1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Fraoch Heather Ale - Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Fraoch Heather AleFraoch Heather Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
85
very good

1,021 Ratings
THE BROS
91
outstanding

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,021
Reviews: 693
rAvg: 3.75
pDev: 13.07%
Wants: 45
Gots: 31 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Williams Brothers Brewing Company visit their website
United Kingdom (Scotland)

Style | ABV
Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale |  5.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. heather ale is probably the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. From an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture. Into the boiling bree of malted barley, sweet gale and flowering heather are added, then after cooling slightly the hot ale is poured into a vat of fresh heather flowers where it infuses for an hour before being fermented.

(Beer added by: purplehops on 10-06-1998)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Fraoch Heather Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,021 | Reviews: 693 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Gaisgeil
4.05/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This brew pours out a medium-amber and a bit cloudy, though that dissipates as the brew settles in the glass. The smell is fruity and rich. Very different from most brews, the lack of hops is very apparent here. Upon first sip the herbal qualities are what stand out the most, undoubtedly. There is a strong malt flavor though that dissipates as fast as it presented itself. The finish is fairly dry, with a tea-like aftertaste, I'm guessing that's the heather shining through. Very interesting brew.

A very enjoyable brew, very refreshing and interesting. The history behind this type of ale is also interesting and long, for those curious enough to delve into the academics of it all.

Slàinte!

Gaisgeil, Nov 06, 2004
Photo of Skidz
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out a pale orange and sits hazy orange-amber in the glass with a small white head that fades fast to the sides.

Aroma is nice and spicy with a nie malty mixture of apples and an meandering floral aroma overhead. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Very attractive. At this moment I recall a glass of mulled Quelque Chose of similar qualities.

Taste is malty with sweet fruity esters: apples, currants. Boasts a floral background of tulips and lillies. Bitterness begins in the middle and smooths out into the finish. Mild and spicy. A nice compliment to the nose of the this nice brew.

Very creamy and refreshing. Medium body with light and pleasant carbonation.

Refreshing and perfect for a spring afternoon outside amongst the blooming flowers.

Skidz, Oct 21, 2004
Photo of dgallina
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

In the bottle, with a best-before date of August 2005.

Slightly cloudy golden yellow and orange color. Persistent carbonation. Medium white head that dissipates quickly to a thin white layer. Light lacing.

Fruity and flowery aromas. Smooth and light mouth-feel. Perhaps a bit too light for a 5% ABV ale in my opinion. Some warming in the stomach.

Very sweet, with flowery, fruity, and malty flavors. An unexpectedly nice dry finish and after-taste. The after-taste plays an unusually strong role in this ale.

Refreshing, a good change-of-pace, and very drinkable.

dgallina, Oct 12, 2004
Photo of longarm
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I'm not sure what to look-for in a Heather Ale. This brew has a cloudy yellow-orange tinge to it and the head has large bubbles, but it lingers around for the entire drink too. Nothing more or less than average in appearance.

Aroma is amazing on this beer and unlike anything I've ever smelled in a beer. I don't know what Heather smells like, but I imgaine
that it's like this. It's somewhat flowery, but there's a little hop in there too, but not much. Like a good scotch Ale, it has a nice malty presence. Aroma and flavor both seem to build as the beer sits-out and slightly warms, so I recommend letting it breathe for about 15 minutes before drinking.

Flavor is a little-on the sweet-side, but it has the same unknown characteristics as the smell, probably again from the heather. There's very little bitterness in this beer. Maltiness is a little light for a Scottish, but perhaps that's necessary given the lightness of the heather.

Overall this is very drinkable and probably nice to have around to surprise guests or for a change yourself.

longarm, Oct 04, 2004
Photo of soper2000
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I've finally found a bottle of this after a couple months of looking. I first sampled this at a BA gathering thanks to qarre. I'm glad that I finally get a chance to properly review it however. It pours a nice orange color with a slight tinged white head. Aroma is intensely floral. Some sweet notes also mix in. Taste is very similiar to the aroma (as one would expect). Starts off very flowery but finishes with nice bread like malts. Very well balanced and very drinkable. An excellent brew in my book. Only if it were easier to find around here.

soper2000, Sep 18, 2004
Photo of Shaw
4.47/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fraoch is a pale gold in color with a small head that quickly becomes just wisps of foam on the surface of the ale. It has an herbal, spicy smell that is quite tea-like. I will take a big risk and say the herbal aroma is from the heather in this beer, ho ho. It smells similar to Rogue's Test Batch No. 1, Chamomile Ale.

