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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

1,021 Ratings

(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
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Ratings: 1,021 | Reviews: 693 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.33/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 16.9 fluid ounce (500ml) brown glass bottle. A very distinct looking label with heavy Scotia influences, including the familiar Celtic Cross which forms the basis of the labels design. Best Before April, 2005.

Appearance: Light amber with a slight golden-orange hue when backlit. Smooth looking white head stays the distance. Minimal lacing.

Nose: Wow, the fresh flowering heather that is used shines through this beer. In addition, malts, spruce trees and light coniferous forests mixed with other floral aspects contribute to the overall nose.

Taste: Flowery floral heather perfumed with light spices and mixed in with herbal twists that are all intermingled in a definitive strong amber malt base. Lively carbonation. The finish has a very dry sharp Ginger taste in the ending. Absolutely superb.

Mouthfeel: Crisp and snappy. Smooth floral flavors and a lively carbonation give a very silky feel, and solid mouthfeel to this beer.

Drinkability: For a beer with such a unique flavor, it is highly drinkable. A rather specialist beer, different and unique for sure, but it does drink exceptionally well.

Overall: Along with the Scots Alba Pine, this is one of my favorite beers from Heather Ales. It’s even better on Cask. At $3.99 for a Half-Litre in the bottle, it is rather expensive, but well worth treating yourself to one if you have yet to try it.

TheLongBeachBum, Jul 17, 2003
Photo of BierReise
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Deep golden with low retention.Nice big floral/hop aroma.Babysbreath? Flavor is sweet and floral with good hops and sweet malts. A most interesting flavor. Earthy, woodsy and sweet. Body is a bit light but interesting blends make up for that shortcoming. Not one I'd drink often but I'd love to try it on draught.

BierReise, Jul 16, 2003
Photo of TheDM
3.58/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This brew poured a small sized head of fine to medium sized off white bubbles. It has a cloudy amber brown body with some carbonation clinging to the side of the glass. It had a smooth malty initial taste with some, but not much tang to the finish. It was very smooth with a good full bodied flavor.

TheDM, Jul 15, 2003
Photo of mickeymac
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 500 ml bottle with the Pagan label, it pours a very nice looking gold that's just a bit hazy. The white head is initially thin and then disappears almost immediately. The smell is a very pleasant flower/herb, with a hint of medicine and a nice malt backbone. The taste is most noticeably herbal. It has a dry finish and is really very smooth. It certainly is a nice change from hops, but not an everyday beer.

mickeymac, Jul 08, 2003
Photo of jreitman
3/5  rDev -20%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Very aromatic beer with a lot of spice in the nose and a hint of smoke. Spcies come through in the mouth and leave a biting finish. A mint-like flavor was perceived in the flavor after a while. Found this one to be a bit astringent and couldn't get past it. Aftertaste was not so pleasant. Hops were not present at all.

jreitman, Jul 05, 2003
Photo of Brent
2.68/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

After having been impressed with the two other beers I've sampled from this brewery, the Fraoch was a letdown. For a beer that touts itself as being brewed with heather, I really expected quite a bit of floral notes in the aroma and flavor. The heather seemed to lend more of a stodgy herbal flavor. Quite typical of Scottish ale in the malt, which was substantial but overall bland. The heather never did anything to liven the beer, and my overall impression was "blah." Not bad, just boring.

Brent, Jun 13, 2003
Photo of Morris729
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a golden light amber color with some black pieces of sediment that sink to the bottom of the glass. Nose is sweet nectar, honey, and flowers with a touch of smoky peat. The taste is complex being full in flavor and yet also delicate at the same time with notes of spicy herbs, honey, fruit, dry malts, and dry white wine. A grand brew and one of the most unique beers I have sampled. A must-try for anyone. Thanks to Loki for the sample!

Morris729, Jun 06, 2003
Photo of IronDjinn
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Came in a 500ml brown bottle with freshness date on the back. Great label. Hazy golden straw colour, nice big foamy white head, good lacing. The smell is fantastic, berries, flowers, a little bit of grass, very sweet. Flavour is sweet and flowery, some hay, a crisp aftertaste but not too dry. Something you could sip on all day, especially in the great outdoors in the sun.

