iconic Traquair House Brewery, testing local ingredients and generally exploring their ancestral homeland.

“My wife’s favorite beer has always been Heritage, because that was the base for Red Rocket Ale,” Norgrove writes. “The only request that she gave me when our daughter was to be born was to have our Scottish ale Heritage at the birth at the hospital.”

He admits, however, that she put her foot down on his father’s suggestion of naming their daughter “Caravienne,” a lovely and exotic name that also happens to be a type of malt used in brewing.

The brewery has won 19 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, but the Scotch Ale category win, even at the bronze level, is something special, Norgrove said. “English-style brewing practices are the base of my passion,” he writes. “To have a Scottish recipe that won for us at GABF is amazing and a fulfilment of a family goal!”

“The Norgrove family name is Scotch-Irish, but our family makeup is Scottish, Nicaraguan-Latin American, Greek, German and Native American,” they write. “Bear Republic fosters this family mindset by creating beers that we believe are representative of our heritage and truly defining what a California brewery should be.”

Here’s the full version of the story behind the beer.

– Sean Scully