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Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

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Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
Very Good
693 Ratings
Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale

Brewed by:
Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 693 |  Reviews: 476
Reviews by mattmaples:
Photo of mattmaples
3.24/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Straw yellow, very herbasious. Not a bad flavor but not great beer. I prefer the heather and the elderberry better.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of IntriqKen
2.44/5  rDev -35.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Unusual to say the least.
Golden amber color with a small head that melts to a nice thin lacing.
Aroma is slightly piney, resiny, a little medicinal (Lysol?) and alcohol.
Slight malt sweetness initially then the piney, resiny, slightly medicinal taste followed by alcohol flavoring.
Mouthfeel is very full, carmelly throat coating with an alcohol burn following.
Aftertaste becomes even more prominately piney and alcohol.
This will not become a regular drinker....really unusual and probably an acquired taste. Interesting to try once in a while. I do notice some of the attributes of Alaskan WinterAle in this beer...probably because they are both flavored with Spruce Tips...however, I LOVE Alaskan WinterAle. This one I am not so sure about.

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Photo of Casterbridge
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%

Photo of Fugazme
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a deep amber color with a good head. Stuck to the glass nicely.

Smell is malty and sweet with some big figs and alcohol. Pine is evident, but not in the forefront. On a second whiff I smelled honey and almonds.

It has a decent mouthfeel, but was water when at about 50 degrees. The bottle says to serve at room temp. so I'm leaving it be for now.

Taste is malty and sweet. Not as fruity as I expected, but I did detect some apricot and fig. Not as watery as it "warms" up.

The later drinks were sweeter than the first.

Overall a nice beer. Not something to drink more than one of in a night, however.

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Photo of peensteen
3.08/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Slightly hazy copper colour, one finger of white head, light lacing. Smell is pretty malty and cereal like, earthy with a very faint pine smell, light alcohol as well. Taste is biscuity malt upfront, mildly bitter, forest berries, forest like notes but not necessarily pine, more berry and forest flavours in the finish. Medium carbonation, medium body pretty decent feel. This was OK at best, would have liked more pine flavours and scents in this, fairly boring stuff.

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Photo of Phocion
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle poured into a goblet as the label recommends. "Best before" June 2008. I have no idea on the style characteristics to keep in mind, nor what to expect, but here it goes.

Dark cloudy reddish-copper with a solid finger of frothy white head. You can actually hear the bubbles for a good minute after the pour. Head dissolves to leave moderate lacing around the glass.

Nose is very sweet. I'm actually smelling more spruce than pine. Very, very fruity. Actually sort of reminds me of the fruit snacks I loved as a kid. Smells like a large assortment of berries I can't totally pick out. Nice caramel maltiness in the background providing a solid base. Incredible aroma.

First sip and I have definitely found the pine now, despite its hiding in the aroma. Caramel/earthy malts and a very strong alcohol flavor for the ABV. Thankfully the fruitiness is subdued a bit, mostly apples and berries in the background.

Thick and moderately-carbonated mouthfeel and dangerously easy to drink for 7.5% ABV. I wasn't really sure what to expect out of this and to be honest I only picked it up for the novelty factor. Very, very impressed, and I am definitely anxious to try more experiments from Heather Ale.

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Photo of NatsnSkinsDC
5/5  rDev +32.3%

Photo of hunteraw
3.55/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served as recommended, at room temperature in a goblet.

Appearance: Pours an attractive orangey-amber-garnet with a smaller than average head.

Smell: Surprisingly caramel-y, but reminiscent of the others in the set. Not as piney as I was expecting, at all. There is a bit of tingle in the nose that I can't place, and a hint of red apple.

Taste: This is the last one in the set - I'd been setting it aside because I didn't have the highest of expectations. A little pine, but not as much as I was expecting - some caramel and red apple. Drying effect from the pine needles. A cooling effect in the mouth vaguely like menthol, but then some alcohol warming as you swallow.

Mouthfeel: creamy, rather than crisp, perhaps partly attributable to serving at room temperature. Carbonation rather on the low side.

Drinkability: Probably won't be buying this one again. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't what I look for in a beer.

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Photo of AngusOg
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

Photo of soulgrowl
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Lovely fox red. Greyish head comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

Smell: Rich and buttery, almost like buttered popcorn, with a strong, multi-faceted pine character: pine needles, pine cones, and pine nuts. Caramel malt provides a sweet backbone.

