1. Don't miss our 7th annual American Craft Beer Fest featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers this May 30 & 31 in Boston, MA! Buy your tickets now!
  2. BeerAdvocate on your phone?! True story. Try the beta now.

Alba Scots Pine Ale - Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

586 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 586
Reviews: 456
rAvg: 3.77
pDev: 14.59%

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:
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.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 09-18-2001)
View: Beers (42) |  Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 586 | Reviews: 456 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of KDawg


3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this was poured from cask into a pint glass. Poured a nice dark amber color with a small 1 inch head

Very malty aromas with herbal spices, caramel, malts and some fruitcake aromas too. Very complex and aromatic

medium/full bodied but lacking somewhat on the feel. Very good flavors with lots of herbal spices, fruitcake, malts and even some dark red cherries

this was a real quality beer. Very good aromas and really well balanced

Serving type: cask

11-19-2011 23:54:46 | More by KDawg
Photo of smakawhat


4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the cask into a tumbler at Pizza Paradiso.

Gives a gorgeous amber body with gold hues on the edges. Has a tendency to get into red hues as well very nice! Tight creamy light off white head but dissipates a good clip.

Bouquet is a spicy sweetness. Big hints of typical sweet brown spices, mostly nutmeg, perhaps a hint of clove. More interesting is a big candied cherry sense and berry flavor. Lots of fun to be had here.

Taste fits the buttery cask fashion. Buttered cherries first, with a dense body. Soupy jammy/berry feel getting into maraschino cordial feeling. This is truly like eating a bowl of cherries right here. As the beer finishes and gets even more room temperature a hint of tasty smoked meat comes out, almost like a rauchbier. Woah where did that come from?

Wow overall I could just pound this back all night from the cask. Never had anything like this before, this was a great experience. Good start for me for this style.

Serving type: cask

03-27-2011 17:32:45 | More by smakawhat
Photo of Billolick

New York

3.88/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A rare treat to find and enjoy this interesting beer through the cask system at the Blind Tiger in NYC. Pours murky deep brown with a tan minor head and leaving just a trace of lacing. Nose is of musty and earthy malt. The brew is mellow, malty and intriguing. Notes of more malts, peat, and some pine to dry things out. Interesting and differant sessioner. Scottish to the core.

Serving type: cask

12-18-2005 00:14:01 | More by Billolick
Photo of GeoffFromSJ

New Jersey

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

I had the pleasure of this on-cask at the Blind Tiger.

Murky brown with a nice head. Good pour (or pull) by my server. Head/lacing stayed for the whole time.

Taste has a nice piney flavor, which makes sense since I've been told that it uses pine needles. Nice change of pace. Pine flavors remind me of Amarillo. I'm pretty sure scotch ale type flavors are there underneath, but pine flavors dominate. It is good that it doesn't overwhelm.

Serving type: cask

12-11-2005 20:13:36 | More by GeoffFromSJ
Photo of UncleJimbo


4.03/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cask conditioned. 6.0% abv.

This ale poured from the cask a clear, coppery color with no foam to speak of. The smell was malty with a hint of fruitiness and a trace of hops and perhaps a faint trace of pine. The taste was well balanced between malt and hops. The pine was barely noticeable in the background, but there was an earthy, herbal note to the taste. The mouthfeel was very smooth and clean. The body was medium with very low carbonation. There was a very pleasant malty aftertaste (with perhaps a hint of hops and pine). The drinkability was good. This would be a good session beer.

Serving type: cask

05-04-2003 11:07:30 | More by UncleJimbo
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-09-2014 04:39:53 | More by scotorum
Photo of Emnmarko


3.96/5  rDev +5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-15-2014 01:52:28 | More by Emnmarko
Photo of cambabeer


3.98/5  rDev +5.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2014 20:11:44 | More by cambabeer
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.

Serving type: bottle

01-18-2014 17:17:28 | More by schoolboy
Photo of DenisKolkin

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

12-28-2013 19:14:23 | More by DenisKolkin
Photo of brewdlyhooked13


4.28/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

09-12-2013 03:46:38 | More by brewdlyhooked13
Photo of ThisWangsChung


3.04/5  rDev -19.4%
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.

