Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
689 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

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 689 |  Reviews: 474
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.

 2,281 characters

Photo of LordChesterfield
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poures dark orange with a quickly disipating head. Smells like apples that have been soaking in alcohol. Tastes exotic, slightly cidery with a bitternes that is quite different and just as good as that provided by hops. The bittering agents allow different flavors of the malt poke through. No pine flavor at all and is very fresh and earthy. I think this is much more drinkable than most of the English ales I've had. It's sweet and primitive yet smooth on the tongue. I like this alot and would love to find it in a 6pack, not just one small expensive bottle at a time. Recommended.

 584 characters

Photo of bark
3.59/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

The colour is cloudy red-brown; there is no head at all.

The powerful smell got notes of pears, wood, aroma hops (although here are no hops in this beer) and woods. Nice!

The taste is creamy with creamy notes of apples and pear, pine, spruce and other wooden flavours. There is also some anonymous and unusual bitterness. The strong aftertaste got a fine mix of woods and some bitterness.

The carbonation is very strong and almost sticky.

The beer got so much flavours of “a day in the woods” that it might become a bit too much.

 545 characters

Photo of dgallina
3.17/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle. Best-before date of 12-2006.

Poured clear copper with no head and no lace whatsoever. Smells of alcohol, woody pine needles. Flavors are a challenge, to say the least; spicy and sweet alcohol tinged with wood, pine needles, cedar. No hops. Light-to-medium and nearly still body.

A bit difficult for the modern beer lover to appreciate. Perhaps more interesting for the archaeologist than the drinker.

 419 characters

Photo of WesWes
4.32/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a ruby red color with a 1/2" offwhite head that quickly fades to lacing. The aroma is great. It has a nice malty scent. It smells like a Scotch ale with a slight hint of pine. It's rich with a bit of alcohol aroma. The taste is awesome. It has a rich and complex malt flavor that complimented by the addition of spruce sprigs. It adds excellent pine flavor to the beer. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a tastey brew. I love the pine addition. It really makes the beer more enjoyable.

 549 characters

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

Poured a deep amber color with a good head. Stuck to the glass nicely.

Smell is malty and sweet with some big figs and alcohol. Pine is evident, but not in the forefront. On a second whiff I smelled honey and almonds.

It has a decent mouthfeel, but was water when at about 50 degrees. The bottle says to serve at room temp. so I'm leaving it be for now.

Taste is malty and sweet. Not as fruity as I expected, but I did detect some apricot and fig. Not as watery as it "warms" up.

The later drinks were sweeter than the first.

Overall a nice beer. Not something to drink more than one of in a night, however.

 622 characters

Photo of Frozensoul327
3.25/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A very different beer. Simply made with Malted Barley Bree, Scots Pine and Spruce Sprigs. There's a combination for you. Poured out to a Dark Amber color with Medium Carbonation and a nice head. Lace was noted around the glass. Odors of spruce were present, as was an alcohol scent which was slightly sweet. Taste was consistant with the odor, and I must admit I thought this brew would be hideous, yet, it wasn't. The odd indgredients yielded a rather decent brew, yet didn't knock my socks off. Finished slightly thick, like a Wee Heavy. A different beer. Worth a try.

 570 characters

Photo of DrJay
3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Coppery amber colour with a thin layer of off-white foam and a bit of haziness. Malty caramel and fruit in the nose, medicinal and piney aroma as well. Fruity and malty to start, followed by herbal and pine flavours. Finishes with spicy alcohol and a bit of warmth. Body feels a little bit heavy due to low carbonation, but it's quite smooth. Slight grainy dryness. Though the alcohol is present, it's not the main attraction. Distinctive, easy drinking, and quite tasty.

 471 characters

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.

 577 characters

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

Pours a red with brown hints small tanish cap, falls to a ring of bubbles that does leave some lace.

Aroma is sweet fruity pear, mango rock candy with pine needle hints.

Taste is malt lightly sweet mixed with candy sugars and fruit, more like figs and plums in the flavor though. Finish is sprucy pine needles resiny like pine sap not as tart though. Nice dry finish.

Mouthfeel is medium good malty body with a dry pine finish.

Drinkability is different not something I would drink alot of, but then again wouldn't mind trying it again.

 548 characters

Photo of cypressbob
4.12/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle

Pours with a deep coppery amber body, some shades of mahogany. Small but sturdy and well retained tan head, smooth and creamy

Smell, fresh, some hint the forest, pine needles. Malty, sweet and esters

Taste, warming malty alcohol, silky. Earthy bitterness, almost winey in some respects. Some hint of pine again

Whoa, a real treat. This is a fantastic little sipper

 389 characters

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.

 331 characters

Photo of Brian700
4.07/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Nice work by the Vikings. This one pours a reddish brown color with a light white head. The label calls this a triple style ale using sprigs of spruce and pine collected in May 1998. The aroma is awesome. I could definately smell the piney aroma and it was excellent. The taste follows. It was malty with just enough of that piney flavor to give you a really interesting and fun beer. Good mouthfeel and perfect carbonation for this type of a brew. I highly recommend it and I can't wait to try it again.

 504 characters

Photo of MrSeth
3.95/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a gold-brown color with red highlights and a small white head. There's an alcoholic fruity malt aroma.. fresh strawberry. Good carbonation and clean mouthfeel, doesn't linger much. The flavor is somehwere between sweet blackberry and very ripe rasberry. There's also earthy pine tones with a tartness right at the end.

 324 characters

Photo of BeerFink
4.12/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle claims the spruce and pine were collected in May 1998...

Pours a hazy reddish amber with a white head. Strong aroma of pine sap and sweet malt. Taste is maltier than I would have thought, but it has a really great herbal, earthy quality to it. There is also a sweet, honey-like flavor in there. Finish is sweet, smooth malt, balanced by the slightly sharp spruce and pine sprigs. Very interesting ancient style of beer, the pine adds a complexity without being overpowering.

 484 characters

Photo of foamer
3.87/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Best before June 2006

Label explains that the beer was a style brought to northern Europe by the Vikings. Interesting.

Pours a reddish chestnut brown. Off white bubbly head diminishes rather quickly. Not too much lacing, but that is to be expected from the abv. Sweet malts and a sprucey/piney/evengreeny smell. Rather interesting. Some alcohol there too. Very interesting taste. Almost like a tripel but with piney overtones. Very subtle though. Not much bitterness due to the lack of hops. This is rather nice beer. I'm liking these 'historic ales'. Quite tasty. Nice mouthfeel too. Minimal carbonation and a nice medium to heavy mouthfeel. Not something you'd make a session out of but definitely worth the try. This is up there with Fraoch on cask as tied for my favourite of the Heather Ale line.

 807 characters

Photo of kmpitz2
3.57/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I've had this before, but its been a long time. Good before 8/05. This one pours a murky, dirty opaque brown color with little more than a ring of foan around the top. The nose is slightly fruity and light molasses. Its mostly sweet, without much in the way of the pine. The flavor is interesting. I can definately pick the pine, but it is more woody than Christmas tree, fake pine as I had expected. The malts are very fruity, apple and apricot, almost candy-like. There is just a tinge of bitter upon swallowing the brew, but it really fades fast. The feel is moderate with a rather small carbonation. This is okay. I'm not really sure what it is supposed to be like, as this style is not one I encounter much. I don't think I will be getting it again, but it is definately interesting.

 788 characters

Photo of orbitalr0x
3.87/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I've been sitting on this one in the cellar for a bit..."brewed using sprigs of spruce and pine collected in May 1998." Pours from the slim 11.2oz bottle a light brownish, slighty red with tons of floaties in suspension. A small bubbly white head on top....looks like some swamp water in the glass. A very interesting array of vanilla, wood, dark fruits (plum, raisins), bubblegum, bready, earthy yeast and hints of pine sap. There's a bit of crystal sugar sweetness as well. Nice nose.

First sip comes upfront with a fruity, yeasty, bready malt...hints of bubblegum and sweet cotton candy. The light arid fruitiness mixes with the earthy yeast tones well. I get a hint of pine on the way down but it is much more subdued than I expected. An interesting grape kool-aid flavor is in the mix as well. Quite a tasty brew overall with a complex melding of flavors on the palate.

Mouthfeel has a nice medium body with an arid creaminess...soft carbonation goes down nicely. This is an interesting brew that I plan on enjoying again...however one bottle in a sitting is's a bit too overwhelming for more. I look forward to trying more from Heather Ale as I love the way that they keep these styles alive!!

 1,217 characters

Photo of blitheringidiot
3.68/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

All hail the label and obey! “A cons. De pref avant fin:- 2005.” Well, a-hem…far be it from me to shake the tree… hear ye hear ya lads and lassies…

Murky amber orange whole hearted pour with gusto leading towards with some visible suspended particles flowing freely in the glass topped off with a thin smattering of beige head cap leaving some spotty lace.

Peculiar scents that require certain rumination. Vanilla and rummy scents. Also, yellow cake aroma pervades the nose. Reminiscent of oak barrel aged beers of late.

First swigs: Almond and cream. Deep melted vanilla ice cream soup. Butterscotch flavors, but distinctly not of the diacetyl type. Short clean aftertaste with patches of lingering mineral hints. Intriguing herbal flavors. Pecan nutty presence.

Thin to medium body with a slightly gullet warming thinning 7.5% ABV feel. Beware as this is a tongue coater, indeed! Delicate almost non-existing carbonation that lends to flat feel. Future curiosity may lead me to this again.

Last swigs: Oak and almonds. Exacting the label instructions, to drink at room temp in a wine goblet, this nothing short of trickery by the sip. This floats to and fro’ from an all wheat like brew to the pine brew that it is. Beguiling 7.5 % ABV (we goat a pipe-ah don…repeat…) that otherwise had me hoodwinked yet inspired to jump off of a tall ship to rape and pillage with a Hagar the Horrible costume in no time. Thanks to Orbitalr0x for the trade. To paraphrase the illimitable Clara Peller, “Whe-e-e-e-re’s the Pine?” Tasty!

Beer is good. Happy...uhhh...wood derived beering.

 1,605 characters

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

Fouth and last of a gift-pack series of "historic ales from Scotland". This one was my favorite.

Appearance: Pale red and opaque, with only slightly more froathy lace than the other 3 I sampled (Froach, Grozet and Ebulum).

Smell: Smelled raspberry sweet, I didn't smell much pine at first, but it slowly crept up in the nose towards the end. Fresh, but not pine-sol, chemical fresh.

Taste: Really piney, with a little malty and berry sweetness, aftertaste was like homemade spruce beer but with a decent alcohol finish.

 529 characters

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!

 1,004 characters

Photo of deejaydan
3.72/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A very, very interesting beer. Had it at Big T's in Lawton. Pours a deep red color. Smells slightly of pine. Taste is actually malt accentuated, then the pine hits you. I could tell after I, well, burped.. burping up pine isn't, well, fun. Mouthfeel is slightly thick on this one as well. An darned interesting beer, not my favorite, but well pulled off for a pine beer.

 370 characters

Photo of aquatonex
3.36/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours dark reddish brown with minimal head and a little bit of lacing. Smells of malts, fruits, and some pine scent. Taste is heavy on the malts with fruity and pine notes, it reminds me of wintertime. There is hints of alcohol which I'd rather not have, but it was a unique blend of flavors nonetheless.

 304 characters

Photo of swamiswamu
3.73/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance- Orangish hue. Some head and some lacing
Smell- caramel malts, hints of pumpkin and basil?
Taste- Zero hops, this one is all malt. The rustic taste is dominated by malt with a herbal finish. All in all fairly pleasant.
Mouthfeel- This is great. Very cohesive round feel. Very much whole
Drinkability- easy drinking and smooth.

 350 characters

Photo of Imbiber
4.38/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle marked best before April 2005, obtained from Bierkraft, Brooklyn.

Hazy chestnut-hued, minimal head, lightly carbonated. Aroma is unusual and very pleasant: something akin to meadowland following a spring shower blended with a peatiness and cooked vine fruits. Smooth on the palate, lack of fizz makes for good drinkability; taste is malty and piney with some warming alcohol notes in evidence. Smooth, slightly chewy finish comparable to sampling certain doppelbocks.

Interesting and enjoyable with excellent drinkability potential (dangerously so!).

 563 characters

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

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.