Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
721 Reviews
Fraoch Heather AleFraoch Heather Ale

Brewed by:
Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Scotland, United Kingdom

Style: Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. heather ale is probably the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. From an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture. Into the boiling bree of malted barley, sweet gale and flowering heather are added, then after cooling slightly the hot ale is poured into a vat of fresh heather flowers where it infuses for an hour before being fermented.

Added by purplehops on 10-06-1998

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Reviews: 721 | Ratings: 1,147
Photo of The_Kriek_Freak
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It pours amber with a pillow-like head of great retention and lacing. Aroma is citrusy and floral. Taste is astringent, floral, and with hints of chamomile and ginger. Very carbonated on the tongue. Very refreshing!

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Photo of Chickenhawk9932
3.92/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a golden amber with a cream colored tall head, good retention.

Small is spice, Sweet malt, tea, and bitter herb.

Taste is a crisp clean malty ale with a dry herb hop finish. A nice scotch ale.

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Photo of Roguer
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Fairly clear amber ale, thin with a light head.

Aroma is sweet, slightly tangy, and herbal.

Flavor follows: it's sweet and herbal, reminiscent of Sahti. Gruit is a strange kind of brew, and enjoyable in small quantities.

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Photo of Urk1127
1.82/5  rDev -51.5%
look: 1 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.25

Cloudy pale yellow
Grape juice, smells like wort
Intensely herbal, berries, cilantro type herbs, mint? Dandelions.
Dryish, little to no. carbonation

Im sorry and i don't want to shit on an ancient recipe, but i am not a fan of the minty, herbal flowery taste. This is not for me. If you enjoy things like herbal tea. And i mean INTENSELY HERBAL like you physically took a bite out of a flower in the woods, youd enjoy this. I can not get into it myself.

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Photo of captaincoffee
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours golden with a medium head, large bubbles, just a touch of lacing. Nose is floral, obviously, but a surprisingly nice floral, more like very floral hops than just heather. Taste is like a solid traditional bitter with light fruit and floral undertones. Mouthfeel is medium-light, crisp.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought this would be lousy, but I quite liked it.

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Photo of Auraan
4.65/5  rDev +24%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured a cloudy golden body with no head to see. Overall impression of appearance is of an nice light ale. Scents of heather flowers and general floral aromas, light sweet malt and honey aromas and a backing of peat moss, a touch of grainy malt and a faint hint of mineral water. Overall impression of aroma is of a nice floral beer with a more pronounced malty aroma than modern style ales due to use of flowers instead of hops. A nice gruit, true to ancient Gaelic origins. Flavor begins floral, with flavors of heather mingling with lightly sweet malt and honey flavors and a grainy malt at moderate levels. Middle adds a further level of grainy malt and light honey sweetness mingling with floral flavors that provide bittering to balance the malt character. Finish is dry with floral heather flavors and grainy malt backed by very light honey and sweet malt to provide balance. Aftertaste is dry, grainy malt and floral heather. Overall impression of flavor is of a very nice, flavorful beer. It is full and malty but balanced with a pleasant floral character and dryness that make it quite pleasing. The use of flowers over hops makes the flavor unique, though to compare it to a modern style it would be most similar to the clean, bright, malty and floral character of a German Pilsner, despite being an ale. Mouthfeel is medium-light bodied and smooth, with a creamy character at the finish and medium-high carbonation. Overall impression of mouthfeel is of a nicely light, refreshing beer, something many of these ancient styles have in common. Overall this is an excellent take on the ancient gruit. A lovely aroma gives way to an excellent clean flavor and a refreshing mouthfeel, the sort of beer to drink when clean water wasn't available and flavor was desired.

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Photo of Beginner2
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

So, this is what my father's ancient ancestors drank !
The Williams Brothers should be commended for keeping alive this style and others lost to history.
Not being a fan of lots of hops, keep trying those different spices !

I note when a beer is listed in one of three books comprising my classical beer education.
Reviewed in Roger Protz' "300 Beers To Try Before You Die!"
"1001 Beers To Taste Before You Die", page 882. The reviewer claims it goes with rich and spicy food. I think I will test this.

