Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
Liked This Beer
3.78 w/ 690 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: 690 |  Reviews: 475
Photo of atsprings
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a nice amber with a decent head that left good lacing. The aroma was on the malty side with some pine notes. The pine comes through beautifully in the taste. There is a very unique bitterness that I was surprised to enjoy as a hophead. This is a truly unique beer that I would gladly enjoy on occasion.

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Photo of dbalsock
2.7/5  rDev -28.6%
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 demcorhip
3.67/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Did not enjoy this one as much as i did last year when i first tried it. The result of a lesser coniferous presence, as well as perhaps their quality.

A tawny ale, as described on the bottle. Mildly and finely carbonated. Only managed to produce a half finger off white head with no retention, a thin collar eventually rimmed the glass, leaving finely intricate lacings.

Rich and complex smelling brew, nutty and caramel malts, fruity notes of apple and black currant, but only hints of spruce bitterness at the finish.

Biscuit also there with the nutty malts and hint of caramel. The hint of alcohol carries the fruity esters and their flavours of red apple and dark berries such as black currant and black berry. Finishes in a woody and slightly sprucey bitterness, where's the pine?

A nice beer, but could have used more of a pine presence. Also seemed to have more emphasis on the fruity esters. Perhaps they are tweaking this one to make it more appealing to the masses? The spruciness present took its time to reveal itself. But what this brew does reveal is that a beer can be made with tasty and rich malts, and be balanced and bittered without the use of hops.

Quite drinkable and a surprisingly refreshing brew due to its somewhat dry and mildly astringent character. More than just a novelty beer, but this obviously isnt for everyone either. But it was a good brew on a cool spring night.

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

Dark coppered color, with a lot of thin corpuscule floating in it. Beige head, light and short.
The smell: oh my god, what is it? Sweet, "piney" notes? Well, it is for sure quite peculiar. Resn notes, pine, with some tendence toward the balsamic.
Soft. It can remind some kind of candy.
Similar taste, with a touch of rhubarb, probably a strange sinergy between the caramel malt and the pine.
And, oh, the 7.5 ABV are absolutely well hidden.
Strange. Maybe a little boring after some while. Not so easy to say.

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

12oz bottle.

pours copper red with a thin wisp of white head that disappears almost immediately and leaves no lace.

aroma is nice. big and malty. toffee and caramel. bit of raisin. touch of alcohol. touch fruity too, maybe cranberry?

taste is good. light bitterness. light toffee and caramel sweetness. raisin and a bit of date. biscuity malt. nice warming alcohol.

mouthfeel is good. light carbonation and a good body.

drinkability is good. today felt like a good day for something like this, with no hops and just tons of malt. the malt balances well against the alcohol, making this one really enjoyable.

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Photo of geexploitation
3.91/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From a 11.2oz bottle that says "best before October 2006." Uh oh, hope this ages gracefully. Pours darker than expected, almost a ruddy red wine color with tawny highlights, with very little head (just some impact bubbles). Aroma is a touch unpleasant with some funkiness that reminds me of mushrooms or manure... but as the glass warms some more fragrant, inviting aromas come out: pear, warming spices, tobacco, wood resin, caramel malts, candied oranges. Quite nice and comforting. On the palate, citric nips first off, subtle carbonation, tea-like mid-palate, sweetening as it goes along, and a resiny-sweet finish. Mouthfeel is quite still and a bit more watery than I expected. Overall, this beer is a very interesting trip through history. It's missing a lot of hallmarks of today's beers, but it makes up for that with originality. I've often said, after tasting historical ale reproductions, that I'm glad I live in the present time, but Alba could make me reconsider that bias.

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Photo of longarm
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Viking beer? Let's give it a try. Cloudy brew reflects tints of red and orange. Maybe a little chill haze. Nice initial head leaves a small amount of lacing, but doesn't last.

Complex combination of aromas are quite difficult to disentangle. As expected there's some spruce. Aroma also has a little sweetness supporting the spruce and something like cotton candy and cough syrup. Slight alcohol hotness appears as it warms. The bottle recommends serving at room temperature. From an aroma perspective, I wouldn't let it warm too much.

The initial strangeness of the flavor is a bit of a hit for my 21st century palate, but the quality of the beer quickly takes-over. It's a little sweet, but no too much for a scottish-style ale. Seemingly no hops, and absolutely no off-flavors. This is an exceptionally well-crafted beer, in the truest sense of the word "craft". The brewers should be applauded for the attempt and success at producing an old-world beer to such a high standard. This is different and very good.

