1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Alba Scots Pine Ale - Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale

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

634 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 634
Reviews: 463
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 14.55%
Wants: 24
Gots: 19 | 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:
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Alba Scots Pine Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 634 | Reviews: 463 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of karst
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours crystal clear like a setting sun with orange and ruby reds (radiating neither copper nor ruby) topped with a cream single finger of fine foam that falls with minimal lace and persistant ring.

Heavy butterscotch aroma puts me off for a while. At 55°F in a New Belgium 4.oL rastal sniffer absolutly magnifies diacetyl - usually enough for me to put do
Apricots and light caramels emerge midway with whifs of soft pine. Like their Elderberry Ebulum Heather Ale Ltd finesses a malty clean slightly dextrinous wort with little evidence of hops (must be there to balance the sweetness as this finishes well) and resulting lightly carbonated beer offers a myriad of small nuances that add up to a truely unique highly drinkable surprise.

Start your pour at 50° or higher and savor Alba slowly as it reaches for room temp. Guys at Lucas in Ellisville are selling the hell out of this to folks just getting into craft brews and the old pros alike. -bestby April07

Photo of Derek
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Copper brown, with a little off-white head.

S: Pine & sweet, caramel malt.

T: Sweet, syrupy caramel with a woody, pine flavour. It's like bringing the outdoors inside. It'd be a good Christmas/winter-solstice brew. The bottle suggests serving it at room temperature... and as it warms up, there seems to be more depth (to offset/round-out the sweetness).

M: Moderate body is slightly creamy. Carbonation is on the low side of moderate.

D: Quite drinkable, considering the strength!

Photo of walleye
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

poured a nice amber, with a little head with very little lacing. Aroma, honey, citrus, berry fruits,no pine here. flavor, sweet berry fruits and malt. palate was light syrupy leaving a kind of dry wine feeling. not to bad of a beer. will get some more of this.

Photo of allergictomacros
4.53/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Clear ruby read with a respectable, fizzing head. Smells roasty with a very fruity perfume. Hints of molasses. Interesting cooling sensation - almost minty maybe (the pine?). Lots of body with a thick, red-wine like flavour. Buttery, caramelly, and mild bitterness in the back. Alcohol isn't too noticeable even at 7.5 percent. A few sips in, the head is gone, mouthfeel is drying, with some spiciness. A bit of a tannic feel as well. Interesting to say the least... not a beery beer. Something out of the ordinary I'd try again.

Photo of russpowell
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

BBD on bottle Apr 07

Pours a dark caramel witha thin white head that drops fast. No head retention or lacing

Smell: Sweetness and berry smells and then some malt

Taste: Sweetness with resiny notes. Dryness and some blueberry? notes in the finish

MF: Chewy, but under carbonated

Tasted okay but ran counter to style. Worth a try, certainlly hides its ABV well

Photo of soulgrowl
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Lovely fox red. Greyish head comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

Smell: Rich and buttery, almost like buttered popcorn, with a strong, multi-faceted pine character: pine needles, pine cones, and pine nuts. Caramel malt provides a sweet backbone.

Taste: Very buttery at first, then very piney. An interesting, earthy spiciness. A bit on the floral side and perfumey, as well. Quite a distinctive ale.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, clean, relatively light and unobtrusive.

Drinkability: Now this is a Scotch ale! Very drinkable and enjoyable. Would be great around the holidays.

Photo of canucklehead
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Mid brown with a resinous nose that suggest tree sap. This beer is interesting in its pine forest like suggestion. The finish is quite pleasant with both malt and pine melding together. You wouldn't want to drink to many of these due to the lingering pine taste but I applaud the creativity and history in this beer.

Photo of ypsifly
2.65/5  rDev -29.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

11.2 oz with the label notched best before 6/06, poured into a wine goblet at room temp as suggested on the back label.

Rusted red with a light tan head that is small and quickly falls to a bubbly ring. Spotty lace.

The nose is mostly caramel and butterscotch. Candy like and I'm barely getting any suggestion of the pine sprigs. There is a touch of alcohol underneath.

Tastes exactly as it smells. Sweet. Damn near cloying, but the pine flavor is a bit more noticable. Sweet to the finish with a bit of alcohol warmth in the after taste. Too sweet.

The mouth is a bit slick with no real carbonation to clear some of the sugary oils. I'll finish this one and be done with it.