IronDjinn, Jun 01, 2003
Photo of BeerBuilder
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazy, orangish-yellow color with a thick, creamy head. The malty, fruity, and floral. It also has an interesting aroma, I am sure which is the heather. I have never smelt heather before, let alone in a beer, but I found this to be a very fragrant beer. The flavor is malty, floral and grassy. It is a very smooth, easy drinking, light-medium bodied beer. An interesting beer, with a unique flavor and aroma.

BeerBuilder, May 29, 2003
Photo of bditty187
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Hazy, honey-bronze, ½ inch of bubbly white head, quick to collapse, soapy… some specks of lace. The nose was very light, kind of floral with kisses of caramel and wood. Now this is a unique palate, sweet but not cloying, floral, soft marshmallows, wood, light & dry bread notes. Surprisingly complex considering how mellow and soft the flavor are. Lovely aftertaste… soft floral & marshmallows. Medium-light body, minimal carbonation, this is a smooth quaff. The only drawback is the tackiness on your tongue. Overall this is an excellent beer! Recommended!

Freshness Date: Dec. 2004

Thanks Loki for my first Heather Ale, I loved it.

bditty187, May 21, 2003
Photo of ZAP
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first Heather Ale...great floral nose as you'd expect...very unique...also some sweet maltiness on the nose....pours an orange tinted gold....cloudy....no head...or lace as you drink....body is medium...firm enough....big floral flavor combines with a zesty spiciness..the sweet malt is there as well and adds a nice dimension....a real interesting beer to taste...Not one I'd be able to drink a lot of but a nice change of pace....I love unique beers and to me this is pretty unique...

ZAP, May 19, 2003
Photo of Loki
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled in an 11.5 oz bottle with a best before date on the back and a story about the recipe and the history of this brew. Comes in a 4-pack with very nice packaging.

Before I begin this review I have to completely agree with kindestcut in that I have no idea what to compare it to, so I am rating it on personal tastes alone. I see that there are other Heather Ales out there and Heather Ales Ltd. makes other brews so I shall have to try them and revisit this ale, but onto the review.

This ale pours a clear golden apricot in color with almost no head. There was a miniscule head for a split second then it was gone. This beer leaves little to no lacing. I deducted points for this, but is this the style? If it is then it nailed it, if it?s suppose to have a head and lacing, well then I probably should have deducted more.

The aromas of this unique ale are quite floral, very clean, and have hints of citrus. The dominating smell was very familiar, but I couldn?t place it. That is until my fiancée (it?s proven that women have better olfactory senses) smelled my beer. She almost immediately associated the smell with ginger and more specifically with the ginger dressing you would get at a Japanese steak house. Once she said that I identified it right away and it became even more prominent. I would like to say again that the aromas are very, very clean.

The taste is very dry and clean with a beginning malty sweetness that fades into a slight hoppy bitterness. The taste of ginger dressing dominates this ale with hints of citrus and a very slight honey sweetness. I would have to imagine that heather smells much like ginger or that the heather combined with malt or honey gives it this flavor. A very enjoyable and very unique ale. It would be interesting to pair this with a night at your Japanese steak house.

The mouth feel is very crisp and clean and goes down very easily. This is a very drinkable brew and would make for interesting food parings. I think I?ll have another.

Loki, May 15, 2003
Photo of kindestcut
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a beer that I had been wanting to try for awhile. As a history teacher/buff, I was very interested in trying Fraoch, an ancient beer brewed in Scotland for a couple of thousand years. Alas, Fraoch is not sold in Texas but luckily, a fellow BA came to the rescue (thanks Loki!) and a trade later, I had two bottles of the stuff.

I must make one statement. I am easily swayed in my opinions by things that I find interesting. Beer is no exception. The concept of a historical recipe is fascinating to me. I'm not saying that I would give a bad beer a good rating simply because I think it's cool. What I am saying is that I take into account that historical artifacts (and this would be a "modern artifact") are what they are. If heather ale is not the best beer in the world, it doesn't lessen its significance. This beer (or something similar to it) was important to people living in Scotland thousands of years ago. To change the recipe for modern tastes would do a disservice to everyone involved.

