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.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 09-18-2001

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Ratings: 693 |  Reviews: 476
Reviews by silenius:
Photo of silenius
2.73/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Not much to say about this one. It pours a coppery color with a decent, but light head.

The smell is piney at first then takes on a kind of sweet oxidized caramel smell.

Taste is unbalanced. Sweet malt is not offset by anything at all, so the beer becomes kind of cloying after half a bottle.

The carbonation and mouthfeel were good, however.

This novelty is nice to try to experience, but I won't be buying any more.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a medium amber with a light orange tinge with a light head that leaves a little lacing,aroma is on the sweeter side witha light vinager-like background.Taste is malty and of apple cider with some light biscuit flavors in the background.A nice somewhat complex beer something different to try,pretty good.

 310 characters

Photo of mojohawk21
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%

Photo of Zakk
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Photo of StoutHearted
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew poured a dark amber color with an inch of cream head. A good whiff reveals a lot of fresh fruitiness: heavy on the strawberry and light on banana. It tasted of caramel malt and was lightly grassy. It has a light mouthfeel and washes down easy, with the malt flavor clinging to the tongue in a tingly, sparkling sensation on the tongue. I found it refreshing; the caramel is sweet without being overbearing or heavy.

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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 sgoodship
3.74/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am currently reading about when America was arguing with the British and they were refusing to import British supplies to piss them off. A huge import sacrifice those early Americans had to make was British hops. They hadn't yet been able to grow them successfully, so in order to stick it to the British, they had to come up with their own recipes based on what they could grow. I always imagined that the results must have been terrible but this beer actually changed my perception.

Dark, hazy amber color. Carbonation delivered a very short lived head and dissipated into an exceptionally slight lacing.

Initially, I got more of a caramelized malt smell but a deeper smell took me to a more pine forest type smell. Really interesting. The combination of these things gives off an almost banana nut smell but more medicinal than that.

A very sweet caramel malt. The pine/spruce came as a florally, fresh finish and aftertaste. Finish was a little watery for me. It was a little sweet and medicinal for me but I enjoyed this beer much more than I expected I would. The taste is hard to pin down - you have to try it to appreciate what I am talking about. An enjoyable experience. Man - you know that residual smell when you rub pine needles in our hands, the aftertaste is a little like that - it's been 20 mins since I finished and it is still there.

A light carbonated front end. Medium body but surprisingly smooth. The backend was a little thin for me.

This was a pleasant change from the brews I have been having. It was actually quite drinkable. It ventures too much into the realm of fruitiness for me - not my personal taste. Having said that, I would drink it again and enjoyed the historical taste.
Although making beer without hops probably wasn't as much of a hardship for early Americans as I imagined, there is nothing quite like hops once you have become a hop head.

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Photo of -DF-
3.33/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Photo of orbitalr0x
3.87/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I've been sitting on this one in the cellar for a bit..."brewed using sprigs of spruce and pine collected in May 1998." Pours from the slim 11.2oz bottle a light brownish, slighty red with tons of floaties in suspension. A small bubbly white head on top....looks like some swamp water in the glass. A very interesting array of vanilla, wood, dark fruits (plum, raisins), bubblegum, bready, earthy yeast and hints of pine sap. There's a bit of crystal sugar sweetness as well. Nice nose.

First sip comes upfront with a fruity, yeasty, bready malt...hints of bubblegum and sweet cotton candy. The light arid fruitiness mixes with the earthy yeast tones well. I get a hint of pine on the way down but it is much more subdued than I expected. An interesting grape kool-aid flavor is in the mix as well. Quite a tasty brew overall with a complex melding of flavors on the palate.

Mouthfeel has a nice medium body with an arid creaminess...soft carbonation goes down nicely. This is an interesting brew that I plan on enjoying again...however one bottle in a sitting is's a bit too overwhelming for more. I look forward to trying more from Heather Ale as I love the way that they keep these styles alive!!

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Photo of JasonA
4.09/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks babe for my 4 of 4 xmas present.

Pours a translucent carmel with champange burst of co2 upon pour. Nominal sticky head or lacing. Lots of carb through. Poured at about 60F, close to room temperature as requested.

Sweet citrus, maybe orange or grapefruit. There is some sweet fruit smell I cant quite place. Quite unique. ive not had mead, but my guess is the floral sweetness would be like this.

Hmmm, nice light sweet malt. Wow, honey like. No real hop character, but ABV smooth like a Barley Wine. Lighest bittering hops at the end, barely noticable.

Balance is exceptional. The malt is soo smooth yet sweet and hearty. Definitly feels bready in the body.

Since Im a huge Barley Wine/Old Ale guy, this beer sits well with me. Id love to have a couple more.

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Photo of R_Kole
1.75/5  rDev -53.7%

Photo of Doomcifer
3.46/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance - poured a hazy amber color with sediment floating around. Not really any head at all to mention.

Smell - Very fruity smell, mixed berry aromas, maltiness

Taste - Fruity, more berries, citrusy, a good amount of caramel flavors, hop spice, pine, good alcohol detected

Mouthfeel - Richly bodied, not much carbonation, slightly oily

Drinkabilty - I could go for one of these and it would be on to a different beer. Great to have once in a while. Pretty good.

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Photo of Jason
4.12/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 330 ml brown bottle with a little blurb about how the Vikings in their day drank a brew spiced with pine and spruce. Freshness date clearly marked.

Appearance: Slight chill haze in this reddish amber hued brew ... a very inviting off white lace lays on top.

Smell: Herbal and a little piney with a good dose of fruity esters. Faint medicinal aromas also come to the nose.

