Alba Scots Pine Ale
Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
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Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale
Ranked #15
Ranked #24,576
3.83 | pDev: 13.84%
Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Scotland, United Kingdom
Very Good
Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
Notes: 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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Reviews: 479 | Ratings: 698 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of StoutElk_92
StoutElk_92 from Massachusetts

4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a murky hazy red-orange amber with loads of sediment and a creamy off-white foam head. Smells like toasty bready malts, juicy concord grape, blueberry, berry jam, concentrated dark fruits, dark caramel syrup, with some herbs and spices. Tastes like fresh pine, spruce sprigs, grainy malted barley, toasted bread, dark caramel syrup, sweet concord grapes, dark berry jam, dark fruit, with spices and herbs. Feels medium-lighter bodied, smooth with moderate carbonation. Overall a nice Scottish gruit ale.

Jun 10, 2020
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octortus from Canada (ON)

3.9/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 mL Bottle. ABV 7.5%.
Appearance: Honey, Half a finger of light beige head, Medium carbonation, Clear, Thin but creamy broken cap remains.
Aroma: Caramel malt, Grape, Apple, Very nice floral aromas, Slight honey.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, Quite smooth, Slight warmth, Dry.
Flavour: Caramel malt, Grape, Floral, Slight spice, Pine/Spruce on finish.

Review: 97

Dec 15, 2019
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Goity from Scotland

4.61/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Taste: Rasperry jam with sweet malty tones and a woody aftertaste
Pours: Amber with a half inch head that laces nicely
Aroma: honey and toffee, with a lovely bitter note
Wankiness: no comment on the type of glass I poured it into
Overall: one of my top 10 considering 7.5% for a £1.50 330ml bottle. WB & Aldi outdone itself here.

Nov 25, 2019
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VoxRationis from New York

4.06/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Decanted from a 11.2 oz (330 ml) bottle into a Weissbier vase; had refrigerated, but allowed to warm prior to drinking.
A: Pours a hazy copper- orange with a half inch head. Good retention and some lacing.
S: Aromas of honey, caramel, wood, and pine.
T: Very sweet up front, almost like pine sap, with malty caramel to toffee and raisin flavors. Very little bitterness and fig to raisin aftertaste.
M: Medium to full bodied and nicely and persistently carbonated.
O: My experience has been mixed with these reconstructed historical styles, but I would try this again.

Aug 11, 2017
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Boo-urns from Canada (ON)

3.58/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Heavy, sweet copper ale...malty....very unique taste, but there is something that is a miss for me about the strong aftertaste....can taste the alcohol....I don't really taste pine either and miss the hop bitterness. I never had beer like this so harder to describe the taste. This could be a beer I could enjoy down the road if had more and developed a taste for it ...but for now....I'll pass on another.

Jan 27, 2017
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brureview from Massachusetts

4.27/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served in an Orval chalice as recommended by the Brewer at room temp.

Poured a semi clear copper- red color with a 1/2 finger head.

The aroma is phenomenal. Deep honey, toffee, woody, pine.
Unlike any beer aroma I have experienced. The aroma remains strong through the tasting.

Piquant, light hoppiness.

Light fruit taste- not citrus. More like stone fruit.

This is a sipper to be slowly enjoyed.

Wonderful beer brewed in an older style. I will be looking for more.

Jul 02, 2016
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JamieDuncan from Maryland

4.17/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The biggest point that needs to be made is read the bottle. I cracked this open, poured it into my tulip and took a sip. Didn't much care for it. But then I started reading the bottle and it said best at room temperature. So I let it sit and warm. Big difference, I enjoyed this beer very much at the warmer temperature. My recommendation is to not even put it in the fridge. Just stick it on the shelf and open when you are ready to try it.

May 16, 2016
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.1/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Each time I have this (and let's say it has been a dozen times), I find something new in it... and each time it tastes better.
Also fascinating because local spices -- such as pine -- gave beer its dominant flavor... just like the role that hops plays today in the greater part of the American craft market.
Williams Brothers have 4 of the 5 most "Had" ales in this style.
I'm glad this brewery built their business around showing us how we used to drink beer... and how some of us, at least, want to drink it again.
MJ's 1999 "Guide" gave it 3 of 4 stars and called it "oily and peppery."

Mar 26, 2016
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LiquidAmber from Washington

4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a MacAndrew's thistle glass. Pours a hazy orange amber with fine particulates and a thin slightly off-white head that dissipates to thick patches. Aroma of caramel and bready malt, apple juice, apricot, toffee and a hint of pine. Oddly similar to a dubbel. Flavor is caramel malt, light and dark stone fruit, pine; starts sweet and dries out a finish of dry caramel, pine and bitter herbs. Medium bodied with nice light creaminess. An interesting, off-beat ale, that alternately reminded me of a well aged dubbel and a mild scotch ale. Surprisingly mild pine notes considering it's name and labeling. The finish is like a gruit in that the bittering seems due to herbs rather than hops. Pleasant and fun to drink. Although I would have liked a bit more pine flavor, this was a nice take on a regional ale.

