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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
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Ratings: 634 | Reviews: 463 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of GClarkage
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12/15/04- Purchased at Belltramo's Wine and Spirits in Menlo Park, CA

Presentation- 11.2 oz bottle with a best before October 2004 date. (Whoops). Poured into my Englander pint glass.

Appearance- A darker amber pour with a nice head and adequate lacing.

Smell- Definite woody hopped smell. I guess that is the pine. Also a bit medicinal. Maybe that is a touch of alcohol coming through in the pour.

Taste- Very different beer. It took me a while to determine if I even liked it. I tasted like dark chocolate brownies to me. Yeah, it sounds wierd, but that's what it tasted like. So, there is some definite sweetness going on, but at the same time some dark roasted kind of taste.

Mouthfeel- Low carbonated beer with a bit of chewy thickness.

Drinkability- A very different beer that was an experience to have. I will probably try it again just to have the experience again.

Photo of ADR
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Clearish bright amber appearance with a flat but decent head that floats under 1/4 of an inch for a few minutes. Lace is minimal, some small strings of a mostly vertical nature. Estery aroma, clove, some cough syrup, slightly musky. Mouthfeel is very smooth and light, but it seems thicker because of low carbonation, giving a creamy texture. Sweet flavors, slightly metallic and piney early, but quickly giving way to blueberries with a chocolate topping and a unique maltiness that lasts into the aftertaste. As usual, another interesting rendition of a malt beverage from the brewers at Heather.

Photo of Citadel82
2.63/5  rDev -30.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I like this the least of their products.

Poured a clear cooper with a minimal white head despite working at it. No lace to speak of.

Aroma was of spruce, malt and damp earth and little else

Taste was salty with hits of what must be spruce and saccharine sweet malt with a long bitter spruce finish.

Mouth feel was rather flat, little or no carbonation after the pour.

Drinkability was marginal, a change pace or taste, Tonight it is not hitting me very receptive.

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

Amber/orange color. I tried to roust the head, but to no avail. Super low retention and a slippery lace. Light carbonation. Aroma is of caramel, malt and sugar and earthy. Taste is quite unusual. I had expected something like Scotch ale, but is more complex. The pine flavors create the bitterness to balance the sweet, with a lingering bite. Mouthfeel is medium boded and watery. Interesting style.

Photo of ybnorml
3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A clean orange/amber beer with a small light brown head. There is a light fruity sweetness mixed with the malt aroma. The malty taste has an almost chewy caramel aspect to it. There is just a slight hint of licorice at the end followed by a nice comforting warmth. Nothing like drinking pine sap, as I thought it might. Surprizingly enjoyable.

Photo of Gagnonsux
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Deep amber colored with a little orange color thrown in. Hazy. Head is large and creamy; and off-white in color.

Smell- Malty with an aroma that I believe are esters. No pine smell noted by me.

Taste- Sip starts with a bite that I believe is the pine. Fruity ester taste encompasses my palette towards the middle. Finely balanced. Finish has lingering malt flavors. 7.5% ABV is barely perceptible, I can see accidently getting drunk on this happening easily.

M.F./Drinkability- I like drinking this, its very good, too bad their Ebulum was such a hard act to follow. Ester tastes aren't my favorite anyway. Despite that, this has my full recommendation.

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Im fascinated by unhopped beers, in fact this is the only one Ive tried, oh yeah this and Labatt Blue.

It pours a hazy gold color with a big billowy head with good staying power. Trails of moderate lacing are left behind. The aroma is of Pine and spruce sap , with some spicey notes. The taste is quit strong with pine flavors. Theres euculyptus, earthy, terpentine, and sap notes detectable. Malt flavors are evident and quite sweet. The alcohol is well concealed by the strong pine flavors. Theres a very herbaceous mouthfeel with plenty of carbonation. The finish has a distinct medicinal feel, somewhat challenging this beer's drinkbability.

Overall this is a very interesting ale to try, not only because of the lack of hops, but for the interesting flavors a tonne of pine and spruce sprigs impart. I recommend sampling this unique brew.

Photo of xgrigorix
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brown 33cl bottle. Best by date notched on label.

Glowing deep orange colour. Dense & tight off white head.

Refreshing oily pine / woody aromas.

Slick, hint of peppermint underlying. General fruitiness, with plenty of earthy flavour all around. Relaxed pine flavour. Medium bodied, moderate carbonation. Quite unique & refreshing.

Photo of silenius
2.7/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Not much to say about this one. It pours a coppery color with a decent, but light head.

The smell is piney at first then takes on a kind of sweet oxidized caramel smell.

Taste is unbalanced. Sweet malt is not offset by anything at all, so the beer becomes kind of cloying after half a bottle.

The carbonation and mouthfeel were good, however.

This novelty is nice to try to experience, but I won't be buying any more.

