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 yemenmocha
3.1/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance is not far off from a Hefe-Weizen. Pale golden color, hazy, white head. Things differ thereafter. Clean nose, light citrus. Light malt flavor with delicate hops, clean, light, drinkable. Some light floral qualities noted. Beer is easily overpowered with foods.

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Photo of garymuchow
3.72/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Crap, I hate having to re-add a review that I didn't save.
Anyway, a good looking beer with a large firm rocky tan head with dripping lacing. Body is a mostly clear amber of orange.
Tight aroma with an aqueous quality and soft flowery aroma. Unfortunately, a bit of oxidation on this bottle. A nice graininess appears as it warms.
Highlights for flavor are an interesting sweetness up front and an unique drying on the finish. Additionally there is a nice grittiness in the middle with a soft spiciness and herbal taste.
Quite thin emphasized by the low carbonation. However, drinkability is quite high.
This was good and interesting. I'll search for a fresher bottle next time.

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Photo of Taybeh
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%

From a 330 ml bottle into an imperial pint glass
A: pours a dark brownish burnt orange with a nice 1 finger head, and lots of sediment
S: earthy flowers (heather?) with a tinge of dull earthy sweetness
T: thin grainy dry maltiness followed by herbal tea notes with some honey and flowery sweetness. really nice finish with a tiny spicy kick.
M: fairly lively for style, light, not much body, refreshing. even better as it warms a bit.
Overall, this is really good gruit. I'd drink it again, without hesitation.

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Photo of ordybill
3.44/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 500 CL bottle into a pint glass.
Aroma- I could smell the barley and a soft floral aroma.
Appearance- This beer is a murky golden color and has zero head when poured.
Taste- A rather basic brew, nothing very memorable but not bad.
Palate- This is a medium to light bodied beer with minimum carbonation and a crisp finish.
Overall- It was OK, I think I need to give it another try and see if I missed out on this.

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Photo of Amalak
4.2/5  rDev +12%

Wheaty, feels like brett hops. Yellow with a good foamy white head. Sweet, caramel, but a strong rye feel underneath. Quite refreshing. A hint of lemon

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Photo of Lukman
4.5/5  rDev +20%

Nice to get a decent unhopped beer with a pre-Reinheitsgebot recipe. Hops increases the production of estrogen in the body and the Church wanted to feminize people to make them more compliant, especially as the Inquisition was winding down. Hence, they forced the use of hops upon brewers; first in Germany, then everywhere.

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Photo of WesMantooth
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

First in this style for me, so going on description. Pours a hazy golden color. Small white foamy head. Smells kind of yeasty with some citrus (lemon maybe) and a sweetness I cant pinpoint. Taste is sweet and unique like Paw Paw fruit. Zesty citrus, honey, flowery or herb like, but not hops, and a solid malt base. Above average carbonation gives it a little bit of a crisp bite like champagne. Slightly slick/sticky aftertaste/finish. Otherwise, medium bodied. Not a favorite by any means, but pretty easy drinking and enjoyable. I would recommend trying just because it is very different.

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Photo of sommersb
4/5  rDev +6.7%

Tasted On: 09-11-2014
Freshness: Best by 09-30-2014
Packaging: 500ml brown bottle, pry-cap
Glassware: Nonic pint
Purchased: Single from Liquor Barn, Bowling Green KY

Average white head sits on the semi-hazy beer golden in color. Fair head retention and good lacing. The aroma is floral, plus has lemongrass and other tart, citrus smells.

Taste has a light malty flavor, with grassy notes. Also honey flavors, and is overall somewhat sweet. Light in body with a clean feel, the beer is low to moderate in carbonation. Finish is lightly sweet.

Very enjoyable, for a beer with no hops. Kudos to the brewery for recreating an ancient-style ale that you hardly ever hear of.