Feb 07, 2016
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Svingjo from Canada (BC)

3.55/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear copper colour with a finger thick beige head comprised large bubbles. There is a sweet malt forward nose with notes of pine, banana and caramel. The taste is very fruity with pine notes. It's almost cloyingly sweet with a slightly bitter finish. The carbonation is in the mid-range. An okay beer but slightly too sweet and syrupy to be more than a one off

Dec 05, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4.5/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: It pours brilliant amber under a 2” off-white foam collar. S: This is smoky and piney on the nose T: The palate is an interesting blend of pine and caramel and a hint of horehound. The smoke on the palate is very light. F: Medium body and carbonation. O: A beer for people who want to try something without hops. This is very well done.

Aug 18, 2015
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Andrewharemza from Australia

4.12/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy amber color with a thin off-white head. Aroma is sweet pine, slightly sweet and floral. Flavor is also pine, fruity and very soft bitterness.Low carbonation in a soft to medium body with a sweet pine finish.

Jul 07, 2015
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Ian_B from Massachusetts

3.34/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Hazy caramel coulour -- short white head and decent retention.

Sticky sweet caramel-candied apple and banana esters, with a very faint earthy/herbal pine sap aroma.

Taste is, again, very sweet; verging on cloying. Candied apple, with slightly more pronounced pine sap and slightly less banana. Very little to no bittering. Not much complexity. I really like the flavours that are there, and really want to like this, but overall the sweetness and balance are not doing it for me.

Sticky sweet mouthfeel without much carb or bitterness. Why so sweet?

Overall, slightly cloying with little going on to balance. Flavour is nice, but disappointing. Wish it was more dry or I had a spicy meal to balance this out.

Feb 28, 2015
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mothmanscott from Georgia

3.94/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours an almost clear amber producing a rapidly diminishing, effervescent, off-white head that leaves no lacing. Aroma is toffee, light toasted malt, candy apple fruity, faint banana, lime zest & booze, no pine. Taste is malty, fruity & boozy comprised of toast, toffee, caramel, banana, apple, berries with a herbal, grass, bitter finish. Aftertaste could be called medicinal. Again nothing that I would call pine. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with similar carbonation, silky, oily, juicy becoming slightly dry at the end. Unique & very drinkable. Puts me in mind of certain American craft brewery Bock beers minus much of the bitterness.

Feb 27, 2015
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Tim-reed from South Carolina

3.57/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

look : burnt amber
smell : pine, spruce , orange
taste , barleywin-ish , strong alchohol taste with floral notes
mouth feel : velvet with lingering silkiness
over all moderate

Jan 18, 2015
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DaveBar from Canada (ON)

3.79/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Purchased as part of a 4pk called Historical Ales of Scotland for a reduced $10.00. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- Opens well and pours a thin head that is gone in no time. Dark and filtered clear.

S- A weird hint of lime popsicle.

T- There's that lime popsicle again. Sweet and syrupy thick. Surprisingly light

M- Creamy and pretty ok.

O- Not my cup of tea. Bought as a flavor change and have a second 4pk that can sit until guests from over the pond arrive.

Food Pairing

This sickly sweet beer went well with....... Pad Thai. The savory and sweet from the beer goes well together.


Jan 04, 2015
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57md from Pennsylvania

4.05/5  rDev +5.7%

Golden copper color. Herbal nose with a touch of pine. Complex with a decent malt backbone and a touch of dankness. Dry and piney finish.

Very sessionable in spite of the high ABV.

Nov 29, 2014
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seedyone from New York

4.5/5  rDev +17.5%

07/17/13 From bottle at Rattle n Hum, NYC. This is one of the most unique tastes I've had in along time. Don't be afraid of the pine in the description, it's is as well managed as a white tiger in Vegas (without the mangling stuff.)

The balances here are beyond admirable, they are astounding. There are no tricks or gimmicks here. It's a very honest brew. No pretense, despite the off beat approach. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I could drink this every day...and gladly.

A real refreshing change.

Oct 11, 2014
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Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

4.2/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

$ 2.99/11.2 oz bottle at Vintage Estates, Boardman, OH
Bottle dated BB Dec 14 at 55 degrees into SA lager glass
Aroma weak, piney
Head average (3.5 cm), white, frothy, diminishing to 2 mm ring
Lacing fair, initially multiple small islands and archipelagos of small to medium bubbles; as the beer warms more, partial rings remain.
Body medium yellow, clear
Flavor of pine, very weak, slightly sweet; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, slightly oily, lively carbonation

Appearance 4, Aroma 4, Flavor 4.5, Palate 4, Overall 4.125

Sep 23, 2014
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Act25 from New Jersey

4.11/5  rDev +7.3%

This is great beer. A Scotch strong ale brewed with pine and spruce as in days of long sea voyage. Discovered in WFM craft 12. Vikings in their day drank a brew spiced with pine and spruce. Freshness date clearly marked.

