Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

Fraoch Heather AleFraoch Heather Ale
Liked This Beer
3.75 w/ 1,154 ratings
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

View: Beers | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,154 |  Reviews: 724
Photo of wheelinshirt
3.28/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Purchased this one from the Blue Dog in Lansdale for $4 a bottle (a bit steep and probably won't be worth it, but it is always cool to try a new style). Poured into a pint glass.

Looks like a dirty copper color, lots of sediment flecks floating around, a little visible carbonation and a small white head that has no intention of sticking around or leaving any lace.

Smell and taste are both unusual, a bit hard to describe. Herbal notes are definately the highlight, but there is a malty taste to it. It is pleasant, but pretty delicate.

Mouthfeel is pretty thin, a bit watery really. It seems like this would be a hard thing to work out, since a larger malt presence would be hard to balance out since there isn't any hop bitterness to balance it out (at least I don't think any hops are used). Maybe if it was really dry and even a bit funky--that would certainly be interesting.

Overall, an okay beer and certainly an interesting thing to try, but I don't think I will try this one ever again, but I might make a heather beer sometime on my own.

 1,054 characters

Photo of Strix
3.75/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I didn't really know what to expect from this, cool-looking label.

Pours a pale orange with a short-lived head.

Smell is quite mild, but hints of flowers and herbs on top of a malt background.

Taste is interesting. Not strong, but pleasant. Lots of herbal notes, yet a solid malt base. Some citrus in the finish as well. Different, but enjoyable for me.

Mouthfeel seems a bit weak.

This was enjoyable. Something different, but light and drinkable. Flavors blend together well.

 482 characters

Photo of tapman
3.34/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Golden orange body with white, 1 finger foamy head. Looks like a pilsner, perhaps a little lighter on the yellow side. I'm not sure about rating this one for the style since I've never had a scottish heather ale before, but it doesn't look too interesting.

Smell is sweet and fruity. Fruit is a cross between banana and apple. Malts are light and pale. Heather smells like a good substitute for hops. A different bitter quality is present than when hops are involved. The bitterness is similar, though invitingly sour.

Definetly pale malts, I'm thinking U.K. pale. Heather is subtle and sweet. This beer is interesting as it tastes like a regular recipe brew though is a bit...not off, but tweaked slightly in a different direction. Heather is sour and sweet and floral, a nice combination. Still pretty light, though.

Mouthfeel is thin and a bit cloying. Fine for a hot summer afternoon, but blah for the rest of the time.

Interesting, though too similar to a golden euro lager, even though its an ale. Not my favorite style, but it's new and I can certainly appreciate something outside of the ordinary.

 1,109 characters

Photo of khiasmus
4.07/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pale golden-orange with a soapy white head and excellent clarity. Head drops quite fast and leaves no trace behind.
Heather is evident in the nose, a hint strawy with light grain, sweet, and vegetal notes.
The flavor is much the same: strawy, grain, slight vegetals with hints of banana, florals, ginger and cinnamon in the back. Hops balance moderately, giving an overall good, balanced impression despite the strangeness of the brew.
One could quaff a good amount of this, and would be continually drawn to the simplicity of drinkability paired with the faint complexities and subtleties. Quite enjoyable.

 607 characters

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

There was a whiff of cardboard as the bottle was first poured, but that quickly dissipated and the beer didn't seem to exhibit any flaws. What I when got was an interesting mix of woody and cocoa flavors and aroma that matches with a mellow caramel malt backbone, made for a tasty beer.

The flavors here are a bit mild, so I'd recommend pairing this with something lighter, like a salad or mild cheese. Still, I found this to be a very tasty deviation for my typical beer drinking. I haven't had much like it and recommend this to anyone interested in trying the style.

 571 characters

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

Not quite sure what to expect here, but this is what I'm getting.

The pour is a slightly hazy orangey yellow with a modest off-white head.

The smell is strange but pleasant. It's flowery, herbal, and earthy, with a sort of tomatoish quality to it.

The body is relatively light but nice, soft, carbonation and an oily smoothness to it. The flavor is just as interesting as the smell. It is earthy and herbal with a lightly sweet floral quality. Then there is that sort of vegetal, light and fresh tomato sourness that shows up again.

It's a very interesting brew that I'm not quite sure what to think of. It is pleasant and fairly refreshing, yet probably not something I would come back to too often. Definitely worth a try though.