The taste is special. Maybe I'm just a fan of tea-like beers, but I like this beer's taste a lot. The immediate sweet flavors are quickly pushed aside by the spicy notes from the heather. The herbal flavors linger well into the aftertaste.

After reading the brewery's notes on this beer, I see that there aren't any hops in it. As a certified hophead, this could be a problem, but I think the heather brings a whole different type of bitterness to the ale. The spice counters the sweetness of the malt in a very interesting way. It's quite different from hop bitterness.

You should make an effort to try this ale.

Shaw, Sep 08, 2004
Photo of SheepNutz
3.88/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a medium gold color with one finger of head. Not too much lacing. The smell has a lot of malt and honey sweetness. It's a bit spicy too. The taste is grassy and malty, with peppery spices. A bit of honey in there as well. Very unique. The mouthfeel is pretty thick and smooth. The drinkability is good as well. Not too bad for not having hops!

SheepNutz, Aug 14, 2004
Photo of blitheringidiot
4.18/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Label Lore: Tall 500 mL (16.9 fl. Oz.) browner declaring no ABV, but a “Best by Oct. 2005” notch. Brewed with Heather flowers and Scottish malts.

Poured into me Flying Fish tulip with a slightly misty hazy yet light revealing golden honey hue. A quickly dissipated egg shell white tiny bubble head that stays wafer thin
over five or six microscopic bubbles that rise up. Second pour contained a few tiny pin point sized splinters that escaped the grasp of the filter. No lace left, but a foamy 1/8” ring that lasted.

Light Earthy Juniper & mixed berry & red apple aromas while fridge cold. When warmed up a smidge, leafy lemony characteristics were pronounced.

First swigs: Gracefully spiced peach and dry powdery malts. A bit of wild yeast strains are somewhat palatable. A hint of dandelion flavors are imaginable (which is the word I will use since I have never eaten a dandelion, but if you could, this would be a nod towards that.) Aftertaste is white grape and dry ginger ale. Mild spices that point toward sugar cane and lemon extract oil.

Rock solid tight sizzle carbonation all the way through, medium bodied. Exceptional drinker. The blend of complex, yet not overbearing flavors builds a delicious beer.

Last swigs: Citrous notes and garden vegetable blends with dusty malts and quaffable. Paid $4.10+tax at Circle Liquors in Ewing NJ. One of Michael Jackson’s Best Beers in the World from 1999. 5% is perfect for this drinker. Swirl in the bottle before pouring for a uniform brew. Otherwise there is a top pour and a bottom pour herein contained. Upgraded my previous review from 3.25 at a tasting.

From the site: Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. heather ale is probably the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. From an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture. Into the boiling bree of malted barley, sweet gale and flowering heather are added, then after cooling slightly the hot ale is poured into a vat of fresh heather flowers where it infuses for an hour before being fermented. A light amber ale with floral peaty aroma, full malt charachter, a spicy herbal flavour and dry wine like finish. Recommended with : Rich and Spicy foods
Drink slightly chilled from a fluted glass. 5% abv

Beer is good. Happy beering.

blitheringidiot, Aug 09, 2004
Photo of shapudding
2.68/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light and clear golden with a small amount of creamy white bubbly head that reduced down quickly to the sit in the edges only. Scents of apple cider, clean and fresh, white grapes, maltines...

Surprising taste, you expect sweetness after the scent, but there is none. Maltiness, very dry on your tongue -but it leaves your mouth wet...

Im not overwhelmed by this one. There is just something in the flavor that I just can't place that turns me off. Maybe it is the heather flowers, don't know.

shapudding, Jul 30, 2004
Photo of Bighuge
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dirty looking pale copper tone. Carbonation looks low upon viewing. Thin head but big bubbly collar of dirt brown tone. Nice aroma. Leather, floral hops, vinegar, lemon juice and sweet malt. Interesting, but good. This beer's got a little "snap" to the taste. Spicing is evident, but held in check. This heather flower really adds a nice sweet rose-like accent. The malts are sweet and unassuming. The aftertaste is dry and inviting. Interesting beer. Good beer.

Bighuge, Jul 21, 2004
Photo of connecticutpoet
4.43/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This ale was a deep yellow, almost amber, brew that had an average-sized head. It dissipated over a few minutes to a ring of lace around the glass.

The aroma was of slightly sweet malt, with some floral notes that belie the interesting taste experience that is to come...

The taste was of rich malt, some sweetness, some floral tastes, and a hint of cinnamon thrown in for good measure. A rather complex blend and carried out well.

