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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.

627 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 627
Reviews: 462
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 14.55%
Wants: 22
Gots: 18 | 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: 627 | Reviews: 462 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of beernut7
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a beautiful honey-brown with a thin lace on the glass. Aroma of spruce tips and sweet, sweet malt. The initial flavors are of fruity sweet malt with a building back-bone of pine spice. An extremely complex and smooth ale with a fruity spruce finish. Very nice alcohol warmth without harshness.

beernut7, Jan 01, 2004
Photo of Suds
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer is an experience unto itself...it knocked my socks off.
Pours a deep and hazy brown. It retains a shadow of an off white head around the circumference of the glass. Aroma is a cacophony of pine, ultra-ripe fruits (plum and pear), molasses, woody resins, and flowers. Hint of alcohol and esters in the background as well. Taste is initially sweet, mid-taste reveals a woody spiciness. Full, soft mouthfeel and slight astringency that intensifies as you work through the beer. Very different and extremely entertaining. Considering how much is going on, it's quite drinkable, as well.

Suds, Dec 29, 2003
Photo of DrunkMcDermott
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

My bottle was 2-1/2 years past its "Best by:" date, but still very nice. Opens with a nice sarsaparilla and citrus smell that resolves to a winy nose. Pours a cloudy brown with close to ne head. Sweetness is resiny, with a ring of maple syrup. Clearly a historical style that won't become anyone's regular beer, but a nice distraction once in a while.

DrunkMcDermott, Dec 26, 2003
Photo of oggg
3/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Okay first off I forgot to use a wine glass, so temper my ratings... I sipped it cold but it didn't improve with warming.

Light orange hue, somewhat hazy. Almost no carbonation at all. I'm not used to that at all. No head, but there's a tiny bit of fizz when you move your glass

Aroma is somewhat woody, but did not strike me as particularly piny or spruce-like. A bit too subtle for me.

I tried and tried, but this beer tastes pretty bland. Very little hops in the beginning, and even this disappears quickly. The beer seemed overly sweet because of this imbalance. Sweet and cloying? It has a funny taste, maybe sour or something, that prevents me as a maltster from enjoying it.

On the up side, the alcohol is blended in well -- you can't tell this is 7%. It doesn't taste winey to me.

Summary: pine/spruce is too subtle, imbalanced towards malt

Edit: so I saw this beer reviewed by Michael Jackson in his mini-Greatest Beers book, so I guess I disagree with the master. Anyways, the reason it doesn't have much in the way of hops is because it's made without hops. Just pine stuff.

oggg, Dec 09, 2003
Photo of Cwrw
3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This unique "ale" poured with virtually no head, which is not surprising due to the low level of carbonation. Indeed, at times the mouthfeel of this beer resembled wine more than beer! The colour is syrupy brown-red, and I see sediment floating freely in the glass(a WINE glass, as the bottle recommends). I am not certain what the sediment would be. The aroma is very sweet, and difficult to compare to any other beer I have tried. The taste is also sweet, with almost no bitter finish; a wood taste is detectable. A slight sourness is evident in the finish. I consumed it at room temperature as the bottle suggested, and indeed to drink this ale cold would be a major discredit to its unique palate. It would nicely replace a wine at meal time; it also would go superbly with a slightly bitter dessert, to balance its sweetness. It certainly does not feel like a 7.5% beer in the mouth! An enjoyable brew, one which I had to order specially from a local store. It is worth ordering a case, for it is quite a unique beer: a pleasant change from the regular barley, hops, water and yeast variety(though, of course, these ingredients create a wide choice of delicious aqua vitae, as we all know!).

Cwrw, Dec 08, 2003
Photo of Weissenheimer
4.38/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The bubbly head is not quite what I'd call "medium-sized", and it quickly fades to a thick, nebula-like foam which leaves craggy lacing as I drain the glass. The beer itself is a crystalline and slightly reddish amber. I sniff it, write "floral and hoppy" in my notes, and then realize that it has no hops! The scent is as appealing as it is unusual; it's rather similar to the Grozet Gooseberry, so perhaps part of that scent is the malted barley bree. However, in this case, I'm definitely smelling the pine as well.

