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: 688
Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.05/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

11.2 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a clear copper color. With less than a finger's worth of white-colored head and poor retention, it doesn't create much of an aesthetic impression.

S: There's a lot of caramel in the aroma, and beneath all that caramel/toffee sweetness are some spruce notes. Let it warm up and it will develop a bit of a dark fruit smell. Nothing too exemplary, but not bad by any stretch.

T: At first, a wave of piny flavor (not hop-derived) engulfs the palate, before allowing the sweet maltiness to take over. General dark fruitiness finishes it off. Apart from the spruce, it's pretty uninteresting.

M: There's a certain finishing dryness that helps neutralize the sweet flavors some and create good drinkability in spite of its relative heft. Carbonation is very low, though, which makes it a little syrupy at times.

O: Eh...boring. To be fair, this isn't a very fresh bottle, but I can't see this one being fantastic fresh. Worth trying a single for the novelty.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.69/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 330ml standard pressure-cap bottle into a pint glass in high elevation Kalispell, Mont. Reviewed live.

A- One-finger beige head. Foamy with active carbonation that recedes after a minute. Clouded orange color with low clarity. Interesting looking brew, fairly attractive.

S- Citrus, spruce. Smells like a forest. Very nice. Pleasing aroma. Not complex, with some sugary scents, but I'm happy.

T- Surprisingly sweet flavor with a smidgen of the piney notes. Not as impressive as the aroma.

M- Smooth and crisp. Wet, bitter finish.

O- Well above average. I'm excited to drink the other crazy gruits in my fridge. Tasty, not terribly complex with a hint of the spruce.

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Photo of Knuckles_Nuclear
3.68/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a nonic. Low, loose head that dissipated, leaving minimal lacing. Color is a clear, deep auburn/brown...very pretty. The nose carried notes of earthy malt.

Very initial malty pine flavor gave way to a somewhat bitter and boozy bite at the end. Not unpleasant, just different. The label states that this should be consumed at room temperature, and like a fool I didn't read it and I put it in the icebox. I suspect the flavor would be much more complex at room temp. Not an easy drinker, but a good one.

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Photo of secondtooth
4.04/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a ruddy amber, with a limited head and no lace.

Nose is nicely woodsy, with definite spruce and pine needles and oils coming through prominently. Quite unique and appealing!

Tastes delicious -- very malty sweet, but the woody pine/spruce infusion adds an entirely different profile to this brew. I would gladly buy more of these if they were more widely available!

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Photo of gopens44
3.99/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Probably the most striking attribute of this beer would be the appearance. Hazy copper with a nearly perfect foamy creme colored head. Oddly, virtually no lacing. The aroma immediately took me to a direction I wasn't expecting from something called pine - this thing smells balls on like a barleywine. No difference at all. Taste immediately goes the barleywine route (sweet malty goodness) until from out of nowhere, a pungent tartness pops up. The finish is just a touch tinny with a slight bitterness lingering. Body overall goes from creamy to thin by the finish. Overall, its quite different and a good departure from pretty much anything else but not something you can really throw down in any quantity.

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Photo of Braz
3.77/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Aroma: Floral and woody. Good amount of malt. Has a very sweet smell.

Appearance: Very dark but clear ruby amber color. Moderate white has leaves nice amount of lace.

Taste: Very different. Starts with malt sweetness, is then followed by a woodsy punch of pine. I picked up more pine than spruce. No bitterness.

Mouthfeel. A little sweet but nicely carbonated. Has a balanced feel but the aftertaste lingers quite a bit.

Overall: Glad I finally tried this. Interesting for sure. Probably not something I'd go to great lengths to try again. Mainly due to the aftertaste, it just kicks around too long.

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Photo of Rutager
3.39/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Couldn't sleep a wink last night, but it's finally here, the best holiday of the year, HAPPY GRUIT DAY!!!!

Appearance. Pours a clear amber-orange with a half finger of white lace.

Smell. Very sweet honey and sweet grainy malts, caramel and woody herbs along with a little bit of pine forest.

Taste. Caramel and butter, some earthy herbs and brown sugar, maybe a little light fruit, and some woody pine in the finish.

