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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

639 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 639
Reviews: 465
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 14.29%
Wants: 25
Gots: 21 | 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.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 639 | Reviews: 465 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of connecticutpoet
2.15/5  rDev -43.1%
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
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
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
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Photo of BierReise
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle Best before Jun '05. Coppery amber color ale with a thick head of tight bubbles. Good retention. Unique aroma of pine and berries with some faint malt and a bit woody. Body is medium to full and smooth with a low carbonation. Flavor is also unique with spruce, wood, berries and a rich malt flavor. Overall this ale could be dangerous because it goes down so easy. Interesting but I'm not sure if it will be something I'd drink regularly.

Photo of TerryW
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a coppery red colour, with a moderate head that settles to a heavy long lived film. Decent lace.

The aroma initially reminded me more of sweet berries than of pine. Gentle malts on the nose. Medicinal smell underlays the whole thing.

Pine and spruce flavours are noticeable, but don't overwhelm. Finish reminds me somehow of raspberries. Slight bitterness and noticeable lingering gentle alcohol. Overall the beer comes across as quite sweet and fruity. Mouthfeel is quite heavy and slightly syrupy.

Good as an after dinner beer or to sit down and savour some evening.

Photo of canadianbarman
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

--Bought in a variety pack with 3 others. Came in a 330ml brown bottle with the freshness date on the box they came in.
--Poured a hazy, amber in color. Thin head with minor lacing.
--Smell of sweet herbs and fruits.

I found this beer pretty good. It tasted a little like a seasonal raspberry ale that my local brewpub produces. I think it is well worth the try.

Photo of NJpadreFan
2.16/5  rDev -42.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Alba Scots Pine Ale

Traded beers with a friend and this was one 1 I received.

Alba has a nice reddsh brown hue with a decent white head, from a rough pour. The smell was definitely piney with some berry/cherry hints as well. The taste was fruity, raspberry and perfumey with a pine tree flavoring. The mouthfeel was a little bitter with a lingering pine neddle taste.

Overall- this beer is ok to take a few sips but any more than that and you might as well start drinking the Christmas tree water.

Photo of francisweizen
4.55/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Excellent. A ruby red liquid with a small off-white head of foam. Aromas are extremely fruity and sweet and reminiscent of a belgian triple with fruit added. The taste is fruity and sweet up front, chewy and piney in the middle and fruity on the end with a noteable emergence of raspberry flavors in the after-taste. The mouthfeel is a bit watery, but that only lends to this brews extremely good drinkability. give it a try!

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

I could only imagine what a beer brewed with pine needles would taste like. I was pleasantly surprised when I tatsed this beer to find that it was nothing like I thought or the way others had described it. Just goes to show that these reviews are only opinions of personal taste so try everything yourself and then decide.

This brew poured up a bit thin and was a golden orange in color. Very little head was generated with a medium pour and what little foam that did come faded quickly. It has a very suble aroma that grows as it warms. (had I read the label more closely I would not have refridgerated it) The fragrance is lite and of a sweet pine. Very smooth tatse that easy to drink. It's a bit sweet but that doesn't linger in an aftertaste. It's called a triple but seems a little lite in comparison. Overall a really nice brew and definetly worth a try.

Photo of Erix
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Served cold from the fridge into a Maudite chalice.
Appearance: Very cloudy, rose copper in color, with a minimal head that dissipated quickly to a ring around the glass, no lacing.. A little sediment, but nothing major.
Smell: Sweet, almost floral, and slightly alcoholic. Suprisingly there is almost no smell of pine here when cold, but it does become more apparent as the beer warms.
Taste: Quite clean, almost no pine unless you're looking for it. Sweet and Floral, with hints of something maybe light Belgian sugars. Thats probably not right, but its the closest I can come to it. At 7.5% the alcohol is very well hidden. As it warms, the complexity increases, as does the alcoholic presence. There are no hops to contribute to an aftertaste, but the floral sweet flavor does linger a little. Pine flavor definitely becomes more noticable as it warms. Alcohol burn also becomes apparent.
Mouthfeel: Clean but not quite crisp, and rather smooth. Enjoyable.
Drinkability: More so than I would have expected at 7.5%, but the pine (as it warmed) might get a little strong after one or two of these. The sweeteness, while not cloying, is a bit more than I would like for a session beer.
The bottle recommends drinking this beer at room temperature, but I would suggest starting cold. I liked it best somewhere around 45 or 50 degrees.

Photo of beernut7
3.97/5  rDev +5%
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.

Photo of Suds
4.09/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

Photo of DrunkMcDermott
3.42/5  rDev -9.5%
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.

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.

Photo of Cwrw
3.79/5  rDev +0.3%
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!).

Photo of Weissenheimer
4.35/5  rDev +15.1%
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.

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
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!

Photo of Shiloh
3.97/5  rDev +5%
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.

Photo of AtLagerHeads
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
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.

Photo of shippos
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
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.

Photo of Naerhu
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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!

Photo of jdhilt
3.32/5  rDev -12.2%
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.

Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 639 ratings.