Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
474 Reviews
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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Reviews: 474 | Ratings: 689
Photo of kimcgolf
1.42/5  rDev -62.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

About the only thing good about this beer was it’s appearance, and the fact that I only had to choke down a 12 oz. bottle. Michael Jackson describes it as "oily, peppery and medicinal". That says it all. Overwhelming aroma, taste and finish of pine. Leave that for air fresheners. I’m sorry to say that in 35 years of beer drinking, this is probably one of the 5 worst I’ve ever had.

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Photo of gfreed
1.76/5  rDev -53.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

Aside from the bright copper color, decent fluffy head and fruity aroma, this beer is frighteningly terrible. Rare is the day that I'll dump a beer down the drain after only two sips, but this was one of those days. If you've ever eaten an old cantaloupe you'll know how this beer tastes and feels: rotten and slippery. I literally gagged. No wonder the Vikings vanished.

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Photo of kajerm
1.83/5  rDev -51.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Pretty attractive pour, cloudy amber with a finger of thick off-white foam.

The aroma is, well, different-- a mixture of caramel malt and a weird fruity smell that I can't quite place. Some very slight hops in the background, and some flowery notes.

The flavor opens up boring, maybe even tasty, with malts, then it goes completely to hell. The mid-palate and finish are dominated by a sickly, strawberry-air-freshener-and-lip-gloss fruitiness that has about as much in common with pine as it does with venetian blinds, xenon, and the constitution.

Mouthfeel is pretty standard, with some syrupy texture from the malts. It's pretty clear that this beer actually has a nice malt backbone, but it's even more clear that in the face of the godawful mess that is the rest of the beer, mouthfeel makes no difference.

I don't think I've ever found any beverage containing malt and yeast that evokes the kind of visceral disgust from me that the beer does.

You win, Alba Scots Pine Ale. Down the drain you go.

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Photo of CHickman
1.85/5  rDev -50.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Pours clear amber with a small off white head; smells sweet up front on the nose, with sweet malt, pine, light hops, alcohol and what seems to be spruce tree.

Tastes of sweet malt, pine, light hops, faint caramel, some light alcohol, spruce trees and sweet cinnamon (I think). There is another flavor mixed in that I can't figure out, and it is not a good addition. This beer is way too sweet overall, and while it's light and crisp, this beer is on the verge of being undrinkable since the malt and pine sweetness is just not a good combo. This leaves a sweet and skunky finish in my mouth and was just not enjoyable; it tasted like part of a tree bark dropped in the beer and ruined it.

Love the story on the bottle about Vikings in Northern Scotland, and how they used spruce and pine, and how those ales were very popular until the end of the 19th century, but the history lesson did not make this beer taste any better. This was an experimental beer that I thought sounded very interesting when I ordered it, but I was very disappointed after drinking it. I won't have this again and would suggest avoiding this beer.

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Photo of theopholis
1.96/5  rDev -48%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Appearance- Fairly clear, light amber color. Poured with a nice, 3 finger head that very quickly settled down to almost nothing. Some slight lacing, but not much. Head is a yellowish off-white.

Smell- A sickly, sweet aroma with a lot of pine and hints of spruce. Bit of oxidation in the aroma.

Taste- Yuck. Cloying sweetness with a spicy, spruce aftertaste. I will be dumping this one down the drain.

Mouthfeel- Medium body with a nice level of carboantion. Has an interesting oiliness to it.

Drinkability- I'm not real big on gruits, but this one is even more objectionable than most.

No wonder the Vikings were sailing everywhere, kicking people's asses and conquering them. They were looking for better beer to drink.

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Photo of magictrokini
2.08/5  rDev -44.8%
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 TastyTaste
2.14/5  rDev -43.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Appearance: Slightly hazed copper color, almost totally translucent. Head is very small, just a creamy, think layer on top of the beer.

Smell: Surprisingly sweet, almost sickly, like hard candies. A very odd smelling 'beer'.

Taste: Also very sweet, that sickly flavor from the smell stransfers exactly over to the taste. I can't really taste the pine (I was expecting a more up front juinper beery flavor). Or the triple. This is based on a triple? Does have a bitter flavor, to make up for the rest of this mess.

Mouthfeel: No complaints, but doesn't make it any better.

Drinkability: I would never get this again, or recommend this to anyone.

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Photo of connecticutpoet
2.15/5  rDev -43%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

I went into this one thinking that it would be a worthwhile experiment, as I had liked several other old style beers this company had put out in the past. Sadly, I was mistaken.

The color was a nice red, but with no head. It had a rich malty aroma with definite evergreen overtones.

It tasted slightly bitter, with an unremarkable malt taste. This was followed by a pine taste that, best I can describe it, was like sucking the sap from a freshly cut pine branch.

I didn't like it. The pine was too overpowering.

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Photo of NJpadreFan
2.16/5  rDev -42.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Alba Scots Pine Ale

Traded beers with a friend and this was one 1 I received.

Alba has a nice reddsh brown hue with a decent white head, from a rough pour. The smell was definitely piney with some berry/cherry hints as well. The taste was fruity, raspberry and perfumey with a pine tree flavoring. The mouthfeel was a little bitter with a lingering pine neddle taste.