The taste is bold, dense, rich, and deeply appealing. It may not sound appetizing, but I taste spruce and pine with every sip and love every moment of it. Scots Pine has been one of my all-time favorites since my first sip at Papago Brewery in Scottsdale Arizona. To me it's a perfect illustration that beer can be unique without being gimmicky, and that it need not be complex in order to be exceptional.

Weissenheimer, Dec 04, 2003
Photo of feloniousmonk
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

appearance: dark amber hue, with a nice, creamy white head..not bad, not bad
Aroma: fresh and fruity, oddly, I don't get the pine at first...soft,creamy...yum...
Taste: mmmm, smooth, sweet, yummy, creamy,...why don't I taste the pine? I've had this before, but not for at least 2 years, or, even 3, if my memory works...yeah, I get it now, the sensation of walking through a pine forest...fresh and zesty...piney-ness is much less than you'd find in a highly-hoppy IPA...but the flavor is fruity, yet dry, yet creamy...yum, tasty, apple-ish, cherry-like, full in flavor, medium bodied, nice, nice, nice...or should I just say, very nice!

feloniousmonk, Nov 24, 2003
Photo of Shiloh
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I do not believe I could quaff to many of these in one sitting, but is a nice alternative for dining.
Deep amber with a slight glass ring of large bubbles. Body is medium/full, carbonation limited.
Nose has a woodsy touch, unsure why. Pine maybe? At a loss here.
The taste is very interesting, major battle of the "buds" with a clear winner to the malts...hops initially started well but were soon over powered, yet after taste is hop heavy.

Shiloh, Nov 06, 2003
Photo of AtLagerHeads
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

What this brew lacks in appearance it makes up for in aroma. The hazy iced tea look is poor with nary a head to be coaxed on a rough pour. No lace whatsoever. But what a great nose as the notes of alcohol, malts and pine scents fill the air.

The flavor is all about the herbal/piney scents mixed into the heavy malt base. Alcohol is also obvious and barely masked by the sweet-leaning malt core; this is one very heavy and full ale that is very unusual for the blend of tastes. Limited drinkability for obvious reasons.

AtLagerHeads, Nov 04, 2003
Photo of shippos
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

poured with a hazy honey-orangy color and a skim of white head.
sweet malty aroma with a piney/resiny almost oily hint in the background. somewhat malty sweet body but not overly sweet, the pine and wood contribute nicely to balance off some of malt. kind of a syrupy mouthfeel with hints of a peppery alcohol and a slightly drying quality in the aftertaste. the 7.5% is very, very well hidden even in the aroma. I have to agree with another BA on the fact the wood/pine flavors do vary from bottle to bottle as I had this before and remember it having a more pronouned pine flavor. still one of my favoite beers though.

shippos, Oct 31, 2003
Photo of Naerhu
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

No head on an clear amber body.

Soft pastry and medicine aroma.

Pine and pastry flavor. Hard to believe that this beer has over 5% alcohol. Pine is not over-powering, but pleasant and spicy. The after taste builds as you drink and is preventing this from getting a higher score on taste.

I expected this to be a novelty beer, but this a good beer. I would not mind having this on a regular basis.

Naerhu, Oct 28, 2003
Photo of putnam
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Malt, malt, malt, malt, malt!
That's what it smells like. I get no "pine" on the nose at all. Where it does appear is on the palate, especially on the finish, where the tannic, bitter structural core unwinds briefly to reveal a bit of fresh and dried sticky sap.
Silky-textured, flavors of nuts, molasses and tea melt across the palate in time to allow a spicy, smoky bitterness to keep focus and clarity.
This is really brilliant beer. I'm not sure why I didn't start on these earlier. Fans of Ommegang, Aventinus, Moretti La Rosa, Traquair House, etc.: try this!

putnam, Oct 27, 2003
Photo of jdhilt
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours with no head so no lace. A cloudy reddish brown color. Nose is malty and a hint of pine, I was expecting more. Starts smooth and slightly malty, finishes with malt and a slight alcohol overtone. Light carbonation. Light to medium bodied. $2.35 for 330ml.

jdhilt, Oct 24, 2003
Photo of Elemental
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Good appearance that is dark and malty looking with very little head at all. Nice piny and sweet smell with hints of other armoas that I can't quite place. Good taste that is sweet and has lots of body. Kind of bitter with a hints of spruce. Very different yet not so different that it takes time to get used to. Pretty good and worth cheking out if you are looking for something different to try.