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Photo of HattedClassic
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The beer doesn't pour a lot of head and seems to be very lightly carbonated but what head does form is very white and creamy. The beer itself is a cloudy pale gold that is actually nice to look at. At the very least, it definitely looks like an ale.

The smell is very nice and subdued. It doesn't have the super bitterness of an ale but it's spices and ingredients make for a very alluring smell. The heather is definitely front and forward while surrounded by a very nice sweet malt note. There is a definite overall floral note to this beer.

The taste has the same floral note created by the heather and malt note. There is also a slight bitterness to it as well that isn't found in the smell.

The feel is very good and very drinkable. It's a light bodied beer but on the heavier side. The beer seems to go down with a nice creamy texture. The carbonation is very light and almost non-existent but is enough to add a little texture to it.

Overall, a good beer and one definitely one to have at least once. It's definitely a unique style that isn't very common but still makes for a good drinking experience. Get it and enjoy it.

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Photo of vinicole
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pale yellow colour. Tight, frothy head.
Floral aroma with a hint of malt and honey.
Spicy malt taste.
Quite light and easy to drink if a bit unusual.

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Photo of pat61
4.25/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: this pours brilliant gold under a 1” white foam cap. S: This does smell herbal, I can get some pine but I do not remember what heather smells like. T: It has a spicy palate suggesting a spiced cola. F: Medium body and carbonation. O: An interesting, spicy beer.

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Photo of Andrewharemza
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy golden colour with small off-white head that last a couple of seconds with a thin lacing. Aroma is floral and malty, hints of spicy. Taste is also floral and a bit hoppy and sweet, hints of burned sugar. Low carbonation and medium body with a sweet finish.

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Photo of stortore
3.27/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

500 ml bottle into a tulip.

Pours a very clear golden yellow, with a small head and some lacing. Smell seems to be primarily the malted barley (?), earthy. Also grass, floral aromas. More floral as it warms. Taste is less earthy, the barley is more malty and a little sweet. Overall floral taste, some bitterness starting midway. Fairly smooth, does not leave a great aftertaste.

My first of the style and I'll try others, but this was not to my tastes. Must be a good example of the style, it seems well liked.

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Photo of Gajo74
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pear colored light and slightly cloudy color with a minimal head that U icily disapates into a thin frothy lace.
At first, the nose is grassy. Then it becomes sweet with a unique fruity aroma kind of like wild berries. the aroma is also earthy; herbal and floral.
Mostly sweet taste; some fruit, malt forward. However, the finish is more herbal and tea like. It leaves a nice lingering slightly bitter and dry aftertaste. It helps to balance out the beer. Nice light mouthfeel and easily drinkable. I drank it quite fast!
This is my first sampling of this style. I think it is a very interesting and unique style and one that I want to get to know more of.

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Photo of souljorn
4.99/5  rDev +33.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is by far my favorite beer of all time. It's made from a recipe from thousands of years ago. It's what a good beer would have been like around 500A.D. And it still stands true till today.

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Photo of psm90
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Light straw golden, like a hazy lager. Lots of carbonation.

S: Straw, sweet malts, grassy, slight spice.

T: So unusual. Sweet, honey malts with grass and herbs. I can taste a lot of rosemary, pine and some black pepper. It's got an odd spicy quality which cuts through the herby profile very well. There's some ginger in there, which adds to the spice a lot. As I drink more, this spiciness becomes more pronounced and nuanced. There's a taste (and a smell) which I can't describe; I assume that must be the heather. It finishes dry with a hoppy profile and more spice.

M: Medium to thin body with a good amount of carbonation and a dry finish.

O: A very interesting and very tasty beer. I'd like to try more beers with this profile. I could drink a lot of this.

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Photo of twosheds
2.64/5  rDev -29.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Kind of a peach color with a thin white head. Not a very appealing color for a beer, but I'm keeping an open mind on this one.

Smells kind of like dried fruit and some malty sweetness. It smells a bit sour

The taste is very light and hard to nail down. Kind of fruity and kind of sour. I kind of get the floral profile, but it's not what I expected.

I wanted to give this beer a chance since it's a unique style, but I was not a big fan of it. This is the only fraoch I've had, so I can't really say that it's bad for the style, but in general doesn't appeal to my taste.