Maybe a little sticky mouthfeel.

Overall an interesting and drinkable beer. The first taste is a bit of a whammy and unexpected, but not because it's bad or poorly crafted, but simply because it's different. I can imagine why the Vikings once liked this style. Beers like this remind me why we are all lucky to be living in the greatest era in history for beer drinkers. It's well balanced and has an interesting and complex combination of aromas and flavors. I certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to experiment, but if I could find it in 6 packs, I'd make it a regular part of my rotation.

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Photo of meadhead
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Genuine Pine undertone:
like a real pine-spruce sprig!
(very unique)

Finally found the various types of Healther Ale Ltd's
Scottish Gruit
at a local specialty shop
and tried this one first:

It pours a rich transparent
with a slight yellow head
sophisticated appearance

Smell is of caramel malt with
the pine scent slightly noticeable

the taste
is predominately semi-sweet malt
at first
finishing with varying degrees of pine and spruce
For a moment it reminded me of a Christmas tree
then it seemed more decidedly pine.

The beer is very mildly carbonated
and has something of a
mouth feel

It has a good wee bit of complexity
for its simple ingredients

Seems to drink more like a wine than an ale
as it recommended served at room temperature
in a goblet

Nonetheless this is a truly unique Ale
everyone should try.

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

Got this in a gift set for Christmas, pretty sure they were better last year though.

Pours a clear amber with a thin tightly packed light tan head. Aroma of bananas, sweet malts, and a hint of pepper, didn't notice much pine in the smell. Taste was raisiny sweet, with some bananas and piney taste (not piney hops as this contains no hops. Mouthfeel was pretty heavy like a Scotch Ale. This is very pleasent, but it's not as good as I remembered from last year (2005).

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Photo of lackenhauser
3.43/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Good, deep reddish color with a decent carbonation level. Low aroma-I was expecting more spruce. Slight spiciness to it. Malty flavor with an underlying flavor of spruce to it. Spruce is not all that dominant. Somewhat toffeeish and floral. Good mouthfeel-very full. Nice sweet finish. An above average beer though I dont think I could consume too many of them. Still, an interesting style.

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Photo of stephendr
3.33/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle- color of murky honey , with a light white head - nose of cannabis , malts , red berries , light resin , and light chocolate – taste of bright red berries , hopps , pine , mint , blueberries , and chocolate malts - body light , and light carbonation – aftertaste of fuit and light Malts

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Photo of jjayjaye
3.45/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours an orange brown with a light tan colored head of fairly large bubbles that fades to next to nothing and leaves little wash.

S - Surprisingly enough, sweet smelling. Not a fresh pine or spruce sprig; i guess that's what they smell like when they're cooked. Floral alcohol.

T - Slightly bitter sweet and i can imagine it being refreshing, like a lemonade.

M - Not watery, but light medium.

D - I left my buddy's service anniversary gig last night after dignifying a couple of macros to share in the celebration; i would have stayed longer to nurse a couple more of these...for the team and for the 'home country' that is.

Alcohol sneaks up on you. Love to know more about the history and what would compel a person to cook pine.

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Photo of kernalklink
3.75/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This ale was a departure from what I expected- more sweet than bitter, a good sipping brew. It poured dark amber with a nice copper head which spewed aromas of candied malts and pine. The sweet malts continued to dominate the taste- if you could crystallize and sweeten pine sap, this would be it. Not as refreshing as I had thought, but the mild carbonation and pleasant warming effect make it a solid choice.

 410 characters

Photo of kmo1030
3.65/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

hazed orangey brown with a thin tan head.
the smell is a sweet fruity caramel with berries, with some oxidation present. i don't pick up anything in the way of pine.
the taste has a very raspberry truffle quality to it. it's also got dark pineapple and caramel. sprucey qualities show up at the back and aftertaste. there is oxidation here too. though judging form the best by date, it isn't too old.
weakly carbonated with a bit too light of a body.
decent enough drinkability, for this novelty beer, though a bit on the sweet side.

 537 characters

Photo of xav33
4.1/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Heather Ale Alba Scots Pine Ale
12 oz bottle
Medium pour in an English Pint
Best before 02/08, prickled 11/06

Poured a clear orange red with a large slightly off white foamy head with a tiny ring of lacing.

Smelt of moderate spruce and sweet fruit, similar to oranges, and cake.