Mouthfeel. Medium+ body, a little bit sticky, Medium-low carbonation.

Overall. This is okay, a bit of a sipper and not really my cup of tea. I'm begining to not like International Gruit Day, wishing it was stout or IPA day instead.

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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 CaptJackHarkness
4.51/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance is a cloudy brownish liquid with no visible carbonation nor head. Aroma is sweet herbs, chamomile like. Taste is unexpectedly mild, not the bitter bite I would imagine a brew made with evergreen needles to have! Actually delicious. Mild warming mouthfeel. Drunk as suggested at room temperature from a goblet.

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Photo of andrenaline
3.52/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another from the Scotland mixer from the LCBO.

A - Pours a clear copper colour with an amber hue, finger of head with little retention or lacing.

S - Very sweet with sugary caramel, buttered bread, sweet lemon drops and apple cider and honey dew melon notes with cloves on the finish.

T - The cloves come through off the top, the sweetness dominates, caramel malt notes, buttery notes and faint hints of pine come through on the finish.

M - Medium bodied, smooth and sticky.

O - A unique brew that hits the tripel notes, though I would've enjoyed a touch more on the pine notes. Worth a try and definitely unique, but not certain I would try it again.

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Photo of Triglycerides
3.62/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle

A: Pours a deep amber color which is crystal clear. There was also a nice 1" head present on the pour. However, this head doesn't really hang around for too long, dissipating and leaving essentially no lacing or head.

S: Lovely aroma. There's not really a whole lot of piney scents as I expected. Instead, it's a nice aroma of caramel malt (kind of like a Dopplebock) and a bit of spiced pear.

T: Taste continues with the smell with a bit of sweet malt. Herbal, piney notes come along afterwards as well with a lingering apple/pear fruitiness.

M: Alcohol is definitely not noticeable with this brew. Comes off fairly smooth and medium bodied, with a nice bit of carbonation on the back of the mouth.

Overall: Being that it's not exactly a popular style or something I have a ton of experience on this one, it's hard to place this one. Still, it's certainly worth a try if you are interested in some of the more obscure styles as well as the more traditional ones. It wouldn't be something I'd be rushing back for, although it's definitely an interesting beer to try.

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Photo of thehyperduck
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330 mL bottle from the LCBO; best before Feb. 2014. I've only had one other spruce beer, but I was a pretty big fan - so I'm hoping this one will keep the streak alive. Poured into a wine glass and allowed to stand while I waited for it to approach room temperature.

Pours a clear, deep amber-orange colour, topped with about one finger of foamy, off white-coloured head. Unfortunately, it doesn't hang around for long, and doesn't leave much in the way of lace behind, either. Lovely aroma, though not nearly as much pine as I'd expect - instead, the dominant features are malty caramel and toffee alongside a variety of fruity apple or pear notes. There are also some vaguely herbal/spicy undertones. The aroma could do with some more intensity, but I definitely like what's there.

The taste, on the other hand, is far from subdued. Those same sweet, malty flavours from the nose start us off, but this modest backbone is soon completely overpowered by a wave of herbal spice and pine sap flavour. Finishes earthy, with the heat from the alcohol mingling quite nicely with the herbal notes and faint toffee sweetness. On the thicker side of medium-bodied, very smooth going down with some slight stickiness on the palate afterward. The carbonation is mild, providing just enough prickliness to cut through the flavour. Not something I'd want to drink a lot of, but it's still a sensible and enjoyable match for tonight's cold weather.

Final Grade: 4.05, an impressive A-. Alba Scots Pine Ale is an interesting brew, if nothing else. I happen to like piney tastes (which, as a hophead, probably isn't all that surprising), so it stands to reason that I would probably like a well-executed pine/spruce beer. It's just complex enough to keep me interested without being especially overwhelming, and the body/density of the beer works perfectly with the ethanol. This would actually be a really great warmer for the fall and winter months, assuming I could find it reliably. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of mick303
3.8/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a compact head which leaves a nice film and lacing. Colour is a pleasant brown-gold. Light carbonation. Looks good.

