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Fraoch Heather Ale - Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Fraoch Heather AleFraoch Heather Ale

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

1,004 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,004
Reviews: 692
rAvg: 3.76
pDev: 13.03%
Wants: 44
Gots: 29 | 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
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Ratings: 1,004 | Reviews: 692 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Cwrw
4.18/5  rDev +11.2%

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 +5.9%

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 +12.2%

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 +22.3%

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 +18.9%

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 -8.2%

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 -1.6%

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 +15.2%

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
Photo of inebrius
3.9/5  rDev +3.7%

I like my flowers without sugar.

I dig the whole history thing going on here, yet I pity those poor old bastards that only had the choice of swilling this saccharine goo. Nose of jam slathered buttermilk biscuits laid out among orchids and pecan turtles with a few star anise thrown about Martha style. Honey nutty chewy like those squirrel candies you could never get the friggin' wrapper off and then you finally did and your buddy started messin' with you and you both tussled on the summer clover and dry earth and in headlock slobbered your squirrel candy on the turf until you got in a good rib shot then tossed the soil sodden candy back into your mouth and maybe that tastes like Fraoch.

I like it. I probably won't ever drink it again.

inebrius, Mar 13, 2004
Photo of donnebaby
4.22/5  rDev +12.2%

This is a splendid brew. It pours a cloudy bronze, like thick honey. The head seems to naturally bubble off the body. The nose is sweet, flower-scented malts, unique. The taste was light and rich, with distinct flowers and blueberries. Light hops round it out.

Mouthfeel was lacking for me, pretty dead--but I've come to expect that from the Scottish beers I've had.

My overall impression of this beer was the taste of eating a fresh blueberry with it's skin peeled off, if you know that taste.

donnebaby, Mar 09, 2004
Photo of jlervine
4.05/5  rDev +7.7%

Poured a lightly hazy yellow orange with a nice white head. The smell is incredibly malty and has a lovely sweet floral aroma. the taste is very nice - the malts remind me of a typical English style pale ale or bitter, and the heather seems to augment it quite well. This is a bit of herbalness in the finish that reminds you that this is not a typical English style pale ale or bitter, but the malt structure is quite solid with caramelized and pale malt flavors being predominant. Very smooth and drinkable, fantastic session beer.

jlervine, Mar 02, 2004
Photo of woemad
3.3/5  rDev -12.2%

Bottle purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane.

Poured a cloudy orange-gold color. Head was white and disappeared quickly.

Smell was faint and consisted of floral and slightly piney notes. I haven't the faintest idea what heather is supposed to smell like, so I am unable to ascertain whether or not the smell is authentic.

The taste of this beer could best be described as easygoing. It is very softly floral tasting, like a pale ale with most of its hoppiness siphoned off somewhere. A sweet malt aspect lingers in the distant background. The finish is very dry.

This has an oily mouthfeel, but not much else. A bit thin for my tastes.

This is modestly drinkable, as there is nothing about it that is bad. Nevertheless, there is nothing particularly memorable about it either. I won't go out of my way to have this again.

woemad, Feb 29, 2004
Photo of francisweizen
3.93/5  rDev +4.5%

16.9 oz bottle. A light golden colour with a small white head that dies quickly. Aromas are of sweet scottish malts and the floral beauty of heather. Taste is very light, flowery, and heather-like. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and watery for my liking, but the drinkability was very, very good.

francisweizen, Feb 27, 2004
Photo of JackTheRipper
2/5  rDev -46.8%

Appearance: Poured a dull reddish-amber color with zero head.

Smell: Faintly floral. Aromas are pretty hard to detect.

Taste: Malty sweetness up front with a bit of a heather taste to it.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is there, but in very low levels. Finish is clean.

Drinkability: I don't know if I got a bad bottle, the best before date is June 2005 so it seems like this beer should be pretty fresh. I'll review this beer again a few months from now, but as far as this particular bottle goes, I'm not impressed at all. If it weren't for this breweries Gooseberry and Wheat ale, I wouldn't even think about giving this beer a second chance. Not a good beer.

JackTheRipper, Feb 09, 2004
Photo of jahsausage
3.78/5  rDev +0.5%

Luckily the unique concept of this beer didn't lead to an overwhelming oddness ala many other fruit and spiced beers i've tried. This bottled version that I had was very flat in bubbles and head with a mid-amber hue.
It is very malty tasting, with a sort of smoked flavour, an initial "spark" of heather spritz on the tongue followed by a subdued malty finish. It must be admitted that this bottle cost more than some 6 packs but if I am ever looking to impress someone or just want to try some interesting again it would be well worth a shot.

jahsausage, Jan 28, 2004
Photo of Indybeer
4.1/5  rDev +9%

11.2 oz bottle. Poured a hazy copper colored, with a smallish head and some fine lacing. Awesome floral aroma meets the nose. Taste starts out with some malt sweetness, finishes with a floral spiciness from the heather! Mild carbonation. Definetly different. But a throughly enjoyable and drinkable beer. Will be picking up a few more of these soon.