Photo of wl0307
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

BB JUN 2006. Served slighty chilled in a goblet.
A: lightly hazy, dark tawny hue with strong brownish hint; a sparsely foamy, thin cap; nice and very gentle carbonation.
S: malt-syrupy and strong honeyish maltiness upfront; backed by preserved figs, pine-oil, buttery and candy-sugary note, and an underlying but intense flow of sweet flowery estery scent in the middle (struggling through the thick maltiness only right after each swirling). Overall the thick and sweetish malt aroma slightly overpowers the more subtle scent of pine-sprigs which are used in the brew, but still a complex malty composition is retained.
T: a smooth flow of moderate maltiness upfront with a lightly vegetation and herbal hint (can't describe it... maybe it's that Pine and Spruce sprigs??) and a mildly sweet, tangy fruity touch; leading to a harmonious flavour balanced b/w malts and lightly preserved berries plus a subtle, herb+vegetation-kind of mixed finishing touch. Harmonious from the first second to the last... seems like sprigs work even better than hops to help reach a well-balanced flavour?!
M: very smooth on the mouthfeel with a constantly lively kick of fruits and herbs; the ending touch of each sip is round but light, not going thin or losing the balance.
D: overall this medium-bodied ale has a more delicate and complex flavour profile than its thick malty nose could show, although the initial strong maltiness does soften considerably and shows a more balanced body as it breathes. A very enjoyable and "delicious" ale which is dangerously drinkable. Dinstinctive!

Photo of Billolick
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Photo of rebel1771
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark copper color with a small head. The smell is a little complex with scents of honey, fruit (pears?), and just a touch of pine. The taste was a little sweeter than I expected with loads of malty sweetness and honey flavors with fruit flavors making an appearance at the very end. This is a decent brew but I could probably only take a couple at a time.

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
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.

Photo of brewQ
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A sturdy 1" head and the clear honey color of a pale ale enticed me. Yes, the aroma was of the forest pine floor.

The taste for me came up less than expected.
Malt and pine had an uneasy balance.

Not sure when I'd drink this; it is not an easy drink for me.

As a prior review stated, their Fraoch Heather Ale may be the better, more distinctive, choice in this style.

Still, you gotta try it!


Photo of tgbljb
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Even though bottle stated serve at room temperature, I slightly chilled the bottle (15 min in the refrigerator). Poured a medium copper, slightly hazy color with profound white head that lasted throughout the glass. Lovely lacing to be found. Smell is very fruity, cherries noted. Also a not unpleasant alcohol scent.Taste is excellent with an enjoyable fruitiness. Finished slightly dry with somewhat of an alcohol taste. Very drinkable. Leaves a nice warming effect in the body. A great beer for a cold autumn evening.

Photo of jayc333
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice browny-red with a finger of off-white head. Transparent, appears to be not too carbonated.

Smells heavenly, spruce present, very sweet malt. Quite herbal.

Spruce, pine, and wood blend perfectly to give this brew a very unique taste.

Thin mouthfeel, with very little carbonation. Goes down really smooth.

My second experience with a Gruit/Herbed Ale, and I'm yet to be disapointed. Highly recommended.

Photo of mdagnew
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

330ml bottle bought from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured a golden orange / amber colour.... Slightly off white head pours quite big but fades to light layer....

Aroma - Very sweet, golden syrup, honey, light hints of pine, orange and lemon notes....

Taste – Very perfumey and fragrant, grassy, quite sweet, honey, ginger. Hints of pine develop after a few mouthfuls. Earthy notes...

Feel - Very smooth, not very much carbonation...

Overall - A pretty good ale, definitely worth a try...

Photo of AlexJ
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Rusty reb brown pour produces a minimal beige head that almost instantly fizzles out, almost soda-like. A thin ring persists and there is no lace.

Aroma is heavily perfumed with malt and caramel, lightly nutty, and carries a notion of some sort of vegetation. Overall I would call it sweet, with little to no pine character.

Flavor is similarily disappointing. It's got a lot of toasty caramel malt, some light hints of peat and brine, and a nice nutty sweetness. It has a wierd sort of bitterness towards the back which I assume is the Scots pine and spruce, although it doesn't taste like pine. Some of my favorite Pac NW hop bombs have a lot more pine flavor going on. This isn't a bad tasting beer, reminds me of an English brown crossed with a malty Scottish Ale. Just not what I expected it to be.

Body is light to medium, with a dull sort of big bubbled carbonation that escapes quickly, rendering the last few inches flat.

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a really fun summer beer. When I saw “Scots pine ale” I was thinking “an ale with a shot of gin in it.” Boy was I wrong.

It pours a bright orange/brown with a small head.

Smells very sweet and malty with a touch of pine. It even smells a bit like Sprite.

Tastes malty with just the subtlest bit of pine on the tip of the tongue. These are very well paired flavors.

The body is a good match too. It’s very thick with a light carbonation.

I strongly recommend this beer for its flavor and its uniqueness.

05/11/06 -Looking back at this review, it is in dire need of an update. I’ll have to get another bottle.

Photo of TastyTaste
2.13/5  rDev -43.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Appearance: Slightly hazed copper color, almost totally translucent. Head is very small, just a creamy, think layer on top of the beer.

Smell: Surprisingly sweet, almost sickly, like hard candies. A very odd smelling 'beer'.