Elemental, Sep 30, 2003
Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a medium amber with a light orange tinge with a light head that leaves a little lacing,aroma is on the sweeter side witha light vinager-like background.Taste is malty and of apple cider with some light biscuit flavors in the background.A nice somewhat complex beer something different to try,pretty good.

oberon, Sep 27, 2003
Photo of Garin
4.05/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I poured it, at room temperature, into a big wine goblet as instructed. It fizzed and bubbled like pop, and left zero head. The colour is deep brown with ruby highlights and tons of suspended sediment.

Sweet cherry, cola, raspberry jam, and hints of pine on the nose.

Rich malty taste, lots of fruity tartness and some pepper spiciness and an warm alcohol finish. The barest suggestion of pine is in there somewhere, possibly -only- by the power of suggestion. This is a really interesting beer, I like it a lot.

The mouthfeel is soft and rich, with a fizzy kick. This is one hell of a cool beer. Try it if you can find it.

Garin, Aug 30, 2003
Photo of clvand0
3.35/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This beer pours a redish/brown color with a moderate head that falls off quickly and leaves a tiny bit of lace on the glass. The aroma is a little peppery, but the spruce and pine smell is the most apparent thing. The flavor was much the same as the aroma. Very woody - spruce and pine with a little malt and pepper. Very complex brew here. Decently smooth taste and fairly enjoyable.

clvand0, Aug 26, 2003
Photo of nomad
3.4/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a deep reddish color, like a dark cedar. Pretty much it for appearance... Smelled malty sweet with real Scottish ale character. Surprisingly not woody, more almost medicinal. Taste was very peppery, not overbearingly sweet like the nose. Had an interesting fruit flavor, like an actual red apple, more tart than sweet. I could taste the pine oil in the finish. Beyond all that, my bottle was pretty disappointing besides the taste.

nomad, Aug 11, 2003
Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 11.2 fluid ounce (330ml) brown glass bottle. A very Scottish looking label, a tartan oval comprised of a variety of green shades has the word ‘Alba’ written vertically. Alba is the old word for Scotland. Labeled as ‘Scots Pine Ale’ (Pinus Alba) & 7.5%ABV.

Appearance: Brown with reddish tinges. Slightly turbid, or “murky” as the Scots may say. The head is off-white in color and soon breaks down to a thin broken covering but it laces well.

Nose: Hospital corridors laced with disinfectants, some sweet malts, caramel, strong spruce trees, coniferous forests, pine oils and black pepper. Hmmm, why does the odor remind me of the Monty Python Lumberjack sketch?

Taste: Awesome, beautifully crafted and well put together. This has an almost perfume feel at times that is balanced by a caramel sweetness, malts, black-pepper, thick pine oils & coniferous sprigs that all congeal together to create something rather special and pretty well-balanced considering its diverse complexities.

Mouthfeel: Above average. It hides its 7.5% ABV extremely well.

Drinkability: I sipped and slowly savored this marvelous Ale, yet it still disappeared in record time. A specialist beer, rather unique, yet it drinks extremely well.

Overall: Fantastic when drunk chilled, even better when sampled at room temperature, when the flavors and pine-oils really get chance to develop and reveal all of their facets. One of the better beers from Heather Ales that I have tried to date. Absolutely Superb & Highly Recommended.

TheLongBeachBum, Jul 10, 2003
Photo of MJR
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a dark reddish amber with decent clarity. A foamy, tan head starts out well, then shrinks to a few lonely islands scattered across the top of the fluid.

