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 VanTyne
4.26/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I'll skip the details of the day's adventures. But, SW Harbor. Chilly, blustery, cloudy day. 3 hour sail on old wooden sloop, winds gusting over 20 knots.

So i am looking for warmth, something to get the chill out of the bones.

This beer did it. With a bowl of fish chowder and a meatloaf sandwich. Ok, a nice black scotch ale knocked the cold down and got the blood moving again to start. But this beer did the warming. Went very nicely with the chowder and sandwich.

The golden is golden, hinting towards darker.

There is an earthy, rather than hoppy smell. Subtle. Like early Autumn, which it was, rather than the dark wet smells of November.

Same with the taste. Lightly mysterious. Crispy finish.

I only wish i could have brought one or two home to drink by the stove. I usually like darker, maltier beers in this kind of weather. But this hit the spot nicely. A relaxing beer.

A very good beer.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.24/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

11.2 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a golden color with numerous yeast floaties. The head is two fingers high, and barely off-white in shade. Settling down to one finger quickly, it leaves very sticky, thick patches of lacing on the glass.

S: I really pick on the herbal quality this brew was going for - definitely smells like heather. There's also an undercurrent of honey throughout. Little to no caramel in the malt profile, but there might be a touch of toffee also.

T: Heather hits the palate immediately. After that, notes of honey appear, both in the sweetish middle and dry finish. They did a good job of showcasing the herbal flavors, despite being simplistic to a fault.

M: The finish has a good crisp dryness to it, with only a slight linger of sweetness to help balance it out. Maybe it's a bit under-carbonated - watery even - but it's still very easy to drink.

O: A fine quaff with no wow factor. I could easily drink this again, if not very often. Good to break up the monotony of mediocre brown ales and IPAs, though.

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Photo of Act25
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

11.2 oz brown bottle with a Celtic label. "Brewed in Scotland Since 2000". Best b4 Aug 2013.

I was expecting a wee heavy scotish ale, but this heather ale could be a summer ale. Fresh, spicy, refreshing, not sweet.

Appearance: Golden ale color, lots of floaty bits (Yeast, heather?) Only with a thin white head, but moderate lace.

Smell: Original. Subtle. Floral, herbal, nectar-like, a bit of crackery malt. Nice to to sniff.

Taste: Starts with light, pale malt that transforms to a herbal, grassy, tea-like, flavor (from the heather?). Nice after taste. Refreshing. Summery. Heather fields. Heather and grass.

Feel: medium to light, refreshing, fine carbonation.

Overall: If you drink beer, you gotta try this because it's one of the oldest styles in history.
It's like a summer ale, sessionable, drinkable and refreshing. "Fraoch" is Gaelic for Heather.

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

I'm not sure if I've had an ale with Heather nor had a heather ale. So I don't know what it is supposed to be.

It opens to a lighter than expected color and a nice thin head. The color is a dark yellow and almost transparent.

It tastes like a watered down English ale - less dark and nasty. And it has a fruit spice sweetness. The aftertaste is a mile ale bite.

This ale doesn't seem that ancient - very civilized.

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Photo of silverking
3.35/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

A- Hazy gold with a small white head that fades fast, no distinct lacing.

S- Floral, malt, Honey. Delicate, It smells like a field of flowers.

T- Light and grassy with notes of honey. The finish is dry and shows some malt. It is a little watery.

M- light bodied, light carbonation. Refreshing.

O- Interesting, strange, floral. I'm not quite sold on it, but I'm glad I had it.

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Photo of IchLiebeBier
3.25/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: orangish gold; slightly cloudy; small head, dissipates quickly

Aroma: delicate fruit and flower with something different (I assume heather)

Taste: Juicy malt with an interesting flavor; low (or no) hops and flowery notes

Remarks: I can't place the flavor, but it reminds me of one of the spices in spaghetti sauce, I think; this makes it less desirable as a beer; otherwise, it would be tasty

I didn't score A, S, T, M at that time, so please disregard those scores

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Photo of BWED
3.64/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a tumbler from a 330 ml bottle

A- Golden in color with a light, just off white head. Thin but producing a minute amount of lacing.

S- Earthy and floral notes arise, sitting on a light malt backbone.

T- Very light malt flavor, with a little herbal/grassy balance. Very mild and light.

M- Very light body, and pretty light carbonation. The finish is smooth, with an earthy sweetness.

O- This is the first gruit I have had, and the first unhopped beer I have had, as far as I know. It is a pleasant experience to taste something like this, in regard to the location and time period these kinds of beer were made, but on the other hand, it's rather plain, and couldn't find myself drinking many of these in a sitting.