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Photo of ZorPrime
3.67/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The beer is golden in color maybe light copper. Yeah, more light copper color. The head is white and frivolous. It disappear quickly. On the smell, its fruity, some sugar and a little sour. Nice smell. The intensity of the smell is medium.

In the mouth, its somewhat sour but the taste is quite light. Almost watery. Not much taste here. Its very timid on the taste side.

Effervescent. Light body in the mouth.

Overall, a good beer.

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Photo of Svingjo
3.36/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

This ale poured hazy golden colour with a thin white head. The nose is really subtle, maybe some corn and malt but not much else. There is some sweetness on the tongue, maybe caramel and malt, as well as a bit of graininess. Not much else. I don't really even get the heather that it's said its made with. Reminds me a bit of a standard light lager and I was expecting something a bit more floral.

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Photo of fscottkey
2.84/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

A: [3.75] Light gold to straw color. Beer is transparent and forms a small 1/2 finger head. The bubbles on the head are medium sized with some larger ones on the top. The head dissipates quickly. The bottle lists the ABV at 5.5% and the best by date (MAR 2016).

S: [2.75] Has the smell of an American Adjunct Lager. Sweet corn type smell.

T: [2.75] The taste follows the nose but with a dab if spice up front. The bottle says it has heather flower - maybe the taste I am getting is heather flower? (never really had a heather flower before).

M: [3.00] It is a tad watery and has medium carbonation. There is a lingering taste on the palate that is nice.

O: [2.75] Nothing to make this one stand out. It is just okay at best. I had some hopes for it to be a winner but it is not doing it for me. The nose and the taste are just slightly different than Bud (that is not a compliment).

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Photo of hansavijaticar
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Smells and tastes not far from light perfumy lager. Disappointing. Check out Williams' March of the Penguins though - one of the best stouts I've tried.

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Photo of mothmanscott
3.91/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours an almost clear deep straw/pale gold producing a rapidly diminishing, foamy, white head that leaves streaks, strings, webs & motes of lace. Aroma is pale malt, honey, faint nuts, grain, floral/herbal & a hint of sourness. Taste is light but not watery: malt, honey, floral, caramel, fruitiness with a grain, herbal, floral, dry finish. Aftertaste is dry, fruity & floral. No hops in it and no hop character. I have no idea what heather smells or tastes like so I have no basis to determine if I detect it in either the nose or mouth. Mouthfeel is light-medium bodied with moderate carbonation, light but silky & juicy becoming becoming very dry at the end. Unique & oh so drinkable.

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Photo of DaveBar
3.54/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Purchased as part of a mixed 4pk called Historic ales of Scotland. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- Opens well but pours no head or any film at all. Cloudy and gold colored

S- Not a lot here. Not much at all. Some berry hints but not much of it

T- Pretty usual which is a nice break but not a beer that has anything to remember. Just a water, alcohol and sugar mix. Mead like

M- Dry and crisp

O- Not much cup of tea. Don't much care for it. Guest material.

Food Pairing

This ok beer went well with....... Boiled hot dogs with various mustards, sauerkraut on a nice whole wheat bun.


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Photo of 57md
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark straw in color. Earthy nose. Grainy with a mild flavor profile. The body was fairly light but substantial enough to make for an enjoyable drinking experience.

Interesting from a historical perspective but that’s about it.

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Photo of JamieDuncan
3.42/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I'm Scottish, my sister's name is Heather for the "heather on the hill." I really wanted to enjoy this beer. But I did not. I love that they tried to revive this style but I did not care for it. Gave it some bonus points overall for uniqueness.

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Photo of ScentedHeathen
4.27/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

A hop free beer, a wonderful beer, very subtle. at the first sip your tongue will most likely be confused, don't worry this is quite normal. this is most likely your first time drinking a hop free beer. the Heather flavor is Heavenly and sublime( if you don't know what heather is look it up) and the fog often mentioned in literature is still present(a sudden sleepiness caused by certain fungi that grow on wild heather). if drank with food stick to something mild that will not overpower the floral goodness of this brew

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Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 1,147 ratings.
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