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Alba Scots Pine Ale - Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

468 Reviews

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Reviews: 468
Hads: 661
Avg: 3.77
pDev: 16.98%
Wants: 33
Gots: 28 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Williams Brothers Brewing Company visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale |  7.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 09-18-2001

Introduced by the Vikings, spruce and pine ales were very popular in the Scottish Highlands until the end of the 19th century. Many early explorers, including Captain Cook, used spruce ale during long sea voyages since it prevented scurvy and ill health. Shetland spruce ale was said to "stimulate animal instincts" and give you twins. Alba is a triple style ale brewed to a traditional Highland recipe from Scots pine and spruce shoots pickled during early spring. Pure malted barley, is boiled with the young sprigs of pine for several hours then the fresh shoots of the spruce are added for a short infusion before fermentation.
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Reviews: 468 | Hads: 661
Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: It pours brilliant amber under a 2” off-white foam collar. S: This is smoky and piney on the nose T: The palate is an interesting blend of pine and caramel and a hint of horehound. The smoke on the palate is very light. F: Medium body and carbonation. O: A beer for people who want to try something without hops. This is very well done.

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Photo of Andrewharemza
4.12/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy amber color with a thin off-white head. Aroma is sweet pine, slightly sweet and floral. Flavor is also pine, fruity and very soft bitterness.Low carbonation in a soft to medium body with a sweet pine finish.

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Photo of Ian_B
3.34/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Hazy caramel coulour -- short white head and decent retention.

Sticky sweet caramel-candied apple and banana esters, with a very faint earthy/herbal pine sap aroma.

Taste is, again, very sweet; verging on cloying. Candied apple, with slightly more pronounced pine sap and slightly less banana. Very little to no bittering. Not much complexity. I really like the flavours that are there, and really want to like this, but overall the sweetness and balance are not doing it for me.

Sticky sweet mouthfeel without much carb or bitterness. Why so sweet?

Overall, slightly cloying with little going on to balance. Flavour is nice, but disappointing. Wish it was more dry or I had a spicy meal to balance this out.

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Photo of mothmanscott
3.94/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours an almost clear amber producing a rapidly diminishing, effervescent, off-white head that leaves no lacing. Aroma is toffee, light toasted malt, candy apple fruity, faint banana, lime zest & booze, no pine. Taste is malty, fruity & boozy comprised of toast, toffee, caramel, banana, apple, berries with a herbal, grass, bitter finish. Aftertaste could be called medicinal. Again nothing that I would call pine. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with similar carbonation, silky, oily, juicy becoming slightly dry at the end. Unique & very drinkable. Puts me in mind of certain American craft brewery Bock beers minus much of the bitterness.

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Photo of Tim-reed
3.57/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

look : burnt amber
smell : pine, spruce , orange
taste , barleywin-ish , strong alchohol taste with floral notes
mouth feel : velvet with lingering silkiness
over all moderate

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Photo of DaveBar
3.79/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Purchased as part of a 4pk called Historical Ales of Scotland for a reduced $10.00. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- Opens well and pours a thin head that is gone in no time. Dark and filtered clear.

S- A weird hint of lime popsicle.

T- There's that lime popsicle again. Sweet and syrupy thick. Surprisingly light

M- Creamy and pretty ok.

O- Not my cup of tea. Bought as a flavor change and have a second 4pk that can sit until guests from over the pond arrive.

Food Pairing

This sickly sweet beer went well with....... Pad Thai. The savory and sweet from the beer goes well together.


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Photo of 57md
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%

Golden copper color. Herbal nose with a touch of pine. Complex with a decent malt backbone and a touch of dankness. Dry and piney finish.

Very sessionable in spite of the high ABV.

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Photo of seedyone
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%

07/17/13 From bottle at Rattle n Hum, NYC. This is one of the most unique tastes I've had in along time. Don't be afraid of the pine in the description, it's is as well managed as a white tiger in Vegas (without the mangling stuff.)

The balances here are beyond admirable, they are astounding. There are no tricks or gimmicks here. It's a very honest brew. No pretense, despite the off beat approach. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I could drink this every day...and gladly.

