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 Sammy
3.42/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Spruce beer,plain and simple. A poor man's quick way to drunkeness, served to soldiers in Canada couped up in forts, to get their vitamins and stay happy. Some forest over-the-hedge aroma, well carbonated, lagerish medium mouthfeel body with spruce aftertaste.

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Photo of GRG1313
3.41/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a redish brown with a very light, disappearing head. Not terribly attractive.

Nose initially of sweet smoke, a little like carmel teryaki.

Mouthfeel is medium with flavors and character primarily of pine and hints of spices.

Light bitter pine/smoke flavors and finish. Tastes a bit like the flavors of a nice steak, a bit like broiled or grilled meat.

Can't really figure this one out. Very light carbonation. Light but flavorful-still trying to figure out if flavors are attractive or just weird.

Different and worth trying but not really a beer I'd drink for refreshment or with food. The jury is still out. I'm calling it better than average since it is very different and not unappealing.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.2/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Every time I talk to people about this beer they always seem to wrinkle their noses and say that it doesn't sound like it's any good to me. I for one am very glad I've had this on several occasions and it's always been a good brew.

The beer pours out as a golden copper color with a pretty good looking head at first. The head doesn't really last too long but does leave a light lacing on the glass. The smell of the beer had a very nice aroma of fresh pine. The taste of the beer had decent malt base with a really interesting pine flavor. I really liked that it's actually pine and not hops giving off a pine essence. The mouthfeel is on the thicker side and had a little bit of a creaminess to it. Overall I love the history behind this beer, it's got some really nice flavors in it and I try to get a bottle of it every time I get down to the Braveheart in Hellertown.

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Photo of metter98
3.77/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is clear light amber in color and poured with a very thin off white head that quickly disappears. A light amount of carbonation is visible from the rising bubbles.
S: There is a mild amount of malty sweetness in the aroma, which is somewhat balanced with notes of pine and spruce. There also are some hints of blueberries.
T: Like the smell, the taste is also sweet and has flavors of apples berries, caramel, pine and spruce. The taste of evergreen springs increases in strength towards the finish.
M: It feels light-bodied and smooth on the palate with a light amount of carbonation.
D: The beer isn't that difficult to drink because the sweetness is balanced out with the flavors of pine and spruce. I could easily have more than one of these in a single sitting.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.07/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

In a word, "intriguing". Has a strong Witbier character that adds to the softness and silky smoothness in both the aroma and flavors. Ourside of that, the pine tips give very nice herbal and bittering qualities. Reminescent of many Christmas spices, the flavors go in a lot of different directions. Makes a good alternative to hops. Though not as pine-ey as I expected, flavors of corriander, nutmeg, allspice, curraco, ripe oranges and lemons all come into play; woven into a Wit-like base. A soft honey flavor rounds out the sweetness. Finishes very clean and airy. Aftertaste is wet and confection sugar like.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.57/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This beer pours an opaque orange-brown hue, with lots and lots of suspended sediment, and a single finger of soapy off-white head, which dissipates quickly, leaving no lace. The first whiff that I get out of the bottle is like Scottish whisky - alcoholic and malty. The beer itself smells of caramel malt, a mild herbal essence, and some alcohol warming. The taste is very medicinal up front, the kind of medicine that I imagine holistics or naturalists employing. Tree root, dried sap, a pine tree branch across the face when hiking a bit off the path, all stewing in booze, uh, I mean medicinal alcohol, and caramel. Carbonation is fairly low, the body kind of light for how it looks and tastes, but smooth overall, and it finishes off-dry, with a strong pine essence - but this time, it has nothing to do with hops, and is more direct and, well, real. I'm sure I could get used to this over time, should hops no longer be available for the modern beer brewing process, but given my well-ensconced predilections for post 19th century UK beer ingredients, I have to view this as an interesting, but no longer useful artifact, like vinyl records or USB 1.0. That, and I mildly object to the proclamation of "Ale Brewed With Natural Flavors" on the label. What, hops aren't 'natural'?

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Photo of brentk56
3.97/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a cloudy amber color with a modest head that fades without much lace

Smell: Butterscotch diacetyl with plenty of caramel and some pine underneath

Taste: Opens with a mouthfeel of buttery toffee that persists through mid-palate; after the swallow, the piney flavors moderate but ultimately bow to the sweeter malts

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate to low carbonation

Drinkability: Interesting style that is worth a try; well-executed but not something I would drink everyday

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle: Poured a cloudy dark amber color ale with a medium head with minimal retention. Aroma is different then what I’m used to with some sweet beery-like notes and some pines is definitely identifiable. Taste is sweeter then expected with some pine flavour in the back. Generally a bit lighter then expected but still enjoyable.

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Photo of zeff80
3.48/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had this at Sophia's in Columbia, MO.