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Photo of PumaSaysRawrr
3.14/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I received this bottle of 'Maple Syrup" from a good non beer drinking friend in the UK for Christmas. I sort of got sick of shoving it around every morning in my search for the Shiriachi so I decided to drink it. I poured about 6 oz in to a Sam Smith pint glass to start. Beautiful pale amber with a nice white head. I was a little surprised to see how hazy it was to the point I just assumed my glass was dirty. So after finishing the first bit I gave the glass a proper scrubbing and to my surprise it was the beer that was hazy. If you give it a good squint there are little bits of sea monkey bobbing around. Not full on kingdom sea monkeys more like sea monkeys that had a wood chipper accident.
Very mild flavor a perfect drinking and matching socks all day kind of beer. Lightly carbonated which is good cause I don't know how well those sea monkeys will burp up! No smell at all which also makes it good for drinking and matching socks all day cause nothing is worse than socks that smell like spilt beer!

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Photo of BeerRefugee
3.41/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottle. Pours a dark yellow-gold color. Thin off-white head that dissipates quickly but leaves some residual lacing. Aroma is floral, grassy with hints of grain. Flavor is a mix of floral with sweet malt and clover honey. Light bodied and very dry finish that borders on astringent. Light, easy-drinking and sessionable, but not something I would probably seek out.

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Photo of JayReq
4.36/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I poured this into a small tasting glass.

Appearance: Deep golden hue, a little clouded. Pours a flimsy white head that settles down very quickly. Little to no lacing on the glass. Very plain.

Nose: A very fruity/floral head, with notes of honey and pine, and a tiny bit of syrup. Honestly, one of the best beers I have ever smelt. The scent matches the taste, and with a taste so appetizing, it is hard to rate this one as anything less than great.

Taste: Matches the nose in almost every way. A very delicate honey over fruit, a slight tinge of pine. Very, very drinkable.

Mouthfeel: Smooth over the tongue, it has a really bubbly finish that reminds me this is definitely an ale. A bit of a herbal explosion right before the swallow. Again, very, very easy to drink.

Excellent Scottish Gruit. Pick this one up if you can get your hands on it.

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Photo of bmwats
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 33 cl bottle into a footed tulip.

A: Deep golden hue. Pours about a quarter finger, foamy, white head. Quickly dissipates. Very distinct and persistent beer ring lacing.

S: A little freshly cut grass, and a slight pine hop. Strong scent of fructose, and sweetened indistinct fruity syrup.

T: Papery malt tone. Very slight bitterness. And a very light carbonated fruit soda thing. None of the components overpowering, well-balanced.

M: Light, but kind of a syrupy texture. Slightly dry finish.

D: Not much resistance. Very good drinking brew.

Atmosphere is really solid. Nice hue, not much of head, but light but distinct lacing. Nose consists of many subtle notes of grass, hop, fruit, and corn syrup. Flavor is a very light malt tone, accentuated with a little soda and fruit, and finished with a slight bitterness. Overall, this is a really good quaff.

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Photo of secondtooth
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a clean amber, with a solid head of off-white suds. Little residual lace.

Nose is floral and honey-like, with some unusual herbal tones. Not bad.

Taste is more of the herbal, with a touch of fruit in the mix somehow. Definitely a malt-based ale, this one brings a floral finish. Enjoyable and different from the usual craft ales.

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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 FLima
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Amber orange color, a bit hazy. It made hardly one finger of head, left laces though.
Floral aroma, very easy to identify its heather herbs, I found it similar to juniper berries.
Taste is also very herbal and refreshing. Sweet malt with a clear hint of heather and gale herbs, giving a mild spicing sensation. Dry finish though not really bitter.
Light body with medium carbonation.
Interesting to have an idea, through this example, on how beer tasted a long time ago before the use of hops. Also the fact that it tastes a bit similar to juniper beers, it may indicate that this was the standard of how beers should taste like back then.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Semi hazed golden color with a bright white head which dies quickly. Very tea like and herbal on the nose. Tastes almost Belgian like. Sweet rose water notes upfront with faint bubble gum and banana . Medium body with light effervescence. Herbal and tea like on the back end. Dismissed finish with bright flavors lingering. Pretty nice and easy drinking.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.49/5  rDev +19.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fraoch Heather Ale has a medium, soapy, off-white head, a hazy, yellow-golden appearance, with streaming bubbles, floating, light-brown chunks, and lots of lacing left behind. The aroma is of sweet bread, spices (grains of paradise?), bread crust, and malt. Taste is of various, mixed spices, sugar, bread, malt, and there is no bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium and slick, and Fraoch Heather Ale finishes mostly dry, easy drinking, and spicy. Overall, this is excellent, and I would recommend checking it out.


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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.45/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

500 ml bottle poured into a Nonic.
5% ABV, Best Before end OCT 2013 stamped on back label.

A - Fraoch Heather Ale pours faintly hazed by small floating particles, though not unattractive in nature. The golden beer is topped by a full off-white head that lingers momentarily before reducing to a ring of foam and skim but not without leaving frothy, wispy lace which clutches the whole pint down to the last sip!

S - Wonderful wildflower floral and herbal fragrance encases the pale malt base of this beer with an exceptional earthiness while traces of lemongrass citrus slowly waft out. Dry malt and lingering sweetness encourages perception of the beer's age (ancestry) and ancient brewing techniques.

T - Unique from the start, Scottish malt brings with it some sweetness; notes of honey dribble over the delicate but unmistakeable additions of heather flowers. A gently kiss of light citrus seductively lingers on the finish of this ancient ale.

M - Fraoch Heather Ale has a smooth body, though not without carbonation, and a dry, distinct herbal finish that does wonders to balance the light sweetness along the finish. Quite drinkable indeed.

O - Explosive craft beer growth can make it hard to find something new and really unique but take one look at this fantastic label; within is an ancient beer brewed long before "craft beer" and in a sea of crazy options, Fraoch Heather Ale is still unique and outstanding. This earthy, floral and herbal beer has layers of complexity and ancestry ingrained in it for an outstanding, one-of-a-kind experience.

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Photo of Braz
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Aroma: Floral and slightly herbal.

Appearance: Hazy gold color with a light white head.

Taste: Balanced and clean. Some herbal and grassy notes. Not a whole lot going on thought, on the bland side.

Mouthfeel: Pretty easy to drink. Not real heavy, actually a fairly light feel. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: Easy drinking and herbal, the herbalness is subtle though. Would have again.

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Photo of rickyleepotts
3.07/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

William, the beer manager at Total Wine & More in Scottsdale initially recommended this beer to me. After reading about it, the brewing process, and what all goes into it, I am if nothing else curious. I am excited to see how the heather flower affects the color, aroma, and flavor of this beer. I like words like "wirelike" and "dry finish" when used to explain this beer. I have no idea what to expect, but for that price (and that ABV) it better be good! I am sure drinking this will remind me of Europe, and it will make me want to go on a trip. Speaking of that, I am in need of a vacation. It's been too long! Where should I go?

I am excited to drink this beer, and we will actually be doing two beers today. It has been a few days since we reviewed a beer, and are excited to get back into the swing of things. We have a lot of good beers lined up, and I want to drink them all! Speedway Stout is one of them from AleSmith. I have heard nothing but good things about that beer. Anyway, let's see what the Heather Ale tastes like.

In the Glass: When I poured this, I could smell the dryness from the heather. When I think of heather, I think of tall thick grass on a golf course. That is what I call heather… some golf courses have high grass, think raptors from Jurassic Park, and most courses that have heather are links style courses. Makes sense this is a Scottish beer, as most traditional links style courses come from Scotland.

At any rate, Sheryl said, "This looks like orange juice." Hardly. It's cloudy, but looks more like a Blue Moon than orange juice. We have orange juice in the fridge if she wants to compare the two! The beer pours smooth, with a lot of bubbles, and a nice thin white head. Not much lace here, but my glass is really full. The bottle is 500ml. I can already smell this, so let's see what it smells like when I stick my nose in the glass.

Nose: I guess that is what the heather flower smells like. I always thought it smelled like grass, but what do I know? It has a nice dry aroma to it. It almost smells like sake. The beer has a really low ABV, though, coming in at only 5%. I bet this would be a good beer to pair with sushi. A second whiff has continued dryness and begs for a sip.

Flavor: William said this beer was good. He's right. It is good. But it's weird. Not in a bad way, but in a complex way. I have never tasted anything like this before. It has a mouthfeel of a beer (we will get to that) but it has a lot of flavors dancing across your palate. The flavor, to be honest, isn't that impressive. Once you get past the fact you are drinking a heather ale, with all the history that goes behind it, you don't really think about the ingredients or the flavor profile. It has a quick finish and practically no aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: When I was pouring this, I could tell there were a lot of bubbles. It isn't as carbonated as I had expected, and actually slides across the palate with a certain thickness that you wouldn't have guessed. The bubbles really hit toward the end/back of the palate, and as you swallow, you are left with the dryness that everyone talks about. I wonder if the flower is what is causing that…

Aftertaste: What aftertaste? There isn't much of an aftertaste here. The tongue is left dry, but I wouldn't call that an aftertaste. This is where the hops are supposed to be taking over, but since they don't use hops (or very few hops) in this beer, there isn't much bitterness.