A real refreshing change.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
4.2/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

$ 2.99/11.2 oz bottle at Vintage Estates, Boardman, OH
Bottle dated BB Dec 14 at 55 degrees into SA lager glass
Aroma weak, piney
Head average (3.5 cm), white, frothy, diminishing to 2 mm ring
Lacing fair, initially multiple small islands and archipelagos of small to medium bubbles; as the beer warms more, partial rings remain.
Body medium yellow, clear
Flavor of pine, very weak, slightly sweet; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, slightly oily, lively carbonation

Appearance 4, Aroma 4, Flavor 4.5, Palate 4, Overall 4.125

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Photo of Act25
4.11/5  rDev +9%

This is great beer. A Scotch strong ale brewed with pine and spruce as in days of long sea voyage. Discovered in WFM craft 12. Vikings in their day drank a brew spiced with pine and spruce. Freshness date clearly marked.

Appearance: Orange, amber with chill haze - thin off white cap, but lots of dotty lacing redolent of juniper berries and twigs. 3.9

Smell: Herbal and piney with a tripel style of fruity esters. Faint medicinal aromas but not unpleasant. Far ahead of Yards version. 3.9

Taste: Malt base over topped by herbal, earthy, estery, and spicy flavors that resolve into a great finish of spruce/pine blend. Finish is long, drying, appetizing with pine hints. 4.2

MF: Full body and smooth with a creamy, crisp carbonation. Great feel: 4.2

Overall: Excellent strong ale with lasting flavors. Let it warm to room temp. Try it with cheesy and sausage-filled food.

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Photo of doktorhops
4.44/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

The next ale in my sights after the Fraoch was the Alba Scots Pine Ale from the same brewer. Ever since discovering Plonk! I've been crossing plenty of must-haves off my list - which began with the Sah'Tea, now if only they could get their hands on some Russian River brews I would be set. Anyhow, back on topic: Scots Pine Ale is another in the vein of Fraoch, a Scottish Gruit, and I'm hoping it isn't as unique tasting as Retsina (a type of pine resin flavoured Greek wine that I ran afoul of in my quest to taste ancient brews).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a St Feuillien chalice.

A: Interesting - a headless ale, don't see that often. The body presents a hazy butterscotch colour (how appropriate).

S: Aroma is a mixture of sweet toffee malts, pine, medicinal herbs and a hint of isoamyl acetate bringing a banana/pear quality which lingers on in the background.

T: The flavour is spot on with the above aroma, however that isoamyl acetate really comes to the fore now. There is a toffee sweetness as well but the banana/pear front to mid-palate gives the whole brew an all-pervading fruitiness, which is tasty, very tasty. The finish is very similar to its cousin Fraoch with a medicinal herb bitterness and dry vinous touch.

M: A bit thin considering the ABV - mid to light bodied with a light carbonation.

D: Well I didn't think this would top the Fraoch but it does indeed parch my beerlust better than its Scot Gruit cousin. And the fact that Vikings drank something similar to this makes it a must have beverage for my fridge when season 3 of Vikings begins... I can hear the theme song now: Oooye oooye, oooyeoooo. Rollo rules.

Food match: The food of Vikings, whatever that is.

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Photo of patre_tim
4.08/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark brown orange amber with tones of carbonation, a creamy off white head that retains itself, clear filtered.

S: Creamy, pine, fragrant and spicy, fruity but all in a mild way.

T: Suprisingly different and delicious. I was expecting in the face pine but this didn’t happen all the way. It brought forth a subtle sweetness with spicy notes, any evergreen is more coming out as subtle complex spicy hops. Really delicious, one that I could sip for hours on end. I also get scotch in this, as in much like Old Chub but a subtler and less alcoholic wee heavy.

M: Medium, slight syrupy body. Lots of carbonation.

O: Delicious brew, I give it 9 out of 10. Very unique style, bottle with the tartan, and great flavour. Would go well with any Scotish dish, Christmas pudding and Christmas spiced desserts.

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Photo of chinchill
3/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

330ml bottle, Oct. 2014, allowed to warm and served in a goblet.

Clear golden with a thin, short-lived head.