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Photo of BeerDrinkersWorldTour
3.25/5  rDev -13.3%

Appearance – Cloudy and light golden amber. There is good evidence of natural carbonation a decent head of tight whit bubbles which retains reasonably well and leaves really good lacing.

Smell – Nice leafy bouquet up front with hints of berry and citrus. There is also evidence of earthy malt smells on the mouth and mild boozy aroma.

Taste – There is a clear sharpness to this brew. The earthy malt taste comes through with a little mild citrus. No hop to speak of but it does have a woody character from the heather the flavour lingers longest on the very back of the tongue.

Mouthfeel – A little sticky and coating the back of the tongue there is no warmth and little evidence of the carbonation I expected.

Overall – An interesting brew if a little confusing. It has a long history being the oldest beer style still brewed in Europe (dates to 2000B.C). Flavour difficult to pin down and may be very hard to review for some. It is probably not the best Gruit I have had but it is still more than drinkable and I would not steer others away from it even if I personally would not rush out to buy another.

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Photo of Cramshawbar
2.75/5  rDev -26.7%

How do you rank water? I never thought of it before.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Fraoch Heather Ale but then there is really very little taste to describe here. Even the burp tastes of nothing.
This is a very refreshing summer beverage, just don't try to pretend that it's beer. It tastes nothing of the sort.
Reading some reviews, I am confused as to what they have tried. They talk of things that are simply not here. Could mine be an old beer? says that it is good until January, 2015.
Very puzzled indeed.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%

A: Pours a golden color with almost no head

S: Malty, floral, and grainy. Zero hop presence, but the heather makes up for that

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with the malts and graininess and then the heather and some fruitiness come through, making that the ultimate taste in the finish

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation

O: A nice easy drinker that has an underlying heather nose and flavor. Again, no real hop presence anywhere so it's a little different in that regard. Recommended for a nice change of pace

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Photo of SamKetchum
4.42/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

The history behind this ale is fascinating. The bottle tells the story of the oldest Scottish Ale, dating back to 2000 b.c. At the initial sip it is sweet with distinct floral overtones. A slight twist of hops then appears, followed by light earthy malts- giving the beer its character. The aftertaste is slightly nutty and is strangely chalk like. Very good overall, a testament to the 4000 years its been brewed. I'd definitely go another.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
3.61/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

$ 2.79/11.2 oz (330 mL) bottle at Vintage Estates in Boardman, OH
Bottle best by Aug 2015 at 45 degrees into imperial pint
Aroma somewhat woody and herby
Head average (4.5 cm), white, frothy, slowly diminishing to 3 mm layer
Lacing good – broken rings and stalactites of small bubbles
Body light yellow, clear
Flavor light, slightly sweet, somewhat herby; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, watery, soft carbonation

I don’t know what heather smells or tastes like, not having been in Scotland in at least a decade, so I don’t know whether the herbiness is the typical heather aroma/flavor or not. I do know that this is an interesting if somewhat innocuous beer. I would like to find this on tap sometime.

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Photo of wimteiss
4.27/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A really really great Viking Style Pale. The Williams Bros are known for their super light mouthfeel and herbal flavors. Out of the whole lineup, the Fraoch Heather is my favorite. The pour is a clear amber, but the lack of head or lacing was originally concerning. Smells of sweet grasses and light florals. The taste... is.. spot on. Crisp and clean, Heather comes in for a quick kiss of herbs, sweet malt, and an earthy essence. She finishes quickly and leaves you refreshed, but wanting more. Thirst quenching, tasty, easy to drink. Definitely will drink again.

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Photo of doktorhops
4.37/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Well, well: Fraoch Heather Ale, at last we meet - I have been wanting to sample this brew ever since I started reviewing beers and heard of the Scottish Gruit style. As I have always had a fascination with ancient history the idea of trying one of their original beers (Fraoch has been brewed for over 4,000 years) has managed to burrow its way into my soft grey matter like those brain worms from The Wrath of Khan. Now it's finally time to feed my brain worm.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a St Feuillien chalice.

