Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
720 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: 720 | Ratings: 1,144
Photo of Sammy
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Certainly worth trying. I could probably handle a pint of this with a meal. A bit of peat moss in there, bitter, long dry finish. Citrus, honey,some malts. Barley in there. Understated carbonation. I wonder how this would be three years aged. Orange colour.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.08/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a slightly hazy light orange with a 1 inch white head that fades to a thin film on the top of the beer. Random patterns of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is very subdued overall. There is a slight malt aroma but I am not getting much else from this one. Taste is of malt and some herbal flavors. I assume that is possibly from the heather used in the beer but it's really not a floral taste. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly flat and creamy mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty average beer. I have had some other beers of this style that are much better overall and with more of the traditional flavors I have read about.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The Heather ale is very interesting. It's light in color pouring a golden yellow color with a soapy white head. The beer is very smooth on mouthfeel and light. The flavors are herbal and very floral. The heather gives the beer a bit of a spice thats pretty interesting a different from most ales out there. I love the historical quality of this beer. Very cool stuff.

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Photo of metter98
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is hazy golden yellow in color. It poured with a thin white head that quickly faded away into lacy patterns of bubbles. A light amount of carbonation is visible.
S: Floral aromas stand out in the smell; heather and rosemary stand out in particular and there are also some notes of sweetness.
T: Like the smell, the taste mainly consists of floral and herbal flavors and has a mild amount of sweetness.
M: It feels light-bodied and relatively smooth on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation.
D: The beer is very easy to drink because the floral tastes are not very overpowering. I'm not sure if I could have more than one of these in a single sitting because of its mild amount of sweetness.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A pleasant break from hoppier and bigger bodied beers. Unusual in its content and complexities. Pours a slightly hazy orange-yellow color. Suprisingly good head retention from moderate co2. Very perfumy and floral to the nose. Slight malt sweetness, no hop detection. Flavors of mild sweetness, more like honey than malt. Heather tips make me feel like I'm chewing on rose pedals. Quite refreshing in its aromatics and honeysuckle flavor. Soft and delicate (almost powdery) to the palate., fades into a thin sip. Very nice beers.

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Photo of brentk56
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a hazy golden color with a nice head that displays decent retention and splotchy lacing

Smell: Bready, sprucy, herbal aroma

Taste: Biscuity opening with a sprucy herbacious character; herbal flavor builds into a bitter finish that is peppery and somewhat medicinal

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Interesting and worth a try for the historical context; you can surely see why hops are an improvement on heather as a bittering agent

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Photo of kojevergas
3.64/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Full disclosure: I don't have any idea what "heather" is or what it might taste like. 1 pint .9 fl oz brown glass bottle with branded silver pressure cap acquired at Whole Foods and served into a flared stem-tulip in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are above average. Product of Scotland. 5% ABV confirmed. Best before: November 2013. Imported by St. Killian.

Served straight from the fridge and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: Pours a 1.5 finger biege colour head of fair cream, decent thickness, and above average (~4 minute) retention. Body colour is a translucent semitransparent pale copper. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Light even lacing sticks to the sides of the glass as the head recedes. It's generally appealing. There are no overt flaws, but there's nothing unique or special.

Sm: Quite pleasant, actually. Pale malts, a bit of crystal malt, lovely floral hops, pale grains, sweetness, nectar, flowers, mint, and herbs. I'm rubbish at plucking out specific herbs, but I do know there're herbs here. Sorry to state the obvious. Love the rich flowery notes. A bit milky. A mild strength aroma.

T: Hm. Tasty stuff. Quite floral (in terms of both hops and herbs). Some minty grassy notes in there too. Honey. Pale malts form the body. It's grainy and grassy throughout, yet surprisingly drinkable. I guess I expected some kind of weirdly herbal spicy undrinkable stuff, but I'm pleasantly surprised with it. A touch of lactose. Milky. Reminds me of a weird saison in a way. Balanced and flavorful. I quite like it. There isn't a whole lot of complexity here, but it's pleasant and enjoyable.

Mf: Smooth, smacky, and wet. Good thickness for the flavour profile. Good carbonation.

Dr: A very drinkable little beer for nights when you want something a little different. I'd get it again in the right mood and at a good price. Sessionable. It's a nice change of pace and I can see why it's potentially the most known example of the style.


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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.2/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle: Poured a hazy orange color beer with a small head and not much in terms of retention. Aroma is somewhat malty with some strange sweetness. Taste is also sweeteer then expected though it does not seem to come directly from added sugar but more derived from one of the other ingredient. Light spices also hit the palate at the end and again are hard to properly identified. Nice and enjoyable overall but would not necessarily seek this again.

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Photo of zeff80
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a light orange color with a small, bubbly, cream colored head. No lacing.

S - It smelled of grains and very floral. Also, notes of pine and citrus.

T - It tasted of pine and grasses. It had a spice flavor reminiscent of nutmeg.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A light to medium-bodied beer.

D - This was pretty good. Only the second beer of this style that I've had, but I enjoyed it.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.77/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a golden peachy color with some nice white lacing.