Taste: Very buttery at first, then very piney. An interesting, earthy spiciness. A bit on the floral side and perfumey, as well. Quite a distinctive ale.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, clean, relatively light and unobtrusive.

Drinkability: Now this is a Scotch ale! Very drinkable and enjoyable. Would be great around the holidays.

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Photo of wvsabbath
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type - Bottle

Appearance - Golden tan, brown, 1 inch creamy head and some lacing.

Smell - Lemon, pine, spices, Some floral/grassy hops. Added sugars, berries and a little caramel.

Taste - Huge mix of fruits and berries at first sip. Cherries, berries, floral hops, pine and caramel comes out. Sweet and smooth with added spices and sugars balance this beer out. Has a green tea like feel to it. Alcohol is masked well but you do get a little warmth near the finish.

Mouthfeel - PRetty tasty and smooth, tounge gets all the fruit and berries, with spices and sugars. Palette gets remaining fruits, berries and spices, with some alcohol at the end. Aftertaste is dry and sweet.

Overall - Pretty good, nice fruit and berry profile, and not over the top with added spices. Very floral and earthy hop profile, balanced well with some added sugars. Worth a drink for sure.

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Photo of LordChesterfield
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poures dark orange with a quickly disipating head. Smells like apples that have been soaking in alcohol. Tastes exotic, slightly cidery with a bitternes that is quite different and just as good as that provided by hops. The bittering agents allow different flavors of the malt poke through. No pine flavor at all and is very fresh and earthy. I think this is much more drinkable than most of the English ales I've had. It's sweet and primitive yet smooth on the tongue. I like this alot and would love to find it in a 6pack, not just one small expensive bottle at a time. Recommended.

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle into tulip glass, best by Dec 2012. Pours lightly cloudy orange amber color with a nice 1-2 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Some decent spotty lacing clings to the glass. Aromas of orange, grape, apple, pear, herbal, floral, pine, caramel, honey, earth, bread, and molasses. Nice and well balanced aromas with good strength and complexity. Taste of caramel, honey, orange, grape, pear, herbal, floral, pine, earth, bread, and light spiciness. Lingering notes of citrus, grape, honey, caramel, molasses, herbal, floral, and light pine on the finish for a good bit. Very nice balance and flavor complexity; with no cloying sweetness at all. Medium carbonation and body; with a fairly creamy and slick mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with only a small warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a very enjoyable herbed ale! Nice balance and flavor complexity; and quite smooth to drink. Very tasty.

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Photo of albern
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Every once in awhile you come across a really interesting, very different, and unusual beer with a peculiar and unique taste. Alba is just such a beer. It pours a pretty syrupy hazy mahogany color with a smallish head, some lacing. The nose on the beer is like a pile of evergreens and some malty caramel, perhaps with a bit of boozy aroma in there too.

The taste is sweetish pine, but not the hoppy type pine one is accustomed to, but a raw, woodsy type pine flavor and lots of other evergreen like flavors. This beer has a very woodsy and raw simplicity that is really nice. The beer is quite sweet, a touch boozy, some caramel thick malts, and lots of that very unusual sweet pine (and spruce) flavors. What else can you say but try it for its uniqueness alone. I'm not sure I really would want this style as a steady course, but it is a nice change up for sure.

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Photo of LHRodriguez
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Photo of imperialstout27
4.3/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Duvel tulip.

A: Good looking red-amber with a decent sized tan head from a pretty aggressive pour. Collar last a while, some lacing.

S: Sprucey pine, candied apple, caramel, tiny bit of alcohol comes with warmth.

T: Exceedingly good. Well-balanced sweet/bitter interplay with prominent but not overwhelming spruce and pine, candied fruits, caramel, light floral hops, moderate bitterness, a spicy character, and a touch of alcohol, that, while remaining well-hidden, does manage to offer a bit of a drying impression.

M: Medium-full, with a creamy and round character. Carbonation is on the low end of medium.

O: Really tasty stuff. Really, really good. So well-balanced, with all the flavors integrated well and no notes out of place. Very impressed.

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Photo of ramseye4
4.54/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Photo of daliandragon
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Before I get into how it's kind of freaky to be pouring a beer that's totally lacking in hops, I must say how good this beer looks and smells. Cloudy, light chocolate color with tan head that lasts only a few minutes. The nose is strong and nearly intoxicating, featuring a sweet piney/mint flavor against a backdrop of strong dark malts. Not quite like any beer I've ever smelled with strong doses of what I assume is the heather but smells similar to raspberries to me.
Interesting, fresh taste with a splash of flavor at the start of the sip and a respectably dry finish. Strangely, although it's definitely a different taste, I don't really miss the hops per se. I wish the mouthfeel stood up better but it doesn't ruin the beer for me.
Definitely a good inspiration to cast the net widely when looking for different beers. If they can make a beer this good without hops, what can't they do?