Aroma and flavor are permeated with the young pine infusion. This lends a woody and, of course, piney note but leaves the malt base showing as well. Higher ABV is not hidden, leaving this too boozy. Thin body.

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Photo of scotorum
3.28/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bought an odd bottle of this in New Hampshire recently at a store which specializes in British import beers, among other things.

Poured from the 11.2 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Nearly clear dark gold with a finger thick head which dissipated to thin surface foam and patchy lacing.

s: Malt and alcohol.

t: Cough syrup-like medicinal with heavy alcohol presence. Mellowed out a bit but remained a bit grating, with no hint of pine or spruce flavor.

m: Medium, good body.

o: I'm going to assume I got a bad bottle, because mine was nothing like the last few reviews I have read here. I let three other people sample this as well, one said it tasted like rubbing alcohol, and I agreed. Another said it tasted like medicine, agree again. Very disappointing since I am half Scottish and really wanted this to be great. I realize it is an old timey recipe and that taste wasn't much of an issue in Viking days, but nowadays, it is, and this didn't have much to recommend it. Still, as is, I could imagine rough-hewn Vikings and Picts around a roaring bonfire on the north coast of Scotland in the ninth century, passing around a measure of this and having a high old time. But I'll try to find another bottle to revisit this.

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Photo of Emnmarko
3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A- A rich copper/amber color and clear. One finger off with head fades quickly to a light halo with little to no lacing.

S- I'm getting a sweet plum smell. I would guess this to be a lager by nose alone.

T- A mild malty flavor comes through at first. Very interesting. Fruity and sweet. A little musty. The more I drink the better I like it. (may have started too cold, and gained flavor with temperature).

M- Smooth and clean. Light for 7.5% abv. Crisp. This beers best attribute.

O- As a hop head in search of the ultimate hop bomb with ibu's through the roof I found this brew from across the pond brewed without hops at all. Spruce and pine provide the bitterness to balance out the malt backbone. Very interesting and different. Check this out some thought went into it.

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Photo of cambabeer
3.97/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A reddish brown body with light carbonation and a thin white head. Nice Lace. Very sweet smell, earthy and fruity. Smells like pine needles and apples with alcohol and malt characteristics underneath. Very crisp burnt smell, caramelized. Says on the bottle to enjoy at room temperature so that's what I'm doing, bringing out some very deep flavors. The malt bitterness at the end balances out the fruity and sweet apple like beginning, with warming alcohol in the middle. Very bready. Medium bodied, fairly drinkable. a warming treat. Good for a winter afternoon.

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Photo of schoolboy
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

It seems that I had this once before, or else some other "ancient" Scottish herbed ale. That said, I don't know what this is supposed to look like. The best before date said Oct 2013, so I am a little disappointed that Saveon sold it to me, but I'm not sure that it has any issues - it may be that it is supposed to be like this.

I opened with an odd boozy smell, and poured badly, with a ton of sediment coming near the end (so I stopped and will have a small sediment glass later). The color and foam are OK. The aroma is sweet and grassy (herbed) with a little booziness thrown in.

The taste is slightly like a ginger beer - sweet and herbed. Unique and interesting. The finish keeps going with that and is VERY pleasant.

So I may have bought an old bottle, but I think it was pretty good.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
3.71/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle 3 of 4 from the Williams Brothers Multi-Pack. Served cold into a pint glass.

Appearance - Bright orange color, minimal head poured but some frothy leftover head lingers for a bit. A few bubbles float to the top in the beer.

Smell - Rather fruity with some caramel notes. The fruit smell is rather sweet like overripe berries.

Taste - Again a lot of sweet fruit, a blend of low hanging fruit and some hints of sweet tropical flavors as well. Slight bitter presence on the back end of the beer.

Mouthfeel - Smooth, very soft in the mouth, low carbonation. despite giving off a soft feel, the body is full.

Overall - Enjoyable beer, not something I would purchase regularly, but worth giving a try to. Not quite as good as the elderberry beer, but better than the heather beer in my mind.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
4.23/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - clear amber pour, a thin sticky head with some wavy lace action around the glass.

Aroma - this comes out of the bottle smelling like a scotch ale or wee heavy, that lightly smoky peaty smell, a sweetness in there too.