Photo of diamonddave
2.75/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Picked this up just out of curiosity. Two bucks for one of those just-short-of-12 oz. bottles. Seems kinda weird- I mean, if you like the taste of pine needles couldn't you just chew on tree branches or something? But what the hell, I'll try it.

Smells heavily fruity and syrupy. I don't detect any pine in the nose.

Tastes like figs or something, with a bit of malt and a slight alcohol bite in the finish. Again, nothing that makes me feel like I'm traipsing through a Scottish forest. I've never actually tasted pine needles, though, so I guess I don't know how to identify the taste. Perhaps I should run out to the backyard and grab a handful for comparison... okay, maybe not. There's a little bit of strange bitter aftertaste, so maybe that's where the pine and spruce come in.

Well, my curiosity has been satisfied. This isn't bad or anything, but I wouldn't buy another one. However, if you've ever wondered what kind of beer you'd drink if you were an herbivorous rodent, you might wanna check this one out.

Photo of StuFox
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was definitely the first beer like this I've ever had. The smell stays true to it's name as pine needles come through clearly in the nose. The flavor is sweet, mostly forals, fruits, and some hops. But there is another strong flavor and smell with this beer, and that's acetone. As someone who works in a lab will agree, the smell of acetone is very distinct and easly recognizable. I'm not saying there's acetone in the beer, because I'm pretty sure lawyers would consider that poisoning people. All I'm saying is that is smells and tastes very similarly. This isn't bad, I like the beer and will certainly drink it again soon, it's just an odd footnote.

Photo of mschofield
2.9/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Pours a dark leathery brown, with just a thin light tan foam, no lacing.
Pine aroma, berries, jelly and cherry in the sweet aroma.
Pine and fruit juice taste, jelly, tea, berries.
Medium - full bodied, interesting but the sweetness gets cloying and tiring.

Photo of rousee
4.33/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a murky dark tan cigar - like woody color. Forms 1 finger cap immediately and holds very well, at least for a minute or so. I had shaken the bottle beforehand as recommended by the guy in the store who said it would have the nutty taste I like. It fades to a slight whisp of foam within another minute or so. Decent lace for an ancient style brew.

Nose is incredible. Clean and woody,yeasty,nutty, and malty and pine too -just what I like. Slight salty neutral scent also.

Taste is nutty,yeasty and fresh --it really has the evergreen characteristics of spruce and pine. Slightly spicy and finishes with a very pleasant sticky sappy feel. Nice effect on the lips which makes the mouthfeel exceptional. I am liking this one more and more as I taste it. There are some fruit essences there but I can't quite place them because the pine is pretty strong. I still love it though. The pine is not overpowering.

It does affect the drinkability a little --1 of these is enough.

Photo of malthead
4.45/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I served this one slightly chilled in a Duvel tulip. Deep amber/brown color, with a nice off-white head, big at first but at least some of it lasted throughout. Has a spruce aroma, yes, but I'd say earthy, woody (malty) smells were more prominant - very nicely balanced, with other notes of almost a raspberry and milk chocolate nature, and maybe some toffee... Taste is correspondingly interesting, there's a rich oaky character, caramel and maybe some pine smoke? wood make sense, if you'll forgive the pun... really quite nice, with some good bitterness, a sweet caramel backbone, and an elderberry? aftertaste. I love the mouthfeel, low but acceptable carbonation and a nice, coating feeling without being too thick. Great drinkability, yes it's meant to be sipped slowly, but I had to force myself to prolong the tasting, I could go through quite a few of these. While certainly not overpowering in any way, the pine notes are more mellowed than most hops and provide more interesting flavors - I'm a huge fan.

Photo of pezoids
4.5/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I’ve been waiting to try this beer with a good amount of anticipation. Seems like a classic of the beer world. After the pour and first sip, I realized that I wasn’t going to be disappointed. It poured beautifully bright and was an orangey-amber color. A thin and filmy head topped the beer off and left an attractive lace on the glass. There was small bits of pine sprigs floating around the beer. The body was lucid and glowing.

The aroma is sweet, malty and piney with hints of orange rind. There’s touches of cough syrup stickiness and bubblegum.

The taste is resinous with piney sweet malts and an earthy bitterness. The flavors seem to be balanced to perfection. Surprisingly, the piney character is not overwhelming, but rather felicitous in this beer. A resinous and gritty tang is left on the tongue as the rest of the beer sticks to your sides. This is like a medium malted Scotch Ale that has been infused with fresh pine needles. Overall, beautifully done and a unique beer of high quality.

Photo of inebrius
3.95/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Man, I'd love to write a bunch of sentimental hooey about boyhood hikes through the evergreen forests of Northern Michigan and the like but damn this beer just screams vanilla cupcakes. Not the convenience store packaged junk that has an expiration date past your life expectancy, but those really good ones loaded with fat white towers of buttercream frosting and chunks of candied fruit. My god this is sweet stuff, it curls your tongue with heavy syrup left over from a tin of fruit cocktail. Don't get me wrong, eh. The spruce buds are in there, no doubt, but don't expect them to come jumping on your face, no, you'll have to find them as the beer warms and the volatiles build up in the glass. Just like the Fraoch, I like it but will probably never drink it again.