Overall- this beer is ok to take a few sips but any more than that and you might as well start drinking the Christmas tree water.

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Photo of Sigmund
2.17/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

330 ml bottle, bought at Real Foods, Edinburgh. ABV is 7.5%. Deep amber coloured beer, large off-white head. Unusual sweetish aroma, notes of over-ripe raspberries and pine needles, not very pleasant. The flavour is very sweet and alcoholic, piney and sugary notes. Unusual beer, but is it really good? I’m sorry, but this is not for me.

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Photo of Naes
2.17/5  rDev -42.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

This ale pours a dark amber color with a tall light tan head.
The aroma is very sweet. It is like a candy coated pine tree, if there was such a thing. It is also a bit fruity with the faintest amount of hops hidden in there.
The flavor is just as it smells. Candied pine with a bit of hops hidden near the finish. This is definitely too sweet for me, but a unique beer nonetheless.
The mouth feel is a bit syrupy and moderately carbonated.

This is a unique beer, but over the top sweet for my likings.

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Photo of RedBaron
2.38/5  rDev -36.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

The first words out of my mouth, and they were a knee-jerk reaction, were "Holy F$ck". Um, there isn't a rating system for 'way out there' but there should be for this beer.

Appearance: Dark orange. Nice, off-white head.
Smell: rustic, dusty, pine-y.
Taste: Nearly in-describable. Taste like the moors and the heath invaded this bottle.
Mouthfeel: Coagulated Viking blood.
Drinkability: What? I understand the bottle is trying to tell us that, at one time, the Scots flavored their beers with all sorts of objects (ships' masts, dead English soldiers, Mary Queen of Scots undergarments, etc.), but I'm REALLY struggling to get this one down. I normally looove Scottish beers, but I'm utterly befuddled by this one. Being of Scottish blood, I'm going to finish this f$cker, 'cause I paid for it, but I'll be damned if I ever drink it again. Could I have gotten a bad sample? I suppose, but the freshness date says good by April, 2006. Save the pine forests for your scenery guys, not your beer!

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Photo of Dogbrick
2.4/5  rDev -36.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

First of all, do NOT drink this cold. I didn't read the bottle until after I had poured a refridgerated bottle into a glass. Yuck. After it warmed back to room temperature I tried it again. It was a little better but this is definitely not my cup of beer. Too much going on, and alcohol flavor kept coming in waves. Wonderfully complex aroma and appropriately woodsy coloring, but I don't think we were meant to drink trees.

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Photo of IntriqKen
2.44/5  rDev -35.3%
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 slitherySOB
2.48/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

I forgot I had this. Bought it before Christmas in a set. Found it in my beer supply, and thought, what the hell. Pours an orange hazey colour, with very little head. Their seems to be little chunks of ice floating around. Which I know is impossible. This was served warm. Smells like a pine air freshener with herbs and malt. THeir is a big pine taste, but yet it's somehow bland. I'm not sure, but their is a definite lacking in this beer. Mouthfeel is a bit soft and subdued. I guess it's drinkable. But, it's just not my style. Too piney. Reminds me of a car air freshener.

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Photo of dsa7783
2.49/5  rDev -34%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12 oz bottle copped singly from Gary's in Madison for $3.25... nice copper and amber appearnce leads to a decent-sized frothy and foamy head... nice malty and slightly hoppy aroma reveals a nice combination of the two... taste is full of grapes!... no joke, the grape, and plum essence bursts through on this one... ultra-thick, ultra-sweet, and very cloying... couldn't even finish a 12 oz of this one due to the over-bearing and dominating sweet, grape flavor that poured through...mouthfeel was decent at best and the drinkability really suffered due to the overwhelming sweet and sugar-laden flavor that was too much for me to take... really got to have a strong personal liking for this one if you want to enjoy it... I personally wasn't crazy about this one at all...

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Photo of brendan13
2.58/5  rDev -31.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

A - Hazy amber poured in a chimay chalice with a few centimetres of beige head that quickly falls away.
S - Fruity & herbal aroma at first, some piney notes.
T - Quite fruity, brandy like alcohol.
M - Low to medium bodied with minimal carbonation.
D - Perhaps good treated as a digestif. It's certainly an interesting brew but not one I'd be going back to. The other gruits from this brewery are much more drinkable.

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Photo of Citadel82
2.65/5  rDev -29.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I like this the least of their products.

Poured a clear cooper with a minimal white head despite working at it. No lace to speak of.

Aroma was of spruce, malt and damp earth and little else

Taste was salty with hits of what must be spruce and saccharine sweet malt with a long bitter spruce finish.

Mouth feel was rather flat, little or no carbonation after the pour.

Drinkability was marginal, a change pace or taste, Tonight it is not hitting me very receptive.