S: Lots of floral and herb notes. Bits of honey and caramel.

T: Very much like the smell with some extra sweetness. Nothing bitter about this coming from the hops, only a slight floral character.

M: Pretty thin and quite smooth. A little bit dry without any alcohol presence.

D: Interesting and quite drinkable. Nothing too awing about the flavor, but it was a nice brew to try.

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Photo of nickfl
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - One finger of white foam on a clear, golden body. The head quickly settles to a thin film and leaves behind little lace.

S - Malty/ grainy aroma with notes of floral honey (heather, I guess) and herbal hops.

T - Grainy flavor with some floral notes and mild, herbal hops. Grainy, slightly watery finish with a lingering medicinal note.

M - Medium body, moderately high carbonation, and a fairly dry finish.

D - Reasonable drinkability, but hardly inspiring (especially at $5 for a 12oz bottle). Reminds me of an average quality German pilsner; herbal but not particularly crisp or refreshing.

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Photo of mothman
3.2/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a light white head. Color is a hazed golden orange.

Aroma: Sweet and sour. Apples, bananas, pears, apple sauce, and some spice. Pretty fruity.

Taste: Odd mix of fruit. It is like a fruit cocktail. Grapes, pears, apples, juice. It has an old taste to it, if that makes any sense. Fruity and sweet with some honey.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and refreshing. Lighter bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends dry.

Overall, an odd beer, but kind of good. Just unique. I really wouldn't want to drink too much of this.

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Photo of oberon
3.66/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had heard about this ale,and saw it at the local specialty store.Was pleasantly suprised didnt like the smell but had a nice fresh flavor,never had a beer with that kinda flowery-like taste,best way I could describe it.

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Photo of superspak
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle into pint glass, best by Aug 2012. Pours a hazy golden orange color with a 1-2 finger dense white head with good retention that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Some spotty lacing on the glass. Aromas of honey, biscuit, pepper, herbs, light fruit, flower petals, earth, and yeasty spiciness. Some pretty nice and well balanced aromas with good strength. Taste of biscuit, honey, caramel, toffee, citrus, floral, clove, herbs, grass, and yeast spiciness. Lingering notes of honey, caramel, toffee, biscuit, and herbal spices on the finish for a bit. Great balance of malt and spiciness; with a nice and robust malt backbone for a 5% beer. Medium carbonation and body; with a nice and creamy mouthfeel. Alcohol is very well hidden with barely any warming noticed after the finish. Very smooth and easy to drink. Overall this is an excellent herbal ale. Great flavor balance and highly enjoyable to drink.

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Photo of chinchill
3.77/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

330ml bottle dated “best before” April 2012. Served in a pint glass.

Pours a dark golden-yellow with a smallish off-white head. Head dies back to a ring and partial coat within a few minutes but leaves some lacing. There’s a small amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle; I added this mid-taste, producing a slight amplification of the fine flavor.

For once, the description on the label of this beer’s sensory properties seem on target. It "has a distinctive floral aroma” and a “dry wine-like finish”. Malt is clearly evident in both aroma and taste, but not quite as rich or pronounced as the “full malt character” on the label might lead one to expect. Floral throughout, including the aftertaste, this beer leans towards sweet, which seems in keeping with the floral flavor profile. Still, it smells sweeter than it tastes. The rather light and dry mouthfeel also work integrate nicely to produce a very refined and distinctive sensory experience from an ancient ale.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.2/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a bright amber color, with a large off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is very spicy with some hops, fruit and light malts.

T: The taste is dominated by a floral & minty spiciness from the heather element and has some light flavors of fruit and hops in the background. The malt character is on the thin side but provides some substance. The after-taste is spicy and slightly bready.

M: Crisp and a little smooth, light-to-medium body, medium carbonation, clean finish.

D: A little tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, mild kick, it's a decent beer but for me the flavor just prevents me from wanting to drink it again.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

First had: bottle at Washington House, Sellersville, PA

Cool bottle. Poured hazy orange-brown with a nice white head that retained pretty well. Floral nose, with some malts and earth coming through. Nice herbal taste, with crisp floral highlights and a bit of citrus and earthiness coming through. Finishes pretty dry with a bit of a stale aftertaste, but overall crisp and drinkable.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml bottle - $2.49 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia. Both "Feb" and 2010 are notched on the label.

Appearance: Pours a lightly hazy, dark copper body with a smallish, frothy, white head.

Smell: Earthy, vaguely bready pale malt nose with herbal, floral, zesty heather and sweet gale scents.

Taste: Pale malts with a touch of toffee sweetness. Very slight bready quality. Taste of honeysuckle. Sans hops, so we find a spicy, floral, herbaceous quality midway to balance things out. You want to know something? Fairly modest, understated heather taste. Truth be told, this one really reminds me slightly of a pumpkin ale. Meager pinch of dried lemon peel. Also a small dash of white pepper and lingering taste of honey on the semi-dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium-low carbonation.