Taste was upfront moderate bittersweet pine tree and sweet pineapple and oranges followed by a strong bitter spruce taste with light sweetness on an average finish. Palate was medium bodied, creamy, oily to slightly dry, with light astringency.

Overall, it's like drinking watered down sweet spruce sap with a little malt kick. Genius. Its like a refreshing winter walk through a coniferous evergreen tree forest.

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Photo of Sammy
3.42/5  rDev -9.5%
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 zeff80
3.48/5  rDev -7.9%
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 ultralarry2006
3.58/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle. Leaves a one finger head after exploding from the bottle upon being opened. The head recedes to nothing, leaving only a foam ring at the edges. There is some decent lacing. Body is clear copper.

Smell - much butterscotch diacetyl, apples, plums, and figs.

Taste - butterscotch and apples with spices like cinnamon, anise, mint, and blackpepper. Finishes with a black peppery and bitter intensity. Black pepper on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, fluffy, fizzy, and semi-dry.

Drinkability - this is decent, and definitely interesting.

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Photo of jhammerly
3.11/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A rather unique brew. A pour revealed a copper body, sort of like apple cider, and a thick creamy head. The aromas are faint, but I detect some pine, alcohol, and a sweetness of pineapple. There is a slight medicinal taste that sticks around for a bit. This takes away from the overall taste, which is a sweet malty flavor. Mouthfeel is somewhat watery and the body is light to medium. A good beer with a lot of history behind the style (check their website), but one that I couldn't drink a lot of in a short period of time.

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Photo of pootz
4.15/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4


Poured a hazy copper-brown ale in the glass with a fair cap that rediced to a surface cap and laced up the glass sides well.

Aroma: Musty-earthy, grains, botanicals...light clover sweetness.

Delightful profile: chewy caramel malts up front are quickly joined by a complex array of indigionous botaniocals...highland pine buds, spruce buds, highland meadow botanicals..then a light musty-earthy sweetness and into the finish which is wet, lingering, satisfying, herbal and lightly bittering.

Damn I love these heather ales!!

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Photo of Viggo
3.33/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear copper, small white head forms, nice spots of lacing and good retention. Smell is sweet, some caramel, pine, herbs, alcohol. Taste is neat, sweet, fruity, almost strawberry, herbs, some medicinal flavour and toffee in the finish, smooth sherry like alcohol flavour in the finish, almost solventy. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low carbonation. Not too bad.

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Photo of Stimack
3.47/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Brew poured to a dull brown color with an amber tint to it. Had no real head and what it did have disappeared very quickly leaving only a very light amount of lacing at the top of the glass. The aroma is strange, as I am picking up a candy scent which seems very familiar but I will be damned if I can put a name to it. I noticed that others said they picked up a pine scent; I am not so sure I am finding that same smell. The taste is interesting, not sure I would say it is my cup of tea but has some interesting highlights. A nice maltyness is the underlying flavor with a spicy twang to it that highlights pepper and alcohol mixed. Again this brew was interesting just not what I was looking for I guess. Would I have it again, yeah I suppose. Would I go looking for it, no, doubt it.

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Photo of OStrungT
3.3/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer pours a cloudy muddy brown color, with a tan head. The head fades slowly, leaving a decent lacing.

This beer smells piney. Not hoppy, just piney. It has a sweet caramel malt aroma. It has a very slight bubble gum aroma also. It has a syrupy aroma as well.

This beer tastes unlike anything I have ever had before. Piney flavor upfront, but it is very sweet. Very sweet. If I was a wood sprite, I would love this beer. Not much for hops. Just the strong piney sweet flavor.

This beer leaves an aftertaste that makes me think of sucking on a green pinecone.

I doubt this beer would be a good session beer. Too sweet. Also, the alcohol is a little high.

Overall: This beer reminds me of camping. It is not bad, but I dont think I could grow to love the style either. I guess only time will tell.

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Photo of AaronHomoya
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours with very little carbonation and not much head either. Color is a dark amber/auburn. Aroma is interesting and different - sweet, kind of fruity with strong alcohol smell and maybe some pine. Taste is similar, with lots of sweetness, alcohol taste and a warm, dark flavor near the finish that blends into what I think is the spruce. Mouthfeel is medium-thick and could have used a bit more carbonation, I think. Overall, pretty good beer that's different and worth a try at least once.

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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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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 61.9% out of 100 with 690 ratings
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