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Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

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Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
Very Good
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: 476
Photo of daliandragon
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Before I get into how it's kind of freaky to be pouring a beer that's totally lacking in hops, I must say how good this beer looks and smells. Cloudy, light chocolate color with tan head that lasts only a few minutes. The nose is strong and nearly intoxicating, featuring a sweet piney/mint flavor against a backdrop of strong dark malts. Not quite like any beer I've ever smelled with strong doses of what I assume is the heather but smells similar to raspberries to me.
Interesting, fresh taste with a splash of flavor at the start of the sip and a respectably dry finish. Strangely, although it's definitely a different taste, I don't really miss the hops per se. I wish the mouthfeel stood up better but it doesn't ruin the beer for me.
Definitely a good inspiration to cast the net widely when looking for different beers. If they can make a beer this good without hops, what can't they do?

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Photo of sinstaineddemon
3.63/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

pours a cider dark red, with a thin white head that disappears quickly

smells very sweet, smells like a newly opened bag of gummi bears.

wow, this beer is extremely sweet, not sickly sweet, but more like candied fruit. but has a weird aftertaste. the tip of my tongue dries very quickly. you can definitely taste the absence of hops. however i dont detect any of the pine and spruce used to make it. a quality brew that would be enjoyed slightly warmer and with a pie dessert.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
4.07/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A - Reddish caramel with one finger of frothy tan head that leaves medium sized rings of lacing. Carbonation is visably extremely intense.

S - Sweet caramel malt with a floral undertone (not sure what flower) which is likely from the pine. It reminds me a bit of red licorice. Abv detectable, but it meshes with the floral undertone. Pleasant and strong.

T - Bizarre is the first word that comes to mind. There is a very faint taste that is rather pleasant. The foretaste is absent. When it first hits your tongue, there is nothing. Then, a very faint red licorice flavor is meshed with a even fainter pine. I definitely wouldn't call this "cloying," it honestly isn't very sweet tasting. The aftertaste is lightly sweet (again only lightly) with a tiny bit of lingering pine sap flavor. Abv undetectable. It is very mild, but very nice. I really like this one.

M - Smooth, extremely thick and refreshing. It has the consistancy of orange juice. Incredible. I can't complain.

D - For all of you hopheads out there, this "beer" does NOT have hops. So don't complain about the lack of hop presence, there is a reason for that. That aside, this is the best thing to come of Scotland since hagis. Well, actually I guess this is the best thing from Scotland ever. Definitely the only thing to date that I would have again. Strong, smooth and soothing. It is best at room temp with no food. Sessionable? I could easily drink a few more of these in one setting than I should. I highly encourage everyone to seek it out. If nothing else, it is interesting.

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Photo of GnomeKing
3.77/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Whoa. There was a thread a while back that asked, If we call a hop lover a "hop head," what do we call a malt lover. Dunno, but this one will please those malt addicts. It's 7.5 percent according to the label, but that seems low--the alcohol taste packs a punch. The closest reference point I have is a quad. Think whisky. The label mentions that this style was originated by Vikings. No shit, I'm not surprised at all...it's not a beer for the faint of heart.

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Photo of charlatan
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This tan coloured brew is my first venture into this territory, having just moved to Glasgow. Strangely enough I really like this because it reminds me of my previous home in Oregon. The strong pine flavour reminds me of the smell of Oregon's majestic pines and makes me feel a tad wistful. I left a beautiful place for a grimy industrial city.

Back to the beer....the nose is dominated by fairly sweet and perhaps slightly roasted malt. While this malt is solid and pleasant enough the spruce is what really catches me when I taste this beer. Despite its formidable strength this is a very drinkable beer, albeit one to be savoured slowly. This is the first top notch I have found in my firs tmonth here in Scotland.

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: From the bottle into a pint glass, the beer pours a milk-white, one finger head that declines slowly with time, leaving plenty of lacing clinging to the glass sides. Reddish-brown in color, the beer features a clear body with visible, but moderate carbonation.
S: The scent is built around sweet malt, caramel and amaretto-like in discernment. Hints of pine linger in the background, just barely there to indicate a presence.
T: Pine becomes more apparent in the taste along with a strong malt sweetness. I can understand how some would find this combination cloying, but as I enjoy "sweet," malt-heavy beers, it's fine with me. Concluding the taste is a smokey, roasted grain taste, which is what I imagine rounds out the beer in its dry finish.
M: Medium thickness in the body with mild carbonation that leaves the beer feeling creamy and smooth on the palate. Ends with a mild, dry finish that arounds out the drinking experience quite well.
D: The alcohol in this is barely noticeable, which makes it easily drinkable. This would be an excellent beer for rounding out the nights during a camping trip (provided of course one remains hydrated enough throughout the day) in spring or fall, especially when traversing pine forests. The combination of fresh pine in the air along with this beer would be fantastic. Otherwise, this could be quite enjoyable for the spring, fall and winter seasons; perhaps a bit too rich and heavy for summer.