Taste - like a weak scotch ale, but the lighter flavor profile allows for a cool smoky peat flavor to come through. Hints of spruce on the aftertaste, not all the time but every now and then. Grain sweetness, peat, and spruce, nicely blended. A touch of alcohol on the finish.

Mouthfeel - average crispness, weighty body, very smooth.

Overall - very nice mix of flavors. Easy to drink, a great fall session beer for the pit fire.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.05/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

11.2 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a clear copper color. With less than a finger's worth of white-colored head and poor retention, it doesn't create much of an aesthetic impression.

S: There's a lot of caramel in the aroma, and beneath all that caramel/toffee sweetness are some spruce notes. Let it warm up and it will develop a bit of a dark fruit smell. Nothing too exemplary, but not bad by any stretch.

T: At first, a wave of piny flavor (not hop-derived) engulfs the palate, before allowing the sweet maltiness to take over. General dark fruitiness finishes it off. Apart from the spruce, it's pretty uninteresting.

M: There's a certain finishing dryness that helps neutralize the sweet flavors some and create good drinkability in spite of its relative heft. Carbonation is very low, though, which makes it a little syrupy at times.

O: Eh...boring. To be fair, this isn't a very fresh bottle, but I can't see this one being fantastic fresh. Worth trying a single for the novelty.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.69/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 330ml standard pressure-cap bottle into a pint glass in high elevation Kalispell, Mont. Reviewed live.

A- One-finger beige head. Foamy with active carbonation that recedes after a minute. Clouded orange color with low clarity. Interesting looking brew, fairly attractive.

S- Citrus, spruce. Smells like a forest. Very nice. Pleasing aroma. Not complex, with some sugary scents, but I'm happy.

T- Surprisingly sweet flavor with a smidgen of the piney notes. Not as impressive as the aroma.

M- Smooth and crisp. Wet, bitter finish.

O- Well above average. I'm excited to drink the other crazy gruits in my fridge. Tasty, not terribly complex with a hint of the spruce.

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Photo of Knuckles_Nuclear
3.68/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a nonic. Low, loose head that dissipated, leaving minimal lacing. Color is a clear, deep auburn/brown...very pretty. The nose carried notes of earthy malt.

Very interesting...an initial malty pine flavor gave way to a somewhat bitter and boozy bite at the end. Not unpleasant, just different. The label states that this should be consumed at room temperature, and like a fool I didn't read it and I put it in the icebox. I suspect the flavor would be much more complex at room temp. Not an easy drinker, but a good one.

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Photo of secondtooth
4.04/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a ruddy amber, with a limited head and no lace.

Nose is nicely woodsy, with definite spruce and pine needles and oils coming through prominently. Quite unique and appealing!

Tastes delicious -- very malty sweet, but the woody pine/spruce infusion adds an entirely different profile to this brew. I would gladly buy more of these if they were more widely available!

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Photo of gopens44
3.99/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Probably the most striking attribute of this beer would be the appearance. Hazy copper with a nearly perfect foamy creme colored head. Oddly, virtually no lacing. The aroma immediately took me to a direction I wasn't expecting from something called pine - this thing smells balls on like a barleywine. No difference at all. Taste immediately goes the barleywine route (sweet malty goodness) until from out of nowhere, a pungent tartness pops up. The finish is just a touch tinny with a slight bitterness lingering. Body overall goes from creamy to thin by the finish. Overall, its quite different and a good departure from pretty much anything else but not something you can really throw down in any quantity.

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Photo of Braz
3.77/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Aroma: Floral and woody. Good amount of malt. Has a very sweet smell.

Appearance: Very dark but clear ruby amber color. Moderate white has leaves nice amount of lace.

Taste: Very different. Starts with malt sweetness, is then followed by a woodsy punch of pine. I picked up more pine than spruce. No bitterness.

Mouthfeel. A little sweet but nicely carbonated. Has a balanced feel but the aftertaste lingers quite a bit.

Overall: Glad I finally tried this. Interesting for sure. Probably not something I'd go to great lengths to try again. Mainly due to the aftertaste, it just kicks around too long.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 468 ratings.