Serving type: bottle

09-06-2013 22:18:57 | More by ThisWangsChung
Photo of Murrhey


3.66/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

07-09-2013 04:13:22 | More by Murrhey
Photo of Knuckles_Nuclear


3.66/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-14-2013 21:01:39 | More by Knuckles_Nuclear
Photo of secondtooth


4.03/5  rDev +6.9%
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!

Serving type: bottle

04-01-2013 14:10:24 | More by secondtooth
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-21-2013 21:55:49 | More by gopens44
Photo of Braz


3.73/5  rDev -1.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-21-2013 03:15:09 | More by Braz
Photo of Rutager

British Columbia (Canada)

3.36/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Couldn't sleep a wink last night, but it's finally here, the best holiday of the year, HAPPY GRUIT DAY!!!!

Appearance. Pours a clear amber-orange with a half finger of white lace.

Smell. Very sweet honey and sweet grainy malts, caramel and woody herbs along with a little bit of pine forest.

Taste. Caramel and butter, some earthy herbs and brown sugar, maybe a little light fruit, and some woody pine in the finish.

Mouthfeel. Medium+ body, a little bit sticky, Medium-low carbonation.

Overall. This is okay, a bit of a sipper and not really my cup of tea. I'm begining to not like International Gruit Day, wishing it was stout or IPA day instead.

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2013 03:34:00 | More by Rutager
Photo of johnnnniee

New Hampshire

3.48/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear medium copper color with a smallish white head that musters quickly then leaves. The aroma is sweet with a sugary caramel and lightly fruity aroma. I wouldn't call it pine but there is a strange aroma deep underneath that defies all out detection. The flavor is sweet with lots of residual sugar mixed with a light sweet and almost tart fruit. Little to no pine or hop flavor but there is a light herbal quality to this elixir. Medium body with a moderate level of carbonation and a sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel. Nice beer, very flavorful, easy to drink and just a hint different.

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2012 23:16:22 | More by johnnnniee
Photo of CaptJackHarkness

New York

4.53/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance is a cloudy brownish liquid with no visible carbonation nor head. Aroma is sweet herbs, chamomile like. Taste is unexpectedly mild, not the bitter bite I would imagine a brew made with evergreen needles to have! Actually delicious. Mild warming mouthfeel. Drunk as suggested at room temperature from a goblet.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2012 21:53:46 | More by CaptJackHarkness
Photo of andrenaline

Ontario (Canada)

3.53/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another from the Scotland mixer from the LCBO.

A - Pours a clear copper colour with an amber hue, finger of head with little retention or lacing.

S - Very sweet with sugary caramel, buttered bread, sweet lemon drops and apple cider and honey dew melon notes with cloves on the finish.

T - The cloves come through off the top, the sweetness dominates, caramel malt notes, buttery notes and faint hints of pine come through on the finish.

M - Medium bodied, smooth and sticky.

O - A unique brew that hits the tripel notes, though I would've enjoyed a touch more on the pine notes. Worth a try and definitely unique, but not certain I would try it again.

Serving type: bottle

12-01-2012 05:22:34 | More by andrenaline
Photo of Triglycerides

Rhode Island

3.63/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle

A: Pours a deep amber color which is crystal clear. There was also a nice 1" head present on the pour. However, this head doesn't really hang around for too long, dissipating and leaving essentially no lacing or head.

S: Lovely aroma. There's not really a whole lot of piney scents as I expected. Instead, it's a nice aroma of caramel malt (kind of like a Dopplebock) and a bit of spiced pear.

T: Taste continues with the smell with a bit of sweet malt. Herbal, piney notes come along afterwards as well with a lingering apple/pear fruitiness.

M: Alcohol is definitely not noticeable with this brew. Comes off fairly smooth and medium bodied, with a nice bit of carbonation on the back of the mouth.

Overall: Being that it's not exactly a popular style or something I have a ton of experience on this one, it's hard to place this one. Still, it's certainly worth a try if you are interested in some of the more obscure styles as well as the more traditional ones. It wouldn't be something I'd be rushing back for, although it's definitely an interesting beer to try.