A - Poured from a 12oz. bottle, a cloudy amber color with a small head.

S - Pine!!! Like sticking your nose right up to a pinecone or a pine tree.

T - The pine flavor is strong, though not nearly as strong as the smell. It was also very sweet.

M - Kind of grainy. Light-bodied.

D - It was good. It is certainly a unique taste that is worth a try.

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Photo of nickfl
3.61/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A - Brownish, ruby color with excellent clarity. Only forms a small, white head, but retention and lacing are ok.

S - Brothy, spicy, yeasty, and very herbal. Strong spicy, basil like aroma that I assume must be spruce and pine. I expected pine needles/ pine forest, this is more like raw, wet, sappy pine wood. I get a mustardy note as well. There is a big malt backbone supporting all of this and it doesn't have any of the pinesol character one might fear, but it is quite medicinal.

T - Wow, tastes exactly like it smells. BIG spicy, herbal flavor up front. It is a flavor I have tasted before, but I can't quite name it; the closest I can come is basil, but thats not really it... maybe oregano, bay leaves. The caramel, maltiness is still present, however the other flavors are so robust and unusual that they kind of overwhelm it. It finished with lingering herbal flavors and a hop-like bitterness.

M - Pretty thick and mouth coating. Mid high carbonation.

D - Drinkability is tough to call on this one. The herbal flavors are a good bit too strong for my taste, but they are very interesting. I think I would really enjoy a variation on this with about 3/4 of the herbs replaced with hops. As it is, this beer is kind of harsh and medicinal, and while drinking one was a unique experience, drinking two would be a chore.

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Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5%
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.

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Photo of superspak
4/5  rDev +6.1%
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 NeroFiddled
3.9/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Tasted at room temperature in a goblet, as suggested on the label. Clear (carefully decanted). Burgundy with an orange cast and a tight foamy light-cream colored head that holds quite well and leaves some minor lace. The aroma is fruity, with lots of berries. The body is medium with a gentle, very fine carbonation; giving it a nicely smooth & creamy mouthfeel. The flavor, like the aroma, is also very berry-like with some resiny character appearing in the finish. Very interesting. Quite unusual. The spruce and pine become most apparent in the aftertaste - very gentle, lightly resiny, and enjoyable. Much nicer than I was expecting. On the one hand, it's unique and very interesting on several levels, but on the other it's also quite one sided. And it does have a tendency to build on the palate. Certainly worth trying, and enjoyable, but not an everyday beer. Not even an every month beer.

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Photo of chinchill
3/5  rDev -20.4%
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.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.42/5  rDev -9.3%
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 BuckeyeNation
4.39/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Textbook tawny with sunset orange edges. The cap is orange-tinted sandstone in color and was several fingers in height right after the pour. It's too soft, though, and the end result is predictable: a rapid descent, a featureless surface and almost no lace. It must be hard to create a good looking head with an absence of hops, but that's the cross gruits must bear.

Even though I can't pigeonhole into any one style, the nose is fascinating. ASPA smells like what the brewery describes it as being (imagine that!). It's sweet-and-spicy brown malty with a nose-pleasing excess of earthiness, along with pine needles and pine bark. Even without points for originality, which it deserves, this is a very good nose.

Alba Scots Pine Ale is beautiful beer, perhaps my favorite gruit to date. The flavor and the mouthfeel remind me of a Scotch ale, which is what it is in a broad sense. The flavor profile is dominated by malt with a soothing, sneaky sweet earthiness that is the beer equivalent of comfort food. I scoffed at the brewery's recommendation to drink it at room temperature (although I am) from a wine goblet (I'm not) as an after-dinner digestive. I must admit, though, they know whereof they speak. This is a classic 'roaring fire, sip and savor, contemplate life' kind of beer.

Apple-like burps prompted me to look for that fruit within my next few mouthfuls. And I found them. Mushy brown apples sprinkled with cinnamon is an undeniable facet of this undeniably delicious gem of a beer. The 7.5% ABV is perfect. It's barely noticeable and it gives the beer that serious, warming, sipping aspect that is a perfect fit for its flavor. The mouthfeel is a tad more full than medium; an impression accentuated by an extremely low, yet still effective, amount of carbonation.

This is the last of the commonly available Heather Ale Ltd. offerings for me and is one of my favorites (along with Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale). I love the fact that the brewers have done something new by resurrecting the old. I have no idea if the range of vastly different ales they produce are faithful to those ales drunk in the Middle Ages, but I do know that these styles are timeless and deserve to be kept alive so that lovers of exceptional beer may enjoy them again and again.