 735 characters

Photo of Folderol
4.42/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of the most unique brews I have ever tasted. The aroma is of honey, the taste is smooth malt and again, hints of honey, and it goes down smoothly. Loses a couple of points for the weak head, but more than makes up for it with pure flavor. Cheers to the Scots for brewing up this unique ale!

 302 characters

Photo of SurlyDuff
4.55/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Orangy amber with some tough sticky head. There are some particulates floating about, kinda neat. Carbonation is a bit heavier than I expected. This one apeears bottle conditioned due to the sediment.

A really mild aroma. Slightly hoppy and floral and herby.

Very good balance of hops-to-malt. A full mouthfeel, not at all watery/aqueous, despite it's paleness. Honey and sure enough, heather flowers. Also tasted some lavander and other floral notes. A really enjoyable beer!

I hate reading peoples reviews that say "its too malty" or "its too plain". The style really needs to be taken into account when reviewed, not just how it pairs up against an IIPA or IStout. This is a really good beer, and unique. I'm glad that beers like this are still being made!

 763 characters

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

An ancient ale...let's hope it's not ancient tasting.

a hazy, dirty amber-orange with a fizzy head and little to no lacing

Very rich, full herbal scent with some sweet butter-caramrl malt that melds nicely with the aforementioned herbs.

Quite sweet with the herbs not dominating the show as much as I feared/expected. Smooth buttery malt is able to come through nicely.

A bit overcarbonated initially, but it settled down into a nice, almost creamy feel.

Well worth a try, i fear the sweetness makes this an occassional offereing for this cat

 547 characters

Photo of dedrinker
3.35/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Slightly hazy deep golden yellow with a white head. Aromas of lychee fruit, chamomile and a slight hint of vomit (not joking). Flavors of light malt, mild flowery fruit, chamomile tea. This almost tastes like a Belgian blonde ale. Medium body with a light, herbal, bitter finish. This is not bad at all, if there are zero hops in this beer (haven't checked yet) then I am glad to know that I can survive in a beer world without them. But I would miss them.

 456 characters

Photo of SIRIUS2
4.17/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 11.2 oz. bottle into a chalice style glass.

A: Gold with an orange hue and a light haze. Head was thin and filmy with a nice ring of white. Little to no lacing.

S: Light herbal flower aroma as you might expect, but I also had hints of what smelled like honey, cinnamon and nutmeg.

T: An interesting array of herbs and spices in a mostly dry taste. Clearly some sort of light or pale malt with relatively low sweetness giving it an interesting though complex lightness. I thought I could taste the heather more than I could smell it, which isn't a bad thing, in fact makes it interesting to try to pick out the flavors. The whole thing sort of reminds me of a fermented herbal tea. Kinda cool.

M&D: The body & mouthfeel for this is rather light with a dry finish. The linger is nice with some herbal bittering. Carbonation is tricky too as it doesn't appear to be very carbonated but the abundance of small bubbles seems to work well with the dry finish, accentuating it. This is a very different sort of brew but I really think I like it and would definitely have it again.

 1,091 characters

Photo of shbobdb
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I purchased this beer expecting it to be a dystopic look into a future-past where the hop-shortaged forced brewers to return to gruits.

But I gotta say, if this is the vision of the future they are presenting I'm not too worried. It pours a great-looking burnt gold with a short-lived white head.

The smell is strange, yet familiar. There are plenty of British esters going on, and those are married to a wonderful herb-tea smell.

The taste has a nice solid malt-backbone and those nice esters make their presence felt, but the herbs are the real stars of the show. Notes of camphor, bitter rosemary, chamomile tea, and flowers. All with a nice, crisp dry finish.

The mouthfeel is on the thinner side, but not so much as to be a defect. It just doesn't try and steal the show.

Wow. I'm really surprised by this beer. I'm generally not a fan of "spiced" beers, or any beer where I can tell that spices have been added. But this beer works for me. I guess 4000 years of brewing lets you figure out a way to make it taste good. While I don't see this beer becoming a part of my regular rotation, I could see myself buying it again.

 1,134 characters

Photo of CanuckRover
3.87/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle, a pale gold. Lacings aren't remarkable, filmy head.

One of the most floral beers I've had. Really wonderