Alba Scots Pine Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

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Alba Scots Pine AleAlba Scots Pine Ale
Very Good
693 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: 693 |  Reviews: 476
Photo of hyuga
4.22/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A clouded orange-amber brew with a dense off-white head, quite beautiful, but unfortunately it settles quickly. Very interesting aroma, sweet and sour. Less pine than I expected, but still very tree-like. A bit of caramel sweetness in the malt department. Quite nice. On the palate, we have another interesting array of characteristics. Pine is more noticeable, spruce is also easy to pinpoint. Slight bitterness from the pine. These take over moreso than in the nose, but the malt character is still big. Sweetness throughout and a bit of graininess. Wood character is big as well. Also a bit nutty. Alcohol is noticeable. The mouthfeel could be better if the head had stayed, but it's still nice. A great, unique ale! It's nice to be able to try something historic like this. I wonder if it's truly similar the ales of the past? If so, the old Scots must have been happy!

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Photo of DerKaiser
3.87/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is my first of the Heather Ales, and it's really quite an enjoyable beer. It's sort of a tawny, translucent amber with thin yet creamy head. The smell is really inviting: sugary, maple, and toffeeish.

The lable notes that this ale was brewed with sprigs of spruce and pine collected in 1998 (interesting). But the flavor isn't as arboreal is that seems to imply. There are certainly hints of piney spice, but these are well balance by a nice malty presence and fruity esters. The alcohol stays well hidden until the beer warms up. The finish trails off significantly with this one, leaving me wanting somewhat. But it's still a unique and well crafted beer that's worth a try.

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Photo of StevieW
3.28/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

11.2 oz bottle. Light green and yellow label. "ALBA" can't be missed down the center.
Cloudy dull copper color. Faint white head. No lacing to note. Smell was an odd combination pugent, strong, roasted rye bread smell. Some hot pine sol whiffs as well.
Taste was much the same. I'm not sure what a pine sprig tastes like, but there was definitly something out of the ordinary here. Kinda smells like iced tea with lemon. Very strong pugent, spicy hot taste. Almost like burnt rye toast. There is considerable malt presence to smooth things over. Aftertaste is oddly bitter, and lingers. This is surprising, due to the lack of hops. It's got to be the pine sprigs.
A interesting, odd beer, worth a try.

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Photo of mickstepp
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Couldn't resist picking up a bottle of this very unusual beer. A nice amber color and retentive head. It smells like it tastes. Very vegetal. The finish is like wheat grass. Complex green vegetable flavors. Grass. Chorophyl. Green peppers. Not as piney as I had expected. Quite a malt profile to balance out (and to some degree mask) the unusual flavors. This tastes like a beer to which a shot of wheatgrass juice has been added. Not a bad beer but a little too esoteric for my tastes. Probably won't give it another try.

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

Pours a nebulous rusty red with a slight head and a very thin sheet of lace. Yes, a hint of spruce/pine with a nice underlying malt and wild berry sweetness, quite appealing in a strange way? Front is malt, lightly sweet, quite skimpy in the mouth feel. Finish has minimal carbonation, sparsely hopped, dry aftertaste with a touch of what I perceive as alcohol bitterness. Everything tells me I should not like this beer? But I do like it nonetheless, different and well worth the sample.

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

Bottled labelled with the information that it was brewed with "sprigs of spruce and pine collected in May, 1998" and that it is best before June, 2004.

Color is a shimmering copper. A thin head settles quickly to an irregular and incomplete cap of foam.

The nose is very rich malt and caramel with some plummy notes. Palate is sweet malt with wild floral notes (sort of a combination of Iris with a bit of Lilac) trying in vain to balance the beer. Its a bit thick in the mouth, but the floral notes give surprising length, and its miraculously crisp on the finish. Interesting beer, but surprised by the complete lack of piney flavors.

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Photo of marc77
3.93/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Hazy copper hue. Well retained one fingered off white head. The aroma is comprised of caramelized sugar w/ light diacetyl butterscotch, along with very mild notes of pine and sweet, dried apricot like fruitiness. Very understated aromawise. Light hop bitterness upfront leads into a smooth, somewhat, rich, caramelized malt presence, perhaps from the boiling down of first runnings from the sparge. Hop flavor is paltry, and an undertone of mellow pine takes its place. Full bodied and dextrinous, with the low carbonation lending a correspondingly smooth mouthfeel. Finishes cleanly bready sweet, with a hint of pine laced bitterness briefly lingering. A simple, yet rich and satisifying brew. Sweet, but not cloyingly so. The judicious use of pine and spruce lend good overall balance and drinkability.