This is one I have gone back to several times for a change of pace. The best one I have had from this company, without a doubt.

connecticutpoet, Jul 07, 2004
Photo of niknar
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out a light golden color with some copper accents. A small to moderate head developed, then quickly dissipated to a foamy collar. Smell is quite unique. It smells spiced and floral with some faintly nutty characteristics... quite intriguing. Taste is certainly above average. Very complex flavors of herbs, spices, and malt. Finishes somewhat dry, though not as dry as wine (as the bottle compares itself to). Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied with fairly low carbonation. I think this is a highly drinkable beer, but probably not for a macro-drinker's first experience into "good" beer. This one is a little more complex and reserved in my opinion.

niknar, Jun 26, 2004
Photo of cbl2
3.15/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance:

Light golden brown with to no head.

Smell:

floral aroma indicating the presence of hops.

Taste/Mouthfee:

Light malt characteristics up front followed by floral flavors & a mildly bitter finish. A decent beer, though nothing exceptional about it.

cbl2, Jun 24, 2004
Photo of RocketWidget
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy gold color, with good white lacy head and good carbonation. Smell of herbs, a grassy smell, or possibly heather flowers. Taste is very...different, I still cant decide if I like it or not. No hops, instead a sweet and bitter herbal taste combines with the malt profile of this beer. Good mouthfeel and quite drinkable once you get over the weirdness of it. I would drink this if given to me, but I don't think I would ever buy it again (unless my girlfriend, who's name is Heather, asked me to get it for her...)

RocketWidget, Jun 18, 2004
Photo of moulefrite
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Color here is a deep golden with a tinge of copper. A creamy, soft looking white cap just coats the top of the glass. The retention is good and sticky lace patterns appear with each taste. Aromas are floral and malty-sweet and somewhat fruity. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a dry, somewhat vinous feel. Flavors are soft, subtle and easy to enjoy. Interesting flavors include fresh flower (heather?) cocoa powder, dark chocolate, dish soap?!! (heather?) A sweet flowery/malty flavor with caramel traces finishes things up. A very different and interesting beverage to pass over the palate indeed.

moulefrite, Jun 04, 2004
Photo of putnam
4.58/5  rDev +22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I've heard this brewer made the observation that many Americans don't appreciate subtlety. Well this is the test.
Aromatically it is a judged, sober display of nutty malts, morel mushrooms and wild floral resins. Pretty and delicate with the promise of deep, nuanced forest and earth.
On the palate it begins immediately with chalky, bitter hop extracts which don't quite contain an abundance of preserved lemon, peach and buttered berry fruit. Medium-bodied and perfectly dry. Ideal with a barley soup containing chervil and lamb.
This is how a start-up beer should taste. Even better as it warms.

putnam, Jun 02, 2004
Photo of yeagerbm
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a hazy yellow with a thin white head. Has an herby aroma . The taste I can most compare with a belgian strong pale ale or triple, although it is lighter and more herbal. This beer has a mildly fruity and alcoholy dry finish. This is a refreshing, interesting ale. Although, I was expecting something more unusual tasting with the lack of hops, but this is a nice beer worth trying.

yeagerbm, May 29, 2004
Photo of Cwrw
4.18/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Historic beer. The website claims that this type of ale could possibly be amongst the oldest styles ever brewed, dating perhaps back literally thousands of years. The bottle information cites that the recipe for this beer is from the 1500s, so it certainly does have pedigree, at the very least 500 years old.

The appearance is surprisingly normal: I was expecting a dark, wine-like liquid with little or no head. However, this is one good looking beer: a thick viscous near-white head that leaves great lace, a light, hazy, medium-golden, light brown colour.
This has much more of a typical, but attractive, "beer" appearance than I was expecting.
The aroma is indeed very flowery; such as freshly plucked wild flowers or perfumed brush blossoms. I smell scents of peppermint, raspberries, strong but soft spices, and nice amber malt.
A very unique and flavourful taste. Soft floweriness on the front of the tongue, mild in the middle with more of the same, but with some slight sweetness of the malt, and a balanced bitterness on the finish, with a very, very fresh barley taste left lingering on the tongue, heightened by the highly fragrant heather presence. The finish is by far the best part of the taste. For those of you who have been to Scotland and smelt the wild heather, you will know that the brewers have conjured the aroma of heather quite well in this treasured time-honoured beer. The mouthfeel is not powerful or off-putting at all; in truth I was actually expecting an altogether bolder feel on the mouth, considering the ingredients of this ale. I believe it could use a little more body, perhaps a strengthening of the heather flavour. This factor, however, makes it a highly drinkable beer, whilst perhaps sacrificing some more potential taste. This is hard to review with "style" in mind, because it is the only heather ale I have ever tried. I thoroughly enjoyed this, however. All I can say is that a stronger heather flavour would satisfy me all the more so. I believe they could make this a truly exceptional and very exclusive beer for only a select few people with discerning palates. Very singular, very unique. You may enjoy this more if you have visited Scotland.