A: Presents with a hazy light Tangelo body and white soap bubble lacing that dissolves into a ring around the glass.

S: Flowery and fruity with a honeyed malt base. The flower notes are camomile and honeysuckle. The fruit notes are overripe pear and nectarine. A very pleasing aroma, quite sweet but nonetheless enjoyable.

T: Hmmm, it's different, in a great way - flavour is honey dominant without being overly sweet - if you wanted to taste a beer with the essence of honey this nails it. Those overripe pears and the flowery heather also round out the palate. The finish is a light medicinal herb bitterness with a dry vinous touch.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light carbonation.

D: The more this brew warmed up (I had it in the freezer - it was ice cold) the more spice flavours came out, such as mulled wine spices. Also the after taste was nothing like any other brew I've tried - a bit of herbal funk. This was a unique experience, however if I have better access to this beer it would easily find a place amongst the regulars - an excellent drop, air do shlàinte!

Food match: Roasted pig on a spit with a honey-glaze, roast carrots, potatoes and fennel - your typical medieval fare for an ancient ale.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.76/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle stamped Jan 2015. Sampled on June 27, 2014.

The pour is a cloudy looking pale yellow with a modest white head that fades.

The aroma is full of herbal notes and flowers. Perfumed up with a malt mixture hanging out in the background.

The body is light to medium.

The taste has a thin grainy character but the herbal spices really define this beer. I will have to assume that the unusual flowery flavor comes from the heather flower, which I am not entirely familiar with. This most definitely has a unique quality to it.

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Photo of patre_tim
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Light filtered copper, highly carbonated, a two finger off white head. Foamy lacing, leaves the glass lookin like the icing on a gingerbread house.

S: Caramel sweet flowery smell, light and fragrant, perhaps some honey, and malt, some vanilla.

T: Light, herbed and malty. Getting lots of green herbs, as well as a flowery taste which I suppose to be heather. Smooth, crisp, finishes with a little bitter aftertaste from herbs but minimal and faint.

M: Light, foamy but moderate to high carbonation.

O: Similar to the Gooseberry wheat ale by the same company, in texture and somewhat in flavour, but more gentle and relaxed, not as intense. Would go well with haggis I reckon. Love the history, good flavour, but not really grabbing me, unless I can find out more about this unique brew.

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Photo of chaskins11
4.29/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Had this after a weekend camping trip to the Isle of Eigg in Mallaig. Really cool label and a style of Scottish beer that has been around for thousands of years. Great beer with floral notes, earthy feel on the palate. Surprisingly smooth with a good finish. Hoping I can find this when I return to the U.S.

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Photo of admiral
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A light, easy drinking summer type ale. Different mouthfeel to a hop infused beer - lighter and less bitterness.

Taste: light honey, herbs, spice, light citrus and flora with grass.

Similar appearance, aroma and taste to a well crafted lager. Well balanced and subtle.

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Photo of eduardolinhalis
3.84/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

330ml served in a English pint glass.

A: Pours a clear yellow color forming a small, bubbled and white head. Low retention and only thin spotty lacings left in the glass

S: Sweet. Strong notes of herbs, blooms and honey. Deliciously spicy with a strong barley backbone. Notes of oranges and orange zest. Flowers... Some light notes of hops can be also felt in the end

T: Slightly sweet, as expected. Again, strong notes of honey and herbs. A bit fruity too, with notes of oranges, mainly. Very light hops bitterness, a very old ale, for sure. The barley backbone is a must. Delicious...

M: Light and a bit molasses body. Low carbonation. Sweet malts in the aftertaste

O: Good drinkability. A bit too sweet but, a classic old ale. My first Gruit Ale... Really recommended

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Photo of barczar
3.75/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a slightly hazy deep golden with minimal ivory head that dissipates to a slim ring of foam

Heather is evident at the forefront of the aroma, hearkening memories of herbal tea. Bready malt and a slightly sweet, almost donut character emerge.