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Photo of Murph
4.07/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a murky darker orange/peach color with a nice fluffy head on top that sinks down to a nice lasting film on top. Big fruity smells with some apricots, oranges, slight grape and others in there as well. Big sweet maltiness is very nicely accentuated by the fruity qualities of the brew. Big peaches, apricots, oranges, and many more that I cannot even pick out. Some nice surprising light spiciness towards the end of the brew before it finishes slightly sweeter than would be desired. The extra sweet finish makes this otherwise pleasant to drink brew a bit cloying. Overall a very nice brew that I wouldn't mind drinking again.

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Photo of cokes
4.4/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

BB: June 2004
Tawny amber-peach. Murky, yet seems to emit its own light. Little head to speak of, as it quickly dimishes to a rimming.
Arousing aromas of dried fruit (both dark and tropical). Big maltiness. Apricot and plum spring to mind right away. Liquorice underneath along with some pine and spruce (obviously).
Taste continues along these same lines. Dried apicot and date mixed with plum. There is alot of fruit in here, but those seem to be the main players. Molasses-like malt body. Pine and spruce (the more prevalent of the two) materalize early, but only take control once the sweetness begins to fade. Ends with pronounced spruce tones. This is lovely.
On the thin side for such a big brew. With a little firmer body, this would be an all-timer (though I realized Historical accuracy is the goal here).
This is something I could drink quite a bit of. The flavors are all wonderfully manifested, but it never becomes oppressive or overwhelming.
By far the best of these Heather brews. This is the one I'll return to.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.9/5  rDev +3.2%
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 Shiredave
4.14/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

By all accounts, an ancient Norse recipe before the use of hops as flavoring and preservative. This bottle was fresh w/ and expire date of 6/ 2004. The beer was lively and moderately corbonated, pretty copper color and a thin white head that receeded quickly. Aroma was all raspberries and spruce with alcohol evident. I drank it at @ 60+ deg. and the flavors came thru - malt and earth mixed with alcohol, not overly sweet with interesting light tart flavors, from the conifer sprigs I guess. The finish is slightly bitter that must come from the pine - a faint tar flavor lingers, similar to hop but different. This is what beer started as centuries ago. Still a nice beverage with substantial kick at 7.5%. A history lesson in a bottle.

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Photo of Dogbrick
2.4/5  rDev -36.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

First of all, do NOT drink this cold. I didn't read the bottle until after I had poured a refridgerated bottle into a glass. Yuck. After it warmed back to room temperature I tried it again. It was a little better but this is definitely not my cup of beer. Too much going on, and alcohol flavor kept coming in waves. Wonderfully complex aroma and appropriately woodsy coloring, but I don't think we were meant to drink trees.

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Photo of aracauna
3.25/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Seemed very belgian to me. I wouldn't call it a spot on, but it vaguely reminds be of La Trappe Dubbel. Raisins. Despite being flavored with pine and spruce it seems really light on that. In fact, I couldn't really pick up any pine or spruce. Almost cloying in its sweetness. I couldn't get it to give me head. It made me sad.

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Photo of Wildman
3.73/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This one is my second try of Heather Ales. It poured out a dark amber/copper color. Formed a nice head of light tan color. Interesting flavor to it. Can't quite place it, but maybe that's the pine taste. Seems to have some body to it and has a nice finish to it. The taste is really not up my alley, but reminds me of a Stronge Ale.

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

Slight hazy amber/copper in color.Minimal head.Strong tart malty,alcohol nose.Minimal carbonation.Creamy,buttery,fruity malt w/slight pine taste.Not offensive but definatly different.I didn't know the scots made triples.I will say the bottle was a year past recommended drinking date.

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Photo of mophie
4.23/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this one. Whatever it was, this was different! A slightly hazy copper hue with a nice tan head that reduced to a pleasing rim around the beer as I drank it. The smell surprised me -- more like a Belgian strong ale than anything Scottish, with a bit of a cherry aroma and pepper, somewhat medicinal. I expected more of a pine scent, but it really wasn't very prevalent. Taste is also reminiscent of a Belgian strong ale, though the pine comes through a bit more in the finish. Flavors of ripe cherry and pepper as well, with a warm, alcohol, and slightly bitter finish. Not what I expected, but quite nice nonetheless.

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Photo of Jason
4.12/5  rDev +9%
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 mattmaples
3.24/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Straw yellow, very herbasious. Not a bad flavor but not great beer. I prefer the heather and the elderberry better.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.78 out of 5 with 693 ratings