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Photo of russpowell
3.32/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

BBD on bottle Apr 07

Pours a dark caramel witha thin white head that drops fast. No head retention or lacing

Smell: Sweetness and berry smells and then some malt

Taste: Sweetness with resiny notes. Dryness and some blueberry? notes in the finish

MF: Chewy, but under carbonated

Tasted okay but ran counter to style. Worth a try, certainlly hides its ABV well

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Photo of Jason
4.12/5  rDev +9.3%
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 TMoney2591
3.3/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

Pours a slightly murky pale amber with a dollop of white head that quickly retreats. The aroma is very sweet, dripping with dark berries and light syrups. A faint cry of pine is detectable in the distance. The taste maintains a portion of this sweetness, but it is different than the nose's: this is more malt than berry, and the syrup has become more like sap, removing some of the initial sweetness, replacing it with a piny bitterness. The body initially feels high on the medium level, but dissipates about as quickly as the head following the pour, adding somewhat to the drinkability.

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Photo of Gagnonsux
4/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Deep amber colored with a little orange color thrown in. Hazy. Head is large and creamy; and off-white in color.

Smell- Malty with an aroma that I believe are esters. No pine smell noted by me.

Taste- Sip starts with a bite that I believe is the pine. Fruity ester taste encompasses my palette towards the middle. Finely balanced. Finish has lingering malt flavors. 7.5% ABV is barely perceptible, I can see accidently getting drunk on this happening easily.

M.F./Drinkability- I like drinking this, its very good, too bad their Ebulum was such a hard act to follow. Ester tastes aren't my favorite anyway. Despite that, this has my full recommendation.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.38/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It's pretty funny that I've had all of the historic ales but have never reviewed any except the Kelpie Seaweed ale. This came as one of four in the gift pack for 9.99 not a bad deal. Totally different beers than your mainstream offerings. Appears a pale ruby copper hue with a bright off white head maybe a light khaki tone, fine sparse lacing scattered on the sides of my chalice. Surprisingly a malt heavy nose with little to no pine aromatics, very fruity bright cherry ripened with some earthiness and a bit of noticeable alcohol. As it warms it begins to unleash more of the pine character in the nose. Flavor wise it starts out super fruity with hints of cherry coated in sugar in a reduction, and finishes bitter with pine/herbal/mint notes. Really balanced compared to most spruce tip/pine beers I've tasted, finishes with a moderate dryness. Little heat from the alcohol but the flavor is there in an almost medicinal nature with the fruity cherry notes. Carbonation is assertive but not overdone and body is definitely medium with a light reduced sugar near syrup texture. Overall a solid beer that I could offer up to somebody new to the beer scene and it would come off both new and interesting for me, this is more or less a mass produced version of something Yard's brewing as made exteme and craft.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.47/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear medium copper color with a smallish white head that musters quickly then leaves. The aroma is sweet with a sugary caramel and lightly fruity aroma. I wouldn't call it pine but there is a strange aroma deep underneath that defies all out detection. The flavor is sweet with lots of residual sugar mixed with a light sweet and almost tart fruit. Little to no pine or hop flavor but there is a light herbal quality to this elixir. Medium body with a moderate level of carbonation and a sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel. Nice beer, very flavorful, easy to drink and just a hint different.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.97/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazed ruby with no head. Nose is sweet like cotton candy. Flavor has a really odd and unique tang to it. I suppose it is the pine. Very present sweet flavor to it. Feel is low on bubble and thicker with a slightly syrup like feel on the tongue. Definitely drinkable. Another from Heather Ale worth trying.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.65/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It was a Wednesday evening in Johnstown for where would one go for great beer selection....Tulunes....of course! First beer this evening was Alba Scots Pine Ale...recommended by the bar keep! The color was a cloudy amber with decent white head, but no lace. The aroma was strong with pine and spice. The taste was equally dominated by pine and sprig. They must have used a sweet malt because it helped to balance the strong pine flavor and elevated ABV in addition to giving it a sweetness. The mouthfeel was ok...lil to sweet for me...only one would do me fine.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.5/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the cask into a tumbler at Pizza Paradiso.

Gives a gorgeous amber body with gold hues on the edges. Has a tendency to get into red hues as well very nice! Tight creamy light off white head but dissipates a good clip.

Bouquet is a spicy sweetness. Big hints of typical sweet brown spices, mostly nutmeg, perhaps a hint of clove. More interesting is a big candied cherry sense and berry flavor. Lots of fun to be had here.

Taste fits the buttery cask fashion. Buttered cherries first, with a dense body. Soupy jammy/berry feel getting into maraschino cordial feeling. This is truly like eating a bowl of cherries right here. As the beer finishes and gets even more room temperature a hint of tasty smoked meat comes out, almost like a rauchbier. Woah where did that come from?

Wow overall I could just pound this back all night from the cask. Never had anything like this before, this was a great experience. Good start for me for this style.

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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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