Smell: The aroma is unique, with a bit of piney and medicinal notes balanced by a fruity and estery, toffee-like sweetness.

Taste: The flavor is quite rich, with a good dose of caramelized malt sitting atop spruce and piney, earthy flavors. I taste a bit of a medinical phenolic flavor, along with a bit of alcohol on the tail end. Finishes sweet and bready, but far from cloying.

Mouthfeel: The low level of carbonation helps to highlight it's full body and mouthfeel. Nice clean and dry finish.

Drinkability: Pretty good. While it has a bit of a gimmicky idea behind it, this is a solid brew. It's not overly complex, but quite simple in character, which makes it an easily quaffable beer.

MJR, Jul 05, 2003
Photo of beerguy101
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium reddish color, small head. Aroma is piney. Malty with near earthy undertones, piney resins, fruity (raspberry and blackberry?). Very complex flavors. Interesting flavors, somewhat wine like taste. Mouthfeel is full. Finish is smooth. Finish is slightly bitter. Interesting beer, definitely worth trying.

beerguy101, Jun 12, 2003
Photo of IronDjinn
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Came in a brown 330ml bottle with the freshness date marked on the back. Pours out a murky reddish brown with a nice off-white head which soon just rings the glass. Small traces of lace. Nose is of an intense woodsy and earthy character, the spruce immediately calls one's attention. Flavour is mildly malty, very pine-ish, faint herbal hops, with a somewhat boozy mouthfeel and aftertaste. An interesting strong ale that I've always enjoyed sampling now and again, it definitely has character.

IronDjinn, Jun 05, 2003
Photo of purplehops
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Alba pours a hazy copper brown with an off-white head that left a small amount of lace on the glass. The aroma was a combination of medicinal herbs, alcohol, pine and cedar, and some fruit and juniper notes. Taste starts with a very earthy flavor that quickly incorporates flavors of caramel malt, alcohol, and evergreen flavors. The finish is a bit on the bitter side and dry with medicinal flavors blended with pine resin flavors competing with the sweet malt and alcohol flavors. The aftertaste is a lingering sweet pine flavored malt with some mild alcohol notes. Mouthfeel has a weak carbonation to it and a medium body.
Overall a very interesting beer. If I had read the above review I would say that this sounds like a horrible beer. It isn't! The more I sipped this beer the more it grew on me. Having more didn't change the above flavor and aroma profiles but it did change them from strange and off to intriguing and unusual. I look at the beer as another history beer in that it is a look at what beers were like before hops became the main bittering agent. Anyone who cares about the history and evolution of beer should sample this product. Drink at room temp!

purplehops, Jun 01, 2003
Photo of Brent
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

After reading the bottle blurb about the beer being brewed with pine and spruce twigs, I was expecting the "chew on a pine tree" character like Anchor Our Special Ale (or at least that is what I love about it). I was surprised, and I guess a little disappointed, when the spruce made very little impression on me in this brew. If you blindfolded me and gave this to me as Belgian ale, I'd have started off on a better foot. But, once I got over not being felled by a pine tree, I did like this beer quite a bit. Quite malty with pleasant yeasty esters. Some herbal/woody flavors (not pine, however) rounded the beer out.

Brent, May 22, 2003
Photo of Bierman9
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Alba has a best-by date of Oct 03. Poured a clear, medium color (until the sediment in the bottle was swirled in at the finish), yet the head was practically nonexistent; just a fine, white ring of bubbles around the rim. No lacing, either. Nose was semi-sweet and malty, with the sprucy/piney notes expected. The body was in the medium range, and the small amount of carbonation made for a clean, smooth feel on the tongue. The flavor had a bit of caramel, along with malty sweetness. A floral, slightly hop-like finish must be attributed to the pine/spruce used in brewing. I'm assuming here, since this is my first bier consumed brewed in this manner. The 7.5% abv is well hidden, also. Skol!!

overall: 3.9
appearance: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 4


Bierman9, May 15, 2003
Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 627 ratings.