The smell immediatly shows strongly the fresh pine and spruce notes. These are fresh, and slightly herbal/medicinal. A light citrus. Malt is there is background.

Taste imediatly has a complex, earthy bitterness. A light fruitiness which together with the strong foresty bitterness makes for an interesting drink. A brief sweetness. This shows really good development, nice and complex on the palate. A bit on the medicinal side though, comes on a bit strongly.

Mouthfeel is rich, medium bodied, but very refreshing. Its is thick and sappy with pine flavour. Drinkability is good. Aftertaste is piney, dry, earthy/foresty.

Definitely not a run-of-the-mill beer. This works on quite a few levels. It is an interesting beer and the pine+spruce character is well-done and pretty balanced. Give it a try, worth the experience.

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Photo of smalenberg
3.33/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Pours with a copper color leaving a slightly tan persistent foam ring on the glass. Minimal head and lace with the exception of that welcoming rich ring.

Smell - I was prepared to be overwhelmed by pine, but fortunately that wasn't the case. The spruce character is very much in check in the nose allowing a candied fruit to take precedence.

Taste - Describing this as a triple style on the label, to me, is somewhat of an injustice because it doesn't fit well into that distinction. Good level of carbonation allows numerous characteristics in flavor to become evident. Candied fruit as in the nose, a slight hop bitterness that carries some citrus with it, and the real appearance of the spruce.

Mouthfeel - Alcohol is not noticeable considering the ABV. The tingle of the carbonation gives way to a silky smoothness that goes down smooth and refreshing.

Overall - an interesting experiment, worth a try if interesting in historical brewing or curious about spruce beers. Like many hybrid/specialty styles it is well worth a try, but doesn't rise to the level of something you feel you want to keep on hand or introduce all your friends to.

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Photo of endovelico
3.73/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Mahogany with off white persistent foam.

Aroma: Hard to describe, smells like a Melanoidin rich brew (think Marzen, Doppelbock) aged in oak and dry hopped with some obscure exotic hop variety.

Taste: Tastes like it has been infused with twigs. Melanoidin, coal, cedar, butterscotch, hazelnut and black pepper notes are also evident.

Palate: Dry-ish, some astringency, slight bitterness, spicy, somewhat hot (probably exacerbated due to the astringency), medium to medium full bodied.

Overall: It's hard to evaluate something like this as theres little frame of reference. Notwithstanding, it's a beer that in my opinion, is dramatically unsessionable. It's very aggressive on the palate, but not in the sense that it's challenging. Also, the relatively higher alcohol, astringency, spiciness and cloying sweetness makes for an uninviting beer. Having all of that been said however, it's still an inspired attempt at an historical style, few brewers dared to take a chance at, and that has to be taken into account.

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Photo of srv33
3.98/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber, inch head, fine lacing. Scent of plum, caramel, and yeast. Taste follows the nose quite a bit, sweeter than I had imagined - it tastes to me like some odd candy, a bit of apricot, a bit of melon, and plum come to mind. Then a bit of roasted maltiness and a hint of mineral in the background. Very well balanced, thick mouthfeel, not a challening beer at all and very easy to enjoy, I'd absolutely recommend this to anyone looking for a more sweet and overall crowdpleasing brew while still retaining complexity and balance.

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Photo of Brubaker
3.26/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Dark Amber but clear. One finger head with nice lacing afterwards

S- Floral and mediciny but mild.

T- Sweet, Fruity, Taffy-like with a dark candy finish. Flavors linger more in nose than palate.

M- Smooth & light

O- Very unique taste unlike what i expected. No real pine or spruce flavor. More of a candy flavor. Enjoyable but sweeter than i like.

Would drink
Might Buy
Wouldn't Make

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Photo of OtherShoe2
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours medium amber with a foamy white head that does not last. A ring remains, spotty lace.

You get the spruce for sure, with a honeyed floral note to work with the toasted malt. Nice nose.