Taste: Full in body and very smooth with a mildly crisp carbonation, the malt holds its own yet there is a somewhat over powering herbal, earthy and spicy flavour that is a mix from the alcohol and spruce/pine blend. Finish is soft and malt as it slowly fades with hints of pine.

Notes: An excellent strong ale with an inspiring addition of Scots pine and Spruce Sprigs that were collected back in may of 97'. We are sure the Vikings drank large quantities of something similar to this before and after battle.

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Photo of merlin48
3.94/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

These historical styles are always an interesting diversion. Served as recommended, in a goblet at room temperature, the Alba pours a clear, copper body with an offwhite head that immediately drops into a slight film. No lacing, which is not unexpected for a style based on what the Vikings introduced into northern Scotland, several centuries before hops came into use.

Aroma is very malty, with caramel and toffee, with a pronounced bouquet of earthy/woodsy spruce and pine. Herbal and berry notes, as well a touch of tanned leather, produce a very unique nose.

Mouthfeel has low carbonation and a definite vinous character like a nice sherry.

Taste is complex, and quite unique. Bitter and earthy spruce pine bitterness is atop what seems to be a smoked caramel malt backbone. Noticeable alcohol, but not so prominent as to distract from all the complexities. Leather, tobacco, and gooseberries complete the flavor profile.

Definitely not an everyday brew, but an excellent slow sipper. Very enjoyable to take your time with, and contemplate the history and evolution of ales as we know them today.

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Photo of Billolick
3.85/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A rare treat to find and enjoy this interesting beer through the cask system at the Blind Tiger in NYC. Pours murky deep brown with a tan minor head and leaving just a trace of lacing. Nose is of musty and earthy malt. The brew is mellow, malty and intriguing. Notes of more malts, peat, and some pine to dry things out. Interesting and differant sessioner. Scottish to the core.

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Photo of warriorsoul
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brought back from Scotland by a friend...
Semi-cloudy, worn copper color with a full finger and a half of solid, eggshell colored head...leaves thick lacing that eventually fades back into the brew.
Very pleasant in the nose...a hefty dose of sweet malt and spice due to the pine.
Taste is very pleasant...not overly sweet as expected from the smell with a nice pine/spruce flavor. A touch of floral hops to dry up the finish...thick mouthfeel with no lingering flavors.
I'd really dig this style more come the colder months...nonetheless, surprisingly good and worth a try if you can handle a different type of brew.

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Photo of nem2006
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Out of a 11.2 oz bottle. Hazy slightly amber color. Head is made of large bubbles.

The smell is very interesting. Some sweetness from the malts, but there is a clear pine/spruce scent to it.

The taste is incredibly complex. There is a sweet start, but then it fades into almost a berry flavor. The finish is slightly bitter, but not like hops.

It was difficult to pick out some of those tastes and smells. I'm not sure if I even got all of them right. This is a very complex beer and fun to drink.

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Photo of tigg924
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: clear, orange/brown in color, 1/3 inch head, medium/high carbonation

Smell: berries, wood, cinnamon, chai spice

Taste: big berry taste--both black and blue, some wood, bread, and cream

Mouthfeel: slightly sweet and fruity, medium bodied, medium-light carbonation

Drinkability: Could have two or three. Not the best in the Old Scottish ales pack, but not bad either. I would still take this over several beers.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Third in my Historic Ales of Scotland pack. Poured into a Chimay chalice. A lovely tawny amber, with just a touch of redness which becomes more brilliant when held to the light. Thin head that shows remarkable staying power as a ring.

The nose is very much not what I had expected. Malt, caramel and fruit notes dominate the nose, while the earthy, spruce elements are just lurking in the background. There's a natural, woodsy character to the brew, but it's not nearly as resiny or piney as I'd expected.

Taste is quite similar to the nose, although the spruce character is a little less timid here. Finishes with an earthy, rich flavour, but it's still under the management of the malt and berry flavours. Perhaps a touch of seaweed or resin as well.

Excellent mouthfeel. Medium carbonation, chewy and balanced. Slightly sticky and creamy to the finish.

Not what I'd expected, but if I could predict what a new beer would taste like before opening it, what would be the point? A balanced, enjoyable brew, probably not ideal for session drinking but great for a sipper.

 1,076 characters

Photo of andrewdanks
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

Photo of magictrokini
2.08/5  rDev -45%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Painfully awful. This beer smells and looks great. Darker amber with a moderate tan head. Aroma is very nice; piney and clean. But the taste is ass in your mouth bad. Its as if someone put a tree in a blender and hit "Liquify" then mixed with turpentine. Avoid, unless you need to strip the paint off your house.

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Photo of Hugh37
4/5  rDev +5.8%

Photo of Swedes21
3.83/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

341 ml served in a chilled glass

Apperance - beer pours a dark amber colour, somewhat clear with a little cloudiness. The head is about 2 fingers, off white with some nice retention. The head is fairly fluffy, yet has some solidness to hit.

Smell - my first smell was sweetness, caramel based. Then some pine and citrus. There is a nice balance of spice as well, very straight fwd smelling beer.

Taste - This is the first beer i taste that has a fruit/pine this well combined. I was unsure if i was tasting pine or fruit, but the balance between them was amazing.

Mouthfeel - Very filling to the palette, this beer offers the same taste as mouthfeel, everything upfront with a slight bitterness near the end.

Drinkability - for a beer with 7.5% i would never guess it, it hides it very well and taste quite good. I am sure 10 of these in a night will make you happy, something id stock!

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Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +19%
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.

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Photo of juicebox
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%

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