Serving type: bottle

11-26-2012 03:16:05 | More by Triglycerides
Photo of thehyperduck

Ontario (Canada)

4.1/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 mL bottle from the LCBO; best before Feb. 2014. I've only had one other spruce beer, but I was a pretty big fan - so I'm hoping this one will keep the streak alive. Poured into a wine glass and allowed to stand while I waited for it to approach room temperature.

Pours a clear, deep amber-orange colour, topped with about one finger of foamy, off white-coloured head. Unfortunately, it doesn't hang around for long, and doesn't leave much in the way of lace behind, either. Lovely aroma, though not nearly as much pine as I'd expect - instead, the dominant features are malty caramel and toffee alongside a variety of fruity apple or pear notes. There are also some vaguely herbal/spicy undertones. The aroma could do with some more intensity, but I definitely like what's there.

The taste, on the other hand, is far from subdued. Those same sweet, malty flavours from the nose start us off, but this modest backbone is soon completely overpowered by a wave of herbal spice and pine sap flavour. Finishes earthy, with the heat from the alcohol mingling quite nicely with the herbal notes and faint toffee sweetness. On the thicker side of medium-bodied, very smooth going down with some slight stickiness on the palate afterward. The carbonation is mild, providing just enough prickliness to cut through the flavour. Not something I'd want to drink a lot of, but it's still a sensible and enjoyable match for tonight's cold weather.

Final Grade: 4.1, an impressive A-. Alba Scots Pine Ale is an interesting brew, if nothing else. I happen to like piney tastes (which, as a hophead, probably isn't all that surprising), so it stands to reason that I would probably like a well-executed pine/spruce beer. It's just complex enough to keep me interested without being especially overwhelming, and the body/density of the beer works perfectly with the ethanol. This would actually be a really great warmer for the fall and winter months, assuming I could find it reliably. Definitely worth a try.

Serving type: bottle

11-06-2012 23:00:04 | More by thehyperduck
Photo of mick303

Ontario (Canada)

3.78/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a compact head which leaves a nice film and lacing. Colour is a pleasant brown-gold. Light carbonation. Looks good.

The smell immediatly shows strongly the fresh pine and spruce notes. These are fresh, and slightly herbal/medicinal. A light citrus. Malt is there is background.

Taste imediatly has a complex, earthy bitterness. A light fruitiness which together with the strong foresty bitterness makes for an interesting drink. A brief sweetness. This shows really good development, nice and complex on the palate. A bit on the medicinal side though, comes on a bit strongly.

Mouthfeel is rich, medium bodied, but very refreshing. Its is thick and sappy with pine flavour. Drinkability is good. Aftertaste is piney, dry, earthy/foresty.

Definitely not a run-of-the-mill beer. This works on quite a few levels. It is an interesting beer and the pine+spruce character is well-done and pretty balanced. Give it a try, worth the experience.

Serving type: bottle

10-02-2012 18:10:08 | More by mick303
Photo of smalenberg


3.35/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Pours with a copper color leaving a slightly tan persistent foam ring on the glass. Minimal head and lace with the exception of that welcoming rich ring.

Smell - I was prepared to be overwhelmed by pine, but fortunately that wasn't the case. The spruce character is very much in check in the nose allowing a candied fruit to take precedence.

Taste - Describing this as a triple style on the label, to me, is somewhat of an injustice because it doesn't fit well into that distinction. Good level of carbonation allows numerous characteristics in flavor to become evident. Candied fruit as in the nose, a slight hop bitterness that carries some citrus with it, and the real appearance of the spruce.

Mouthfeel - Alcohol is not noticeable considering the ABV. The tingle of the carbonation gives way to a silky smoothness that goes down smooth and refreshing.

Overall - an interesting experiment, worth a try if interesting in historical brewing or curious about spruce beers. Like many hybrid/specialty styles it is well worth a try, but doesn't rise to the level of something you feel you want to keep on hand or introduce all your friends to.

Serving type: bottle

09-23-2012 17:56:24 | More by smalenberg
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 586 ratings.