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Photo of karst
3.98/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours crystal clear like a setting sun with orange and ruby reds (radiating neither copper nor ruby) topped with a cream single finger of fine foam that falls with minimal lace and persistant ring.

Heavy butterscotch aroma puts me off for a while. At 55°F in a New Belgium 4.oL rastal sniffer absolutly magnifies diacetyl - usually enough for me to put do
Apricots and light caramels emerge midway with whifs of soft pine. Like their Elderberry Ebulum Heather Ale Ltd finesses a malty clean slightly dextrinous wort with little evidence of hops (must be there to balance the sweetness as this finishes well) and resulting lightly carbonated beer offers a myriad of small nuances that add up to a truely unique highly drinkable surprise.

Start your pour at 50° or higher and savor Alba slowly as it reaches for room temp. Guys at Lucas in Ellisville are selling the hell out of this to folks just getting into craft brews and the old pros alike. -bestby April07

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Photo of Derek
3.82/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Copper brown, with a little off-white head.

S: Pine & sweet, caramel malt.

T: Sweet, syrupy caramel with a woody, pine flavour. It's like bringing the outdoors inside. It'd be a good Christmas/winter-solstice brew. The bottle suggests serving it at room temperature... and as it warms up, there seems to be more depth (to offset/round-out the sweetness).

M: Moderate body is slightly creamy. Carbonation is on the low side of moderate.

D: Quite drinkable, considering the strength!

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

poured a nice amber, with a little head with very little lacing. Aroma, honey, citrus, berry fruits,no pine here. flavor, sweet berry fruits and malt. palate was light syrupy leaving a kind of dry wine feeling. not to bad of a beer. will get some more of this.

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Photo of allergictomacros
4.47/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Clear ruby read with a respectable, fizzing head. Smells roasty with a very fruity perfume. Hints of molasses. Interesting cooling sensation - almost minty maybe (the pine?). Lots of body with a thick, red-wine like flavour. Buttery, caramelly, and mild bitterness in the back. Alcohol isn't too noticeable even at 7.5 percent. A few sips in, the head is gone, mouthfeel is drying, with some spiciness. A bit of a tannic feel as well. Interesting to say the least... not a beery beer. Something out of the ordinary I'd try again.

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Photo of russpowell
3.32/5  rDev -12.2%
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 soulgrowl
3.92/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Lovely fox red. Greyish head comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

Smell: Rich and buttery, almost like buttered popcorn, with a strong, multi-faceted pine character: pine needles, pine cones, and pine nuts. Caramel malt provides a sweet backbone.

Taste: Very buttery at first, then very piney. An interesting, earthy spiciness. A bit on the floral side and perfumey, as well. Quite a distinctive ale.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, clean, relatively light and unobtrusive.

Drinkability: Now this is a Scotch ale! Very drinkable and enjoyable. Would be great around the holidays.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.52/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Mid brown with a resinous nose that suggest tree sap. This beer is interesting in its pine forest like suggestion. The finish is quite pleasant with both malt and pine melding together. You wouldn't want to drink to many of these due to the lingering pine taste but I applaud the creativity and history in this beer.

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Photo of ypsifly
2.7/5  rDev -28.6%
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 wl0307
4.2/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

BB JUN 2006. Served slighty chilled in a goblet.
A: lightly hazy, dark tawny hue with strong brownish hint; a sparsely foamy, thin cap; nice and very gentle carbonation.
S: malt-syrupy and strong honeyish maltiness upfront; backed by preserved figs, pine-oil, buttery and candy-sugary note, and an underlying but intense flow of sweet flowery estery scent in the middle (struggling through the thick maltiness only right after each swirling). Overall the thick and sweetish malt aroma slightly overpowers the more subtle scent of pine-sprigs which are used in the brew, but still a complex malty composition is retained.
T: a smooth flow of moderate maltiness upfront with a lightly vegetation and herbal hint (can't describe it... maybe it's that Pine and Spruce sprigs??) and a mildly sweet, tangy fruity touch; leading to a harmonious flavour balanced b/w malts and lightly preserved berries plus a subtle, herb+vegetation-kind of mixed finishing touch. Harmonious from the first second to the last... seems like sprigs work even better than hops to help reach a well-balanced flavour?!
M: very smooth on the mouthfeel with a constantly lively kick of fruits and herbs; the ending touch of each sip is round but light, not going thin or losing the balance.
D: overall this medium-bodied ale has a more delicate and complex flavour profile than its thick malty nose could show, although the initial strong maltiness does soften considerably and shows a more balanced body as it breathes. A very enjoyable and "delicious" ale which is dangerously drinkable. Dinstinctive!