Drinkability: If you're up for a little more honesty, then here it is: I've always generally avoided this one. But, I find it surprisingly refreshing and very easily drinkable. Maybe I'll give that Alba a try one of these days.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Lucent butterscotch that fades to amber as it nears the edges of the glass. There are quite a few flecks and flakes swimming about, although the larger ones have become resigned to their bottom of the glass fate. The compact head is the color of lemon yogurt, is uniform in appearance, and is depositing very little lace. A vigorous second pour results in a much more interesting looking cap.

I don't believe I've ever smelled heather (at least I can't call up the scent memory right now), but there's nothing in the nose that is out of the ordinary or makes me think it's the heather talking. Revisiting the aroma after I've downed more than half the bottle--and after that violent second pour--I can appreciate the 'otherness', that portion of the nose that is undoubtedly due to heather. I just wish it was stronger.

Although the beer is milder than expected, the interestingness that I've been clamoring for has finally arrived. The flavor profile features a wonderfully soft, herbal, floralness that just has to be heather. The malt backbone falls into the bantomweight category and contributes little in the way of flavor. Also, there doesn't appear to be much hoppiness present. Question: are hops optional in a gruit or are they verboten? Answer: I don't know, that's why I asked the question.

The heathery flavor is a fraction too subtle, although it does flower with warming. Remember, there's no such thing as too much of a good thing; especially where beer is concerned. The mouthfeel is light-medium, which reinforces the ethereal, delicate nature of the beer. Fraoch Heather Ale is the fairy-like yin to Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale's druid-like yang.

Heather Ale is a keeper. Having said that, the aroma could be more compelling and the flavor more... uh... flavorful. These guys brew some interesting concoctions and deserve praise for brewing outside the box. Occasionally waaay outside the box. The price sticker reads $4.79. While it isn't quite worth that, I'm not sorry that I had the good sense to try this offbeat gruit.

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Photo of russpowell
4.01/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled in an Orval Glass

Pours a hazy bronze with a very thin but filmy head. Head retentention and no lacing what so ever. Bubbles rise to the top of the glass through out the tasting

Smell: Sweetness and berry like fruitness up front. Hints of grassiness and pepper notes

Taste: Crisp and tart with a slight toasted malt taste. Honey, grassiness, and floral tastesthat must come the heather, slight bitterness on the finish

MF: Syruppy and slightly under carbonated

Interesting change of pace that refreshes and is pretty darn drinkable. Wonder if this what William Wallace was chugging back in the day??

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Photo of Jason
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Slightly hazed with a thin white lace. Nice use of the heather, perhaps a bit over carbonated for my liking. The sweet heather flavour plays well of the dry malt character.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.38/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Surly shaker pint glass.

The fifth entry in SwillFest 2011. It pours a clear light russet-amber topped by a half-finger of dirty white foam. The nose comprises toffee, dark greens, light cocoa, brown sugar, and plenty of wet grass. The herbal-ness is strong. The taste brings in more of the same, though the chlorophyll content is significantly diminished (thankfully). The body is a rather light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a kinda creamy feel. Overall, not that bad, really. I remember having this years ago and nearly retching with every sip, but such a reaction was nowhere to be found here. Makes me wonder what it's doing here as part of SwillFest...

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Photo of Gagnonsux
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Hazy, dark golden color. Nice sized head, pretty creamy.

Smell- Sweet aroma, floral and fruity. I'm guessing the majority smell here is the heather.

Taste- Initially sweet with a mildly tart finish. Similiar in taste to their Grozet Gooseberry. I definently notice an herbal taste underneath the sweetness.

M.F./Drinkability- Smooth feeling on my tongue. Not quite as high on my drinkability scale as Heather Ale Ltd's other products. I could see this getting a little boring after a few bottles.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
2.9/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appears a pale copper hue with a bright white head forming thick, fine speckled lacing left behind on the sides of my chalice. Aroma spicy herbal, floral notes upfront with the heather additions, sweet caramel malt base with minimal to no hops. I'm pretty sure most of their brews are ancient gruit ales. Also in the nose is a strong honey like note from the malt profile, I know there's no actual honey but I'm getting a light generic fruitiness with a strong presence of rich honey. Flavor is spicy with a long dry finish, upfront light fruit a touch of honey and caramel malts dance around with floral/spicy heather and floral additions. Mouthfeel is lighter bodied with a mellow carbonation level, actually is pretty unremarkable. Overall a beer that just doesn't excite definitely not worth it for a ten dollar four pack thus far.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear golden color with a stingy white head that leaves my glass quickly. Smells of cooked corn, subtle floral fragrance which I assume is heather, a bit of ginger, some grainy malt maybe a bit of toffee as well. Taste is floral, herbal, with a grainy honey malt kind of feel to it. Crisp carbonation, medium body, sweet thin syrupy mouthfeel. I liked this one! Its different, but the herbs don't attack you like some other gruit brews that Ive tried. Light crisp and clean, if it wasn't so expensive I'd drink this more.

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Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 1,144 ratings.
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