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

Pours a medium brown color with half a finger of head. There is minimal lacing. The smell is malty and sweet, with some spices and pine needles. The taste is sweet at first, with honey and toffee. Then the pine really really comes through. It's almost overpowering. The body is fairly heavy and strong. The drinkability lacks a little. A weird beer indeed!

Photo of yeagerbm
4.13/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance isa reddish hue with a light brown frothy head.
Smell is complex with a piney herbal aroma and sweet malt in the nose.
Taste is complex with a rich malty, fruity sweetness balanced by and obvious evergreen flavors. Very earthy tasting and very aromatic. This one may appeal to the hop head for its aromatic qualities or the fan of triples or other malty ales for its rich flavor.
I found this beer to be very drinkable for something so unusual. I would definately recommend trying this one out for a good switch from other familiar styles.

Photo of Rastacouere
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Copper body, almost no head, looks pretty still. Nice floral aroma, piney, sprucey, very malty vienna-like cookieness. Mild fruity notes (peach, grapes). Somehow slightly bitter finish which I wonder if it comes from hops or is just an impression from the sprucey character. Good balance while being very original. Attractive. Very low carbonation, soda-like after taste, medium body. Thanks a lot Josh.

Photo of granger10
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The history behind this beer is quiet intriguing and any dedicated beer drinker should look for this one and give it a go. With that being said this beer poured a deep copper color with a fizzy slightly tan head. The head was decent sized at first but went down really quickly. This beer's aroma was strong in the pine notes. I notice some slight alcohol mixed with the pine and a berry malty sweetness as well. The body on this beer was a bit light but also very prickly, kind of like a pop. The taste brought a good amount of pine needles to my tongue. But there is more to this beer. There's an oilyness to this beer that seemed odd at first but I started to like it the more I drank it. The finish is dry and light. This is defnitely a good beer and one that should be drank at room temperature so all the flavors can be revealed.

Photo of connecticutpoet
2.05/5  rDev -45.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

I went into this one thinking that it would be a worthwhile experiment, as I had liked several other old style beers this company had put out in the past. Sadly, I was mistaken.

The color was a nice red, but with no head. It had a rich malty aroma with definite evergreen overtones.

It tasted slightly bitter, with an unremarkable malt taste. This was followed by a pine taste that, best I can describe it, was like sucking the sap from a freshly cut pine branch.

I didn't like it. The pine was too overpowering.

Photo of merlin48
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

These historical styles are always an interesting diversion. Served as recommended, in a goblet at room temperature, the Alba pours a clear, copper body with an offwhite head that immediately drops into a slight film. No lacing, which is not unexpected for a style based on what the Vikings introduced into northern Scotland, several centuries before hops came into use.

Aroma is very malty, with caramel and toffee, with a pronounced bouquet of earthy/woodsy spruce and pine. Herbal and berry notes, as well a touch of tanned leather, produce a very unique nose.

Mouthfeel has low carbonation and a definite vinous character like a nice sherry.

Taste is complex, and quite unique. Bitter and earthy spruce pine bitterness is atop what seems to be a smoked caramel malt backbone. Noticeable alcohol, but not so prominent as to distract from all the complexities. Leather, tobacco, and gooseberries complete the flavor profile.

Definitely not an everyday brew, but an excellent slow sipper. Very enjoyable to take your time with, and contemplate the history and evolution of ales as we know them today.

Photo of edchicma
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An interesting brew to say the least. Poured a nice reddish caramel with a white chunky head. Smell was a bit more complex...alcohol and cherries?. Taste was fruity with a noticeable alcohol presence...reminded me a bit of blackberry brandy. Pine flavor became more evident about mid way through the glass. Mouthfeel was smooth considering the high abv...a definte sipper. Drinkability likewise was good due to smooth quality. A quality brew that is defintely different from most.

Photo of watermelonman
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This poured to a dark gold and amber color that looks very nice. The head didn't last long, but the lacing is left in splotches and looks interesting.

The alcoholic content is very noticeable. I wasn't sure what to make of the taste. There's definitely a huge difference between this and the typically hopped beer. The pine comes right out in the first sip. I didn't like it too much at first, but warmed up to it as the beer warmed to room temperature.

This stuff is pretty wicked and very unique.

Photo of ark57
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It is a deep amber color with some good lacing. It has a very fruity aroma (lots of esters). I almost thought it was a fruit beer instead of a using pine. There is a slight pine aroma along with a medicinal like quality. The maltiness is smooth. It is earthy and herbal with some alcohol in the taste. It finishes with some lingering pine. I can't say that I've had beers like this before so I have little frame of reference, but I like it.

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