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Photo of paxkey
2.68/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

pours like a cask ale. carbonation drops to the bottom in a cloudy haze that clarifies as the head settles thickly atop.

this is my second beer in the 'historical ales of Scotland' package.

poured into a nonic after reading bottle which suggests a goblet and to drink at room temp. mine is warming up in glass. head is shrunk to one finger but seems lasting.

beer is straight amber very clear.

i'm getting apple on the nose.lots of candylike aroma. like artifical candy. reminds me of fundip poweder candy. came in a package with two flavors of powder and a dip stick which you lick and dip in the powder pockets after ripping the top off the package. yeah smells like that stuff.
also like orange tang. very artifical aroma.

says on the bottle that it is an 'Ale brewed with natural flavors' this raises some alarm bells.

ingredients list scots pine and spruce sprigs and this is a pine ale but i question the wholesomeness of the ingredients.
its easy enough to drink but tastes artificial to me.

not sure about this one.

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Photo of dbalsock
2.7/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

App: Pours dark amber with a white head that laces the sides of the glass. The carbonation looks a little light too.

Smell: There's a solid malt base surrounded by pine sap, which was both sweet and syruppy.

Taste: Pine needles, alcohol, and very piney on the aftertaste. This reminds me when I was little and would try climbing any tree in my yard, getting pine sap all over me. It wouldn't come off my clothes or my hands no matter what I did. The taste gives me the same unpleasant feeling of not being able to escape the sap.

Mouthfeel: It's oddly bitter with a tangy aftertaste. I found this both interesting and unnerving.

Drinkability: This was slow going for me, and interesting, but not something I want again.

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Photo of ypsifly
2.7/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

11.2 oz with the label notched best before 6/06, poured into a wine goblet at room temp as suggested on the back label.

Rusted red with a light tan head that is small and quickly falls to a bubbly ring. Spotty lace.

The nose is mostly caramel and butterscotch. Candy like and I'm barely getting any suggestion of the pine sprigs. There is a touch of alcohol underneath.

Tastes exactly as it smells. Sweet. Damn near cloying, but the pine flavor is a bit more noticable. Sweet to the finish with a bit of alcohol warmth in the after taste. Too sweet.

The mouth is a bit slick with no real carbonation to clear some of the sugary oils. I'll finish this one and be done with it.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
2.72/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

I looked at this beer a great many times at my local spot, but every time I balked. On the day that my hankering crossed the threshold, I went to purchase it at said spot, only to find that they had stopped carrying it and had divested the last bottles the night prior.

So I've been on the hunt for it. And now I found it. At a bar.

A - It looks cloudy with a slight soapy head. Blah. I don't know what to expect from an ancient ale, I guess it would be disturbing if it poured like a highly sophisticated brew such as Duvel.

S - Strangely, I smell blueberry instead of spruce or pine. Not what I was expecting. It is certainly an unusual aroma.

T - It tastes sweet up front with a full, and I mean lumberyard full, spruce finish. Strange. I'm not sure I like it. I should remember not to order beers that I may not finish when I'm out at the bar.

M - I didn't really like it, so it doesn't matter what it felt like.

D - After several encounters with spruce-enhanced beers of various styles, I am convinced that spruce is either inappropriate for beer flavoring, or an ingredient that requires the utmost restraint.

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Photo of silenius
2.73/5  rDev -27.6%
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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Photo of diamonddave
2.75/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Picked this up just out of curiosity. Two bucks for one of those just-short-of-12 oz. bottles. Seems kinda weird- I mean, if you like the taste of pine needles couldn't you just chew on tree branches or something? But what the hell, I'll try it.

Smells heavily fruity and syrupy. I don't detect any pine in the nose.

Tastes like figs or something, with a bit of malt and a slight alcohol bite in the finish. Again, nothing that makes me feel like I'm traipsing through a Scottish forest. I've never actually tasted pine needles, though, so I guess I don't know how to identify the taste. Perhaps I should run out to the backyard and grab a handful for comparison... okay, maybe not. There's a little bit of strange bitter aftertaste, so maybe that's where the pine and spruce come in.

Well, my curiosity has been satisfied. This isn't bad or anything, but I wouldn't buy another one. However, if you've ever wondered what kind of beer you'd drink if you were an herbivorous rodent, you might wanna check this one out.

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Photo of amneziak
2.79/5  rDev -26%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Nose: Well it's not hard to smell the obvious pine and spruce aromas. There is also some tart fruits, honey, and (strangely enough) raspberry pop rocks.

Appearance: Barely one finger of off-white head, which fades almost immediately. The beer itself is a medium, hazy orange and brown color. To be honest, this does not have a very nice color, and there is very minimal lacing.

Taste: Really tastes like pop rocks to me. If any of you ever had those as a kid, you'll know exactly what flavor I mean. Flavor is almost non-existent in the front of the mouth. I'm left with a "where's the beef" sensation. After the beer has gone down, I'm left only with a raspberry jam coating in my mouth, which is overly sweet and not the least bit dazzling.

Palate: Not very rounded in terms of body. The fact that the head leaves so quickly proves that this is where the beer ultimately fails. There's nothing up front that attacks your taste buds except a flat idea of what the beer could be.

Overall Impression: Not really impressed with this one. If it had more depth on the front end it might be a pretty enjoyable beer. You can barely taste the alcohol in this one, yet it gives you a pretty hefty buzz for the 7.5% ABV it contains.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.77 out of 5 based on 689 ratings.
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