Having said that, I have to say that I was surprised at how, well, beer-like Fraoch looks. I don't know what I was expecting but this beer looks like beer! Fraoch pours a clear gold, like bottled sunshine. I have read the reviews that say it's clody but I ddn't see it. maybe it was the hefe-weizen I had earlier in the night that "clouded" my judgement. (I can't resist a pun) The head is a slight off-white. Fraoch really does look nice.

The main problem with rating this beer is, what do I compare it to? What stadard do I use? I have never had a heather ale or historical recipe. This beer is unique to me.

The aroma is sour, with a very faint floral and hint of alcohol...very faint. I wish I could say it smelled like heather but I have to be honest...I don't know what heather smells like...this beer maybe?

Fraoch has a definite sweet flavor, with a very distant bitterness that flashes quickly and is gone. There is a very faint aftertaste that also lasts only a moment. This beer is very clean tasting, nicely carbonated and very spicy.

All-in-all, Fraoch is a good beer. I enjoyed this beer quite a lot, and it is quite interesting, but it's more interesting than it is tasty. This does not mean it's bad. It doesn't mean I will never want another. What it does mean to me is that this beer has an element that many others do not have, along with appearance, aroma, taste, etc. Fraoch has "history" and that gets high marks from me.

kindestcut, May 14, 2003
Photo of hotstuff
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I was not totally impressed by this particular brew. It poured a medium head and it did leave a good lacing on the sides of my mug. To me it had a fruity, citrusy aroma to it. In my opinion it had a bitter taste to it and I noticed it had an aftertaste. It also had a cloudy appearance.

hotstuff, May 04, 2003
Photo of Garin
3.48/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours cloudy, and is a peachy golden yellow colour. The head is quite thin, and disappears almost immediately. The aroma is slight but sharp, with flowery, herbal scents dominating some hop and yeast aromas underneath.

The flavour is mild, sweet, and herbal at the start, with slightly medicinal hoppy tones. Bitter and earthy tones develop further along. The finish is clean, with almost no aftertaste. As I get through this pint, malty flavours develop and linger.

In the mouth, this beer feels soft and full.

Overall, I find this beer to be quite decent. The herbal flavours are interesting, and it's easy drinking.

Garin, Apr 10, 2003
Photo of goz
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours clear medium golden, with a thick white head, slowly dimishes to a good lacing. Aroma is sweet, flowery, grassy, like a spring day. Flavor is clean, spicy, sweet, flowery. Hints of rosemary in both the aroma and flavor started to come through about midway. Body is medium, ends dry, lingering flavor.

goz, Mar 23, 2003
Photo of UncleJimbo
4.47/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

16.9 oz (0.5 L) brown glass bottle, capped.
"Heather ale has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C."
Best By Dec 2002 notched on label.

This ale poured a hazy, golden-orangish color with creamy white foam. The smell was very nice: sweet, malty, flowery, with yeast and citrus aromas, too. The taste was slightly sweet (honey-like), lightly flowery, with some citrus, and a slight bitterness (hops?) in the finish. The mouthfeel was very smooth and creamy, with medium body and low carbonation. This ale was extremely drinkable! I was very impressed and suprised. I had seen this in the store many times, but for some reason was turned off by the thought of "heather" in a beer, but wow, was I sorely mistaken. This is one fine ale!

UncleJimbo, Mar 22, 2003
Photo of zacharius
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer came in a non standard size bottle but it had a very cool label with celtic designs. Fraoch pours a pale ale with a thin white head that dissapates quickly. The taste is mostly of herbal tea (the heather I suppose) but there is also some beer under there. The malt that comes through tastes like your average low end pale ale so it's a good thing that only a little comes through. The herbal tones of this ale is what makes it good. Complex earthy and almost honeylike flavors nip at your tounge. Like hops, heather has a mild sedative effect so it is a good herb for beer. This is definatly an ale I will be drinking more of.

zacharius, Mar 22, 2003
Photo of PatandDavid
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Oh my, I gave this straight fours...