Cwrw, May 23, 2004
Photo of Hunter
3.98/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours slightly hazy golden color. Off-white head that pours thick and hangs out for a while. Carbonation sends thin threads of tiny bubbles off the sides of the glass.

The smell was intoxicating. Hints of flower, alcohol, and unidentified spice. No hops, but the other aromas compensate. I seem to have spent an equal amount of time with my nose in the glass as my mouth.

Taste is wine-like, dry and astringent. You can taste the alcohol but it's never overpowering or unpleasant. Mouthfeel is thin, with little aftertaste. Interplay of ingredients on the tongue assures you'll come back to this beer to figure tham all out. Works well as either a winter or summer brew.

Hunter, May 16, 2004
Photo of Zorro
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a mildly hazy golden brew.

Smell is sweet malt and a musky flower scent and a touch of honey.

Taste is elusive, you think it is going to be sweet but it is not. Very mild malt flavor and the taste of the heather flowers. The sweetness and flavor are on the tongue for a moment and then disappears in to a mild bitterness. Astonishing dryness flavor, similar to a very dry mead.

Mouthfeel is Very light, but in this case it contributes to the dryness of the brew.

Very drinkable brew, a unique beer that everyone should try.

Zorro, May 13, 2004
Photo of CBFanWish
4.6/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sweet, heather, grassy, smokey. Just a few words to describe this fantastic brew. I wish more breweries would use heather in place of hops more often. This is on of the best beers I have ever had. I guess you could say that I'm speechless. I love everything about it. The superbly balanced taste. Sweet and dry at the same time. The orange colour with a perfect two finger head. The smooth feel going down. I could drink this all day.

CBFanWish, Apr 20, 2004
Photo of Crotor
4.47/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Dear God this stuff is heavenly.

Clear, light amber in color with a low, brit-style head, Fraoch Heather Ale presents little in the way of apprearance. However, the subtle but substantial floral bouquet brought about by the use of heather flowers is to die for. Light in body and alcohol, highly drinkable, pleasantly floral - this is an ideal beer for summer consumption. Without hop bitterness to mask the malt, the subtleties of pale malts has never been more pronounced. The yeast character is similar to that of Belgian brews, slight esters complementing the heather aroma.

Crotor, Apr 01, 2004
Photo of tjd25
3.45/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark orange color. The head disappeared very quickly. Aromas of spices and dry grass (I guess that's heather). Malts in the smell too.

Very low carbonation (maybe an old bottle). Aromas of dark malts, with the same spiced grass aspect as in the smell. A bit winy too. The body was very thin, too thin in my opinion. Not much complexity in this beer. The beer leaves a long lasting chewy mouthfeel that was not really enjoyable.

The fact that the label announces that it is still illegal to use heather to brew beer in England, but that they still do it (they are big rebels) isn't sufficient to get me excited about this beer.

tjd25, Mar 31, 2004
Photo of bighops
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had this beer along side a couple Sam Adams so it was an interesting contrast. My first impression was the bottle. Very cool logo and artwork - it made me expect something celtic in nature. Poured up a dark golden, almost orange or maybe red but had very little head. What head it did have was lost quickly. The color still looked nice in the glass however. The aroma was easily classified as floral, sweet with a hint of malty... something. A bit fruity maybe. The taste was sweeter than I expected. With the strong floral scent, I often expect a balance of bitter hops, but this one wasn't that bitter. It felt not flat in my mouth, but the carbination was pretty weak - it somehow fit with the light body though. I enjoyed the taste, but not enough to drink a lot of it. I could see this being something of a desert beer. And I bet it would be good with a sharp cheese.

bighops, Mar 31, 2004
Photo of mschofield
4.33/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy, orange-amber with a two finger white head, left webs of lacing behind.
Very floral aroma, malty and sweet, note of pine trees.
Sweet and floral taste, lightly toasted malt, a little fruity.
Dry and full bodied, an odd biting flavor note, the bitterness is mild.
This was one of the most floral accented beers I've had, it's rather unique.

mschofield, Mar 24, 2004
Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 1,021 ratings.