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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

646 Ratings

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Ratings: 646
Reviews: 468
rAvg: 3.78
pDev: 14.29%
Wants: 30
Gots: 22 | 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.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 646 | Reviews: 468
Photo of malthead
4.43/5  rDev +17.2%
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
4.48/5  rDev +18.5%
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
3.96/5  rDev +4.8%
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
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
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
4.15/5  rDev +9.8%
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
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
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
3.97/5  rDev +5%
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
2.15/5  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.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 646 ratings.