Appearance: Orange, amber with chill haze - thin off white cap, but lots of dotty lacing redolent of juniper berries and twigs. 3.9

Smell: Herbal and piney with a tripel style of fruity esters. Faint medicinal aromas but not unpleasant. Far ahead of Yards version. 3.9

Taste: Malt base over topped by herbal, earthy, estery, and spicy flavors that resolve into a great finish of spruce/pine blend. Finish is long, drying, appetizing with pine hints. 4.2

MF: Full body and smooth with a creamy, crisp carbonation. Great feel: 4.2

Overall: Excellent strong ale with lasting flavors. Let it warm to room temp. Try it with cheesy and sausage-filled food.

Aug 23, 2014
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doktorhops from Australia

4.44/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

The next ale in my sights after the Fraoch was the Alba Scots Pine Ale from the same brewer. Ever since discovering Plonk! I've been crossing plenty of must-haves off my list - which began with the Sah'Tea, now if only they could get their hands on some Russian River brews I would be set. Anyhow, back on topic: Scots Pine Ale is another in the vein of Fraoch, a Scottish Gruit, and I'm hoping it isn't as unique tasting as Retsina (a type of pine resin flavoured Greek wine that I ran afoul of in my quest to taste ancient brews).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a St Feuillien chalice.

A: Interesting - a headless ale, don't see that often. The body presents a hazy butterscotch colour (how appropriate).

S: Aroma is a mixture of sweet toffee malts, pine, medicinal herbs and a hint of isoamyl acetate bringing a banana/pear quality which lingers on in the background.

T: The flavour is spot on with the above aroma, however that isoamyl acetate really comes to the fore now. There is a toffee sweetness as well but the banana/pear front to mid-palate gives the whole brew an all-pervading fruitiness, which is tasty, very tasty. The finish is very similar to its cousin Fraoch with a medicinal herb bitterness and dry vinous touch.

M: A bit thin considering the ABV - mid to light bodied with a light carbonation.

D: Well I didn't think this would top the Fraoch but it does indeed parch my beerlust better than its Scot Gruit cousin. And the fact that Vikings drank something similar to this makes it a must have beverage for my fridge when season 3 of Vikings begins... I can hear the theme song now: Oooye oooye, oooyeoooo. Rollo rules.

Food match: The food of Vikings, whatever that is.

Jul 04, 2014
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patre_tim from Thailand

4.08/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark brown orange amber with tones of carbonation, a creamy off white head that retains itself, clear filtered.

S: Creamy, pine, fragrant and spicy, fruity but all in a mild way.

T: Suprisingly different and delicious. I was expecting in the face pine but this didn’t happen all the way. It brought forth a subtle sweetness with spicy notes, any evergreen is more coming out as subtle complex spicy hops. Really delicious, one that I could sip for hours on end. I also get scotch in this, as in much like Old Chub but a subtler and less alcoholic wee heavy.

M: Medium, slight syrupy body. Lots of carbonation.

O: Delicious brew, I give it 9 out of 10. Very unique style, bottle with the tartan, and great flavour. Would go well with any Scotish dish, Christmas pudding and Christmas spiced desserts.

Jun 23, 2014
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chinchill from South Carolina

3/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

330ml bottle, Oct. 2014, allowed to warm and served in a goblet.

Clear golden with a thin, short-lived head.

Aroma and flavor are permeated with the young pine infusion. This lends a woody and, of course, piney note but leaves the malt base showing as well. Higher ABV is not hidden, leaving this too boozy. Thin body.

May 20, 2014
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scotorum from Massachusetts

3.28/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bought an odd bottle of this in New Hampshire recently at a store which specializes in British import beers, among other things.

Poured from the 11.2 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Nearly clear dark gold with a finger thick head which dissipated to thin surface foam and patchy lacing.

s: Malt and alcohol.

t: Cough syrup-like medicinal with heavy alcohol presence. Mellowed out a bit but remained a bit grating, with no hint of pine or spruce flavor.

m: Medium, good body.

o: I'm going to assume I got a bad bottle, because mine was nothing like the last few reviews I have read here. I let three other people sample this as well, one said it tasted like rubbing alcohol, and I agreed. Another said it tasted like medicine, agree again. Very disappointing since I am half Scottish and really wanted this to be great. I realize it is an old timey recipe and that taste wasn't much of an issue in Viking days, but nowadays, it is, and this didn't have much to recommend it. Still, as is, I could imagine rough-hewn Vikings and Picts around a roaring bonfire on the north coast of Scotland in the ninth century, passing around a measure of this and having a high old time. But I'll try to find another bottle to revisit this.

Mar 09, 2014
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Emnmarko from Michigan

3.95/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A- A rich copper/amber color and clear. One finger off with head fades quickly to a light halo with little to no lacing.

S- I'm getting a sweet plum smell. I would guess this to be a lager by nose alone.

T- A mild malty flavor comes through at first. Very interesting. Fruity and sweet. A little musty. The more I drink the better I like it. (may have started too cold, and gained flavor with temperature).

M- Smooth and clean. Light for 7.5% abv. Crisp. This beers best attribute.

O- As a hop head in search of the ultimate hop bomb with ibu's through the roof I found this brew from across the pond brewed without hops at all. Spruce and pine provide the bitterness to balance out the malt backbone. Very interesting and different. Check this out some thought went into it.

Feb 15, 2014
Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 698 ratings