Pours a deep orange color, into my British pint glass, about 1/4 of head. The head does dissipate after a while, and it's not leaving any lace on my glass.

Nice full mouthfeel, bit of sweet malty flavor that is thankfully understated.

The beer before me is very enjoyable, perhaps a bit thick for a session beer. It's even better on cask.

It's a nice change from most beers, and one I would recommend for every once in a while drinking.


PatandDavid, Mar 13, 2003
Photo of cncbofh
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A "rose" of a beer. Light caramel color with a nearly undetectable head. Smell of flowers and pine needles. It smelled and tasted just like the label looked... like a forest.
The taste was remarkably good and it went down smooth, leaving little on the palette after the fact. I highly appreciate this one and look forward to having it again.

cncbofh, Feb 25, 2003
Photo of Reidrover
3.98/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I got this in a 11.2 oz slim brown bottle with an ancient Pictish style label had a freshness date of Dec 2004.
The appearance is good a darkish honey brown but nothing too special small head that leaves a tiny halo of lace round the edge.
Smell is surprisinglly malty with a backing of a fresh rain scent.
Thetase is deceptivlly sweet..thats what you taste first then you get a real strong "scotch whisky"/ aftertaste peaty a wee bit even..very nice
Feels good in the mouth not too much carbonation...and is very drinkable in my opinion

Reidrover, Feb 22, 2003
Photo of Realale
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle with a best before date of December, 2003.

Clear gold, with just a blush of red. A vigorous pour produced a nice one inch finely beaded head that settled very quickly to thin but complete cap.

Nose is crisp, crackery malt. Slight sulphur smell, and a nice floral/citrus note - like lavender with a bit of orange peel.

Nice and round in the mouth. The initial impact is the floral/citrus thing, which is soon overtaken by a full maltiness in the mid-palate.

The finish is not long, and a bit sharp, which keeps the malt from being overwhelming. Its not an overly-complex brew, but it is well-balanced and very quaffable. A very good session beer.

Realale, Feb 06, 2003
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.88/5  rDev +30.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

"It looks pretty," said the young clerk, scanning my bottle, "is it good?" Good only begins to describe this beauty, and while the label is among the best designs in the world of beer, prettiness continues on every aspects of this classic ale.
Color is a rich orange, and the head is moderate, off-whitish. Aroma is refreshing and upliftingly lovely : honey, foremost, and flowers, roses, herbal, vegetal, fresh, and sweet. Light in body, but full in flavor, incomparably smooth in taste. Perfect balance. Solid malt, less hops, but the heather and honey flavor make up for lack of hoppiness, and make for a perfectly delightful beverage.
The taste is so light, sweet, and utterly ethereal, this belongs in a class of it's own. Lovely, full texture, honey, citrus shining through with every sip! Perfect with food, dessert, or when you deserve a reward for being an exceptional example of humankind.

feloniousmonk, Feb 06, 2003
Photo of AudioGilz
4.43/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a cloudy light iced tea color, with not much of a head.
Smell: a very enticing spicy nature and floral notes.
Taste: Very smooth, cinnamon and nutmeg was noticeable at first, and then an apple ciderish dry finish. The aftertaste resembled some herbal teas. It was very easy to drink.
Mouthfeel: Medium to fairly light mouthfeel with a dry finish.

This scottish ale was a pleasure to drink. It's very refreshing and I will definitely be a repeat buyer of it.

AudioGilz, Jan 26, 2003
Photo of JISurfer
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I really liked this huge beer. I say huge, cause I got it in a bottle that was like a 22oz or bigger. I saw on their website the history of the beer and what it was all about, so that turned me on too. I liked the smooth fruity taste that it embowed, plus the almost pine-like taste too. The finish was good and easy to swallow, so it wasn't harsh on the buds.

JISurfer, Jan 02, 2003
Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 1,021 ratings.