Very odd first, because you cannot tell if you are getting some rare fruit. You're not. It is definitely spruce, or pure pine, and it is very well balanced. Malt is toasted and has a slight caramel note, but not much. Some bitterness comes in, and is in good balance with the rest of the beer. Pine and nettle notes in the end with a subtle bitter/sweet edge. This grows on you. It is not over-spiced or over-worked. The balance is quite remarkable.

Medium body, very good carbonation. Extra points as the carbonation really helps this from being cloying and leads to the next sip.

Overall, loved this. Glad I tried it. A good surprise.

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Photo of DrDemento456
3.62/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Well it looks like a Scottish ale. A nice amber brown, hazy with a 1/4 inch of opaque colored head that has some good lacing.

S - Kind of subdued but I am getting mostly Scottish ale notes of oak, caramel, and toffee. Maybe some rum and a touch of pine but it is faint.

T - It starts off great with some good balanced sweet caramel and toffee malts, then touches on some wood, but the finish has some weird herbal quality like licking sap from a tree (never did it but it just "feels" like that) The pine does give it a hoppy finish which I never experienced in a Scottish ale so it was quite interesting.

M - Medium and chewy.

Overall not something I would buy again but it was another weird example of what you can do with ancient recipes. It really wasn't that bad once you got over the herbal tree sap quality.

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Photo of engisch
3.67/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep orange with a slight haze. Decent light colored head giving off sweet smells of malt mixed with some piney-ness. Not as piney as I would have thought in the smell. Much more malty nose.

Taste is sweet like honey and molasses (or sap from a tree?) with a nice piney tone. An interesting beer. Lots of aromas with interesting flavors and tons of complexity.

Medium carbonation giving a nice tingling on the tongue with a medium body. Interesting beer! I'd drink it again, but I wouldn't want more than one in a sitting.

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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 TheSevenDuffs
3.88/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Translucent medium amber colour. Half a finger of off white head

S - Sweet caramel up front. Some pine and herbal notes.

T - Mix of sweet caramel malts and pine up front giving way to herbal notes and tree sap. The spruce is there too but harder to pick out than the pine. Alcohol is well hidden.

M - Medium body. Light carbonation.

O - An interesting beer. Liked this more than I thought I would.

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Photo of ONUMello
3.53/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

11.2oz bottle poured into a pint glass
A: Pours a nice orange color with a solid 1/2 finger head that settles somewhat quickly
S: Lots of sweet malt, a bit of fruit esters.
T: Again, quite sweet. Bubble gum like. Lots of malt, no hops to speak of. A bit of baking spice. The alcohol is not noticeable.
M: Fairly thick because of the sweetness, a hint of carbonation.
O: This is tasty, but almost too sweet. I did not get any of the pint others have noted, that may have helped the balance somewhat.

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Photo of jsisko01
3.43/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The bottle states this is best drank at room temperature but I put mine in the fridge.

Appearance - Pours a very cloudy pale orangish/amber color with a centimeter thick off-white head. Has creamy looking lacing.

Smell - Strong scent of pine and herbal notes.. Nothing else stands out. I think I can smell the alcohol a little bit.

Taste - Has a very strange sweetness to it.. like pine sap, but it's good. Very herbal along with a strong honey flavor. Maybe a little bit of lemon citrus? The alcohol doesn't show through TOO much. Has a mild bitter finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with low carbonation.

Overall - This is an interesting style to try, and doesn't taste all too bad.. but after about 10 minutes the sweetness of it is making me nauseous.

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Photo of Aethien
4.39/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Honey coloured with a small off white head that quickly fades.
It smells like pine with herbal and medicinal notes and a liquorice kind of sweetness.
There's pine and spruce bitterness in the taste with caramel, some tropical fruits a little orange sweetness and it's only in the finish that the 7.5% ABV shows itself along with some of the medicinal notes that were present in the smell.
It's smooth and with little carbonation and slides down easy, light enough to keep it from feeling syrupy.

Gruits/Herbed Ales are very much a hit or miss for me and this is the best one I've had so far, it's interesting and different and I absolutely love the pine flavour.
Plus, it makes me think of vikings and that just makes it a little extra awesome.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.77 out of 5 based on 688 ratings.
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