Flavor reveals soft underpinnings of lemon, which contrast the herbal, floral heather character nicely. Doughy malt surfaces in the finish, slightly bready, to cleanse the palate.

Body is moderate to light, with carbonation a touch on the low side.

Haven't had much heather in my culinary ventures, so it's new ground for me. Very drinkable summer brew. I'm not a huge lemon fan, but it plays well here.

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Photo of Spesme
3.42/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

A - Pale straw colour with a very clear clarity. Head is a solid inch and a half. A very clean looking beer. Littl sign of carbonation.

S - Leafy and floral aroma.

T - Off the bat, it is very spicy and acidic. Floral notes with some herbs. Hard to pinpoint, but it has a very sharp taste. I really enjoy the herbal punch of the taste.

M - Smooth consistency with a delicate carbonation. Finishes dry and quick.

O - Much better than the Grozet IMO. Still lacking some oompf, but the sharp taste at the start really sells it for me. Would drink again.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
3.4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Bottle number 2 from the Williams Pack. Served cool into an oversized wine glass.

Appearance - A bit strange, it has a nice rich golden color, but appears thin an light coming out of the bottle. Virtually no head, but some effervescent bubbles are present and there's a little bit of white wisps of leftover head lingering at the top of the glass.

Smell - Refined beer graininess as from the finest of Euro Pale Lagers, but with a floral attitude about it that elevates it into something pleasant.

Taste - Not a ton here, basically a floral lager with lighter and more delicate sensations. The herbs shine through on very end of the taste and as it warms.

Mouthfeel - Very soft and light on the palate, while it appears to be well carbonated it is actually low carbonation in the beer. Medium finish as well.

Overall - Definitely not a bad beer, but certainly one I wouldn't rush out to repurchase. Didn't enjoy this nearly as much as the elderberry one. Still nice use of herbs here, just wish it shone through more.

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Photo of BeerDocT
3.98/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance 4.0: Very unusual looking beer. Little to no head, but a nice swirling of fizz after the pour. Color is a light honey and is completely opaque and cloudy.

Smell 4.0: Very nice bouquet. I detect a big yet delicate floral note and an unexpectedly big presence of barley malt along with a subdued honey scent.

Taste 4.0: Very unusual. Front is where a pleasant and subdued floral taste comes through. Think of chamomile tea. Middle is dry and I taste a pleasant blending of floral and barley tastes here. Finish is where the barley malt comes in, but this is subdued as is the requisite barley sweetness. Finish is short and pleasing with a quick fade away into a semi-dry mouthfeel.

Mouthfeel 3.75: Very pleasant and balanced but I felt it needed a bit more bubbles.

Overall 4.0: I did not know what to expect buying a beer that claimed to be made of flowers, but this brew did not disappoint. Certainly not so different that it would lead your average lover of hops and barley would turn up his/her nose -nonetheless-- this beer is unusual. However, it retains enough elements present in "modern" beers to stand as a beer that is supposedly similar to what the Scots drank in 2000 BCE, but is still readily accessible to modern beer drinkers. Recommended for the historical elements alone, but this beer certainly is worth trying just to drink a great beer.

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

A- Cloudy reminiscent of cider with a light orange hue. Fine bubbles form at the peripheral pour with medium soapy bubbles remaining after dissipation.

S- Malty and floral. Smells more of crushed petals and stem than actual whole flower. Smells little like a lager, maybe the clean malt?

T- Again tastes lager-like, it could be how I perceive the sweet gale. Taste has a soft presence, fine balance of the malt, heather and sweet gale.

M- Carbonation is light to prevent prickly acidity from overtaking the heather.

Impressively balanced for such subdued herbal additions. A big departure from yeast, malt, or hop forward flavors. It is something that is quietly impressive for balance and uniqueness. I unfortunately probably judge too harshly because this isn't a style I drink often.

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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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