Basically, this is a weird experience and an awkward flavor. I would order this again if I was eating, but only if there was good involved. I have a feeling this doesn't get better as it heats up, either. Just has a certain flavor that I would expect from a wheat beer that gets gross as it gets warm. Glad this was on the list, but I am not blown away. Has anyone tried this with food? (Oh, and the burp is horrible. It tastes like sour grapes.)

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Photo of Rutager
3.29/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Happy Gruit day!!!

Appearance. Pours a lightly hazy gold with a little amber and half a finger of white head.

Smell. Sweet and earthy herbs, a little chocolate (??), and a bit of pine forest. Hmmm.

Taste. Honey, woody herbs, chocolate again (????), some sweet light malts and a faint hint of berries.

Mouthfeel. Below medium body, medium-low carbonation.

Overall. Flavours were okay, but it was too sweet for me. Interesting, for sure.

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Photo of maclean25
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The first time I had this was during the summer. I remember finding it to be an average beer, nothing special. I won this bottle in a raffle. It has a best before date of May 2013.

It pours with very little head and I got no lacing.The body is clear (but looks thick) golden honey. It has the aroma of honey, oranges, and multi-grain bread. It has the taste of wild flowers and honey. Its flatness makes it seem like a tea of anonymous mixed herbs.There is no alcoholic taste. It ends dry with a flower-grass aftertaste. The most striking aspect of this beer is its balance; nothing overwhelming, combines to make a really good beer.

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Photo of MAbeerNE1
4.6/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at the Haven in Boston (Jamaica Plain) poured into a tulip. They are noting that this is the first time it has been on tap in the US. Judging by the reviews, that appears to be true. I was able to have one and half before the keg kicked (I drank the last half glass). Big thanks to my brother for taking me to The Haven to taste it.

Appearance: 1/2 to 3/4 inch bright white foaming head with decent retention. Color is an opaque yellow to light pale orange. Looks great.

Smell: Flower petals and a light citrus smell. Very subtle sourness.

Taste: Bright and sour tangerine/tangelo flavor and spiciness form the heather up front. Finish is bitter tangerine and pepper. Finishes bone dry and clean! Nothing is out of place here.

Mouthfeel: Remarkably soft; mild carbonation that gives a slight tingle on the tongue but overwhelmingly clean and crisp. Full and not the slightest bit watery.

Overall: Very glad to have had this on tap. I would go out of my way for this beer to have it again. A new favorite.

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Photo of BierStein711
4.6/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A whiskey lovers beer!

This is a throwback; more than a stone's throw. This is quite possibly a boulder's throw or a geode's throw. This is quite a beer.

The appearance of the beer is golden amber to burnt orange with moderate carbonation, and and a two finger head.

Moderate carbonation

The smell is of peaty malt, chewy malt from a scotch, and lastly a wee bit of floral hop.

The taste: piney, peaty malt, floral middle, and a light not so bitter finishing hop

Mouthfeel: oily, peaty, and smoky, this is very much like a whiskey.

Overall, I would have this fine brew again. Very brilliant!

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Photo of pkalix
4.32/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a golden orange with a thin film of head on top.
smells . . . . very, very interesting; cant quite place it... some kind of sweetness, though....
tastes . . . . very interesting, malt of some sort mixed with a bit of hop (as are all/most brews, but i just cant place it...._i guess i cant give it a fair review so far other than to say.... i like it, i think.
mouthfeel... is medium, nice and refreshing on the tongue.
overall, how do i put it? this stuff, while apparently seemingly a novelty, is quite flavorful and considered as a full fledged participant inthe world of beer- which is quite rare for the novelty category. it is a decent brew, and for whatever reason behind it's conception (as the review notes state), it's a very drinkable brew which would convince me of believing i am being healed of whatever ailment that is bothering me. of course, i prefer higher strength elixirs, but i can understand the primitive ways of mankind.

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Photo of andrenaline
3.62/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The first of the 'Historic Ale from Scotland' pack recently procured from the local LCBO.

A - Pours a slightly hazy golden copper colour, finger of head which quickly dissipates and leaves little lacing.

S - Dominated by caramel malts, hints of peppery spice, earthy hop profile, with a bready and grassy finish.

T - The caramel malt notes continue to dominate, a mild earthy hop profile with a unique sour citrus finish and an odd unidentifiable flavour that lingers that, by default, I will attribute to the heather flower.

M - Medium bodied, smooth and surprisingly dry.

O - A tasty brew, some unique flavours and easily drinkable. I'm glad I tried it, but it's not something I would go out of my way to get again.

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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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