Taste: Also very sweet, that sickly flavor from the smell stransfers exactly over to the taste. I can't really taste the pine (I was expecting a more up front juinper beery flavor). Or the triple. This is based on a triple? Does have a bitter flavor, to make up for the rest of this mess.

Mouthfeel: No complaints, but doesn't make it any better.

Drinkability: I would never get this again, or recommend this to anyone.

Photo of BEERchitect
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

In a word, "intriguing". Has a strong Witbier character that adds to the softness and silky smoothness in both the aroma and flavors. Ourside of that, the pine tips give very nice herbal and bittering qualities. Reminescent of many Christmas spices, the flavors go in a lot of different directions. Makes a good alternative to hops. Though not as pine-ey as I expected, flavors of corriander, nutmeg, allspice, curraco, ripe oranges and lemons all come into play; woven into a Wit-like base. A soft honey flavor rounds out the sweetness. Finishes very clean and airy. Aftertaste is wet and confection sugar like.

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.4/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Textbook tawny with sunset orange edges. The cap is orange-tinted sandstone in color and was several fingers in height right after the pour. It's too soft, though, and the end result is predictable: a rapid descent, a featureless surface and almost no lace. It must be hard to create a good looking head with an absence of hops, but that's the cross gruits must bear.

Even though I can't pigeonhole into any one style, the nose is fascinating. ASPA smells like what the brewery describes it as being (imagine that!). It's sweet-and-spicy brown malty with a nose-pleasing excess of earthiness, along with pine needles and pine bark. Even without points for originality, which it deserves, this is a very good nose.

Alba Scots Pine Ale is beautiful beer, perhaps my favorite gruit to date. The flavor and the mouthfeel remind me of a Scotch ale, which is what it is in a broad sense. The flavor profile is dominated by malt with a soothing, sneaky sweet earthiness that is the beer equivalent of comfort food. I scoffed at the brewery's recommendation to drink it at room temperature (although I am) from a wine goblet (I'm not) as an after-dinner digestive. I must admit, though, they know whereof they speak. This is a classic 'roaring fire, sip and savor, contemplate life' kind of beer.

Apple-like burps prompted me to look for that fruit within my next few mouthfuls. And I found them. Mushy brown apples sprinkled with cinnamon is an undeniable facet of this undeniably delicious gem of a beer. The 7.5% ABV is perfect. It's barely noticeable and it gives the beer that serious, warming, sipping aspect that is a perfect fit for its flavor. The mouthfeel is a tad more full than medium; an impression accentuated by an extremely low, yet still effective, amount of carbonation.

This is the last of the commonly available Heather Ale Ltd. offerings for me and is one of my favorites (along with Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale). I love the fact that the brewers have done something new by resurrecting the old. I have no idea if the range of vastly different ales they produce are faithful to those ales drunk in the Middle Ages, but I do know that these styles are timeless and deserve to be kept alive so that lovers of exceptional beer may enjoy them again and again.

Photo of LordChesterfield
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poures dark orange with a quickly disipating head. Smells like apples that have been soaking in alcohol. Tastes exotic, slightly cidery with a bitternes that is quite different and just as good as that provided by hops. The bittering agents allow different flavors of the malt poke through. No pine flavor at all and is very fresh and earthy. I think this is much more drinkable than most of the English ales I've had. It's sweet and primitive yet smooth on the tongue. I like this alot and would love to find it in a 6pack, not just one small expensive bottle at a time. Recommended.

Photo of bark
3.6/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

The colour is cloudy red-brown; there is no head at all.

The powerful smell got notes of pears, wood, aroma hops (although here are no hops in this beer) and woods. Nice!

The taste is creamy with creamy notes of apples and pear, pine, spruce and other wooden flavours. There is also some anonymous and unusual bitterness. The strong aftertaste got a fine mix of woods and some bitterness.

The carbonation is very strong and almost sticky.

The beer got so much flavours of “a day in the woods” that it might become a bit too much.

Photo of dgallina
3.2/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle. Best-before date of 12-2006.

Poured clear copper with no head and no lace whatsoever. Smells of alcohol, woody pine needles. Flavors are a challenge, to say the least; spicy and sweet alcohol tinged with wood, pine needles, cedar. No hops. Light-to-medium and nearly still body.

A bit difficult for the modern beer lover to appreciate. Perhaps more interesting for the archaeologist than the drinker.

Photo of WesWes
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a ruby red color with a 1/2" offwhite head that quickly fades to lacing. The aroma is great. It has a nice malty scent. It smells like a Scotch ale with a slight hint of pine. It's rich with a bit of alcohol aroma. The taste is awesome. It has a rich and complex malt flavor that complimented by the addition of spruce sprigs. It adds excellent pine flavor to the beer. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a tastey brew. I love the pine addition. It really makes the beer more enjoyable.

Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 634 ratings.