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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 rebel1771
3.68/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark copper color with a small head. The smell is a little complex with scents of honey, fruit (pears?), and just a touch of pine. The taste was a little sweeter than I expected with loads of malty sweetness and honey flavors with fruit flavors making an appearance at the very end. This is a decent brew but I could probably only take a couple at a time.

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Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4.08/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I had the pleasure of this on-cask at the Blind Tiger.

Murky brown with a nice head. Good pour (or pull) by my server. Head/lacing stayed for the whole time.

Taste has a nice piney flavor, which makes sense since I've been told that it uses pine needles. Nice change of pace. Pine flavors remind me of Amarillo. I'm pretty sure scotch ale type flavors are there underneath, but pine flavors dominate. It is good that it doesn't overwhelm.

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Photo of brewQ
3.18/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A sturdy 1" head and the clear honey color of a pale ale enticed me. Yes, the aroma was of the forest pine floor.

The taste for me came up less than expected.
Malt and pine had an uneasy balance.

Not sure when I'd drink this; it is not an easy drink for me.

As a prior review stated, their Fraoch Heather Ale may be the better, more distinctive, choice in this style.

Still, you gotta try it!


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

Even though bottle stated serve at room temperature, I slightly chilled the bottle (15 min in the refrigerator). Poured a medium copper, slightly hazy color with profound white head that lasted throughout the glass. Lovely lacing to be found. Smell is very fruity, cherries noted. Also a not unpleasant alcohol scent.Taste is excellent with an enjoyable fruitiness. Finished slightly dry with somewhat of an alcohol taste. Very drinkable. Leaves a nice warming effect in the body. A great beer for a cold autumn evening.

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Photo of jayc333
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a nice browny-red with a finger of off-white head. Transparent, appears to be not too carbonated.

Smells heavenly, spruce present, very sweet malt. Quite herbal.

Spruce, pine, and wood blend perfectly to give this brew a very unique taste.

Thin mouthfeel, with very little carbonation. Goes down really smooth.

My second experience with a Gruit/Herbed Ale, and I'm yet to be disapointed. Highly recommended.

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Photo of mdagnew
4.24/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

330ml bottle bought from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured a golden orange / amber colour.... Slightly off white head pours quite big but fades to light layer....

Aroma - Very sweet, golden syrup, honey, light hints of pine, orange and lemon notes....

Taste – Very perfumey and fragrant, grassy, quite sweet, honey, ginger. Hints of pine develop after a few mouthfuls. Earthy notes...

Feel - Very smooth, not very much carbonation...

Overall - A pretty good ale, definitely worth a try...

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Photo of AlexJ
3.4/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Rusty reb brown pour produces a minimal beige head that almost instantly fizzles out, almost soda-like. A thin ring persists and there is no lace.

Aroma is heavily perfumed with malt and caramel, lightly nutty, and carries a notion of some sort of vegetation. Overall I would call it sweet, with little to no pine character.

Flavor is similarily disappointing. It's got a lot of toasty caramel malt, some light hints of peat and brine, and a nice nutty sweetness. It has a wierd sort of bitterness towards the back which I assume is the Scots pine and spruce, although it doesn't taste like pine. Some of my favorite Pac NW hop bombs have a lot more pine flavor going on. This isn't a bad tasting beer, reminds me of an English brown crossed with a malty Scottish Ale. Just not what I expected it to be.

Body is light to medium, with a dull sort of big bubbled carbonation that escapes quickly, rendering the last few inches flat.

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

This is a really fun summer beer. When I saw “Scots pine ale” I was thinking “an ale with a shot of gin in it.” Boy was I wrong.

It pours a bright orange/brown with a small head.

Smells very sweet and malty with a touch of pine. It even smells a bit like Sprite.

Tastes malty with just the subtlest bit of pine on the tip of the tongue. These are very well paired flavors.

The body is a good match too. It’s very thick with a light carbonation.

I strongly recommend this beer for its flavor and its uniqueness.

05/11/06 -Looking back at this review, it is in dire need of an update. I’ll have to get another bottle.

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Photo of TastyTaste
2.14/5  rDev -43.4%
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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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.78 out of 5 with 690 ratings
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