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Photo of notchucknorris
3/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Hazy amber color with a 1/2 finger cream colored head.

S: Sweet and malty with a strange scent of wet pine that's been sitting around in water for a while. A touch of licorice and maple as well.

T: Caramel and malt upfront with a very strange flavor or must and wet dog chew toy mixed with oak. Really strange flavor. I was not exactly a fan of this one.

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Photo of biegaman
4.44/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Its deeply shaded butterscotch colouring works in opposition to the considerable clarity of the beer; one makes you think 'heavy' while the other leads you to believe it will be light. The beer harbors a rather prosperous shine that is properly displayed only when held up to the light. Its head is present but is missing a few pieces to make a full set.

The aroma is gritty and malty and induces a fantasia of Scottish Highlands: crumbling stone castles, the still and dark water of lochs winding between rocky, peat-laden hills. I remember reading Macbeth and I think of cooling winds and I hear Celtic music in the distance. This smell literally forces me to close my eyes so that it can take me not only to another place, but another point in time.

To give it a bit more descriptive detailing, I smell the sooty, heavy smoke of a campfire - dead leaves and chunky moss-ridden logs, in cold air not warm. It is a tinge berry-like, gooseberries and elderberries (like in this brewery's other offerings) as well as a touch floral, heather specifically (again, another of this brewery's other offerings).

The pickled shoots of Scots pine and spruce are also evident, more so in the taste. I can't claim to be able to honestly differentiate between which wood contributed what but I can say for certain that the spruce has imparted its distinctive and lovely 'sprucey' character that possesses a subtle, underlying spice and vividly 'woody' character. One or the other is also responsible for hints of sage, nutmeg, walnut, hemp, apple and brown sugar.

The more I reflect on its flavouring the more I am reminded of all the comforting, warm, sentimental foods I love in life: the spicing of a fall-time pumpkin pie, the cranberry sauce and stuffing at Thanksgiving and the figgy pudding at Christmas. The alcohol is warming; this whole time I've felt as though I was sitting by a fire in the dead of winter. The experience of drinking this beer is distinctive, reflective and far from mundane.

As the liquid passes over my lips I feel a sense of gratitude that this style of beer has long since survived those who originally made it. The brewery recommends the beer as a digestif but given the rather pensive impression it has left on me I'd consider it a "reflectif". When drinking this beer be sure to close your eyes and take the time to contemplate the flavours, the disposition and all the history that is contained in your glass.

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Photo of Arithmeticus
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: clear pinkish auburn; carbonation not great
S: slightly piney, sweet smell
T: lovely trippel style ale with hints of pine; couple this with food that cries out for salad

I recommend this be had a bit warmer than what this site recommends, probably ca. 60 degrees, to let the flavors have their full say.

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Photo of deanhead
3.52/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Amber-Gold color with slight haze

Aroma is sorghum and tapioca.

Taste is sweet and unassuming. reminds me of miracle whip, almost lavender like essence.

Mouthfeel is light bodied, and almost thin.

This beer was alright. It was the first time I had anything like this. I wouln't drink it again, but was glad that I tried it.
Like I said it was alright, but just not for me.

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Photo of TheBaumer
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.42/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a light orange-brown color, with a very thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is caramelized malts, spices, some fruit and some hops.

T: The taste starts out sweet with flavors of berries and spice up front and some caramel in the background. Then mild piney hops presence comes in and provides some balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and smooth, light-to-medium body, medium carbonation, clean finish.

D: A little tasty, goes down easy, not too filling, nice kick, good representation of style, it's a decent beer to drink when you want something a little different. However, I'm not sure I would want to drink much more than one, before I start looking for something else.

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Photo of nickthegun12
4.25/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

very nice ive had this one before!
light brownish red color>>with a slight haze
the nose picks up plum and fruitiness
wow, the taste is very bright fruits, kinda reminds me of chimay but not as heavy, very light and slightly dry
not much carbonation but a slight creamy feel
i could easily drink like 3 of thes 7.5% abv beverages!

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.78 out of 5 with 693 ratings