Indybeer, Jan 03, 2004
Photo of DrunkMcDermott
3.2/5  rDev -14.9%

Bottle with "Best by 2/01" date notch. Ah, a traditional Scots drink for the only holiday in the US with a Scots aspect. And an interesting brew it is. Mossy odor when I crack the bottle. Pours a hazy brown, about pale ale color, with a thin head. Taste has some sweetness without being cloying. They don't mention if there are hops at all (don't they need some to be allowed to call it "beer," so sweetness seems balanced by heather, giving it grassy notes and the dry finish, as advertised, plus a very faint citrusy aspect. Well-made relic of those days of auld lang syne.

DrunkMcDermott, Jan 02, 2004
Photo of merlin48
3.6/5  rDev -4.3%

Pours an almost clear, orange amber color, with a short-lived white head that leaves a delicate ring of lacing. Nose has a floral bouquet with sweet malts in the background. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, crisp, and refreshing. Taste is, not surprisingly, unusual but quite pleasant. The heather bitters the toffee/caramel malt characters very well, resulting in a nicely balanced and very drinkable ale. If this is what the Scots drank 2,000 years ago, then they drank quite well.

merlin48, Jan 01, 2004
Photo of beernut7
3.93/5  rDev +4.5%

This is a really interesting concept for an ale which I clasped onto immediately. Pours a bubbly copper color with a very thin lace on the goblet. The malty aroma has tones of floral heather. The ale is very smooth and malty with a woven heather floral touch throughout. The body is refreshing with a moderate bitterness. Entirely well-balanced and easy on the senses.

beernut7, Jan 01, 2004
Photo of dmarch
2.78/5  rDev -26.1%

Pours with a hazy orange-amber color with minimal head, even after a vigorous pour. Aroma is the only thing this beer has going for it. A very floral aroma from the heather. This is brewed with heather in place of the hops. This really needs some bitterness though. I has sweetness and the tangy heather flavor, but in my opinion I really miss the hops.

dmarch, Nov 29, 2003
Photo of byrd
3.7/5  rDev -1.6%

Nice looking brew when poured. Decent frothy off-white head that reduces to a lace of tiny bubbles. Clear golden amber color. Floral aroma that is hoppy, but then again, not quite hoppy. Interesting use of something other then hops as a bittering agent. From what I’ve read elsewhere, there are no hops used in the brewing of this ale, just heather. Only a hint of malt in the aroma. Smooth brew with a medium mouthfeel and very light carbonation. Light bready malt notes with only a light sweetness. The finish has a mild bitterness that balances out the brew rather nicely. Due to the lack of hops, however, the bitterness is unique to this brew. The bottle says it has a dry winey finish. I didn’t observe this in the bottle I sampled. This was a good, drinkable brew, but did not stand out as much as I had hoped. Definitely worth a try though.

byrd, Nov 25, 2003
Photo of PhantomVodoo
3.6/5  rDev -4.3%

Off-white head sits atop a light caramel colored brew.
Aroma is very floral; rosewater comes to mind. Spice, fruit, toffee malt and an earthiness are also there.

Taste shows a toasty toffee malt backbone with some spice thrown in. The big player here is the floral character that makes this beer unique and interesting, but quickly became cloying to me. Again, rosewater comes to mind. Finishes fairly crisp and clean.

Mouthfeel a tad thin.
Drinkability: 1 of these is enough for me. The huge floral character began to turn me off as I neared the end of the glass.

Overall, this beer is unique and interesting. Definitely something you should give a try, but not one I'll be looking for again anytime soon.

PhantomVodoo, Nov 25, 2003
Photo of Shiloh
3.45/5  rDev -8.2%

This brew is a lot hoppier than I anticipated. Yet, the malty sweetness is prevelent at the end by a slight margin.
Full bodied with limited head, very tiny island lace and light carbonation. Deep golden hue and murky.
Aroma is lightly floral.
Minor syrupy finish...too bad!
Not a session brew...but acceptable.

Shiloh, Nov 06, 2003
Photo of canadianbarman
4/5  rDev +6.4%

--long neck, 330 ml brown bottle, freshness date on back and cool looking Celtic label.
--Poured a cloudy, dark golden color. Had a good head that thinned to small, not much for lacing.
--had a sweet, floral aroma to it.
--taste was a sweet, almost spicy taste with a full malt body.
This was a very cool beer that I bought for a few reasons. I had tried one when I was in Scotland and wanted to try it again, and it was also an interesting beer to drink. I actually enjoyed this beer and would recommend you give it a try.

canadianbarman, Nov 05, 2003
Photo of SetarconeX
4.72/5  rDev +25.5%

Well now, this IS a unique little brew, isn't it? I must confess, I was a little uncertain about this one. Heather's a plant usually confined to new age scented candles, isn't it? Thought it might be a bit girly.

Boy, was I ever wrong! It's got an odd taste to it, which I would call citrusy, but I expect it's more the heather. Not sure, really. Never bothered to eat any heather before. Smells wonderful though. Looks wonderful. Feels wonderful going down. Citrus isn't quite what it is though. More herbal. Like Chamomile.

Great brew. Highly recommended.

SetarconeX, Oct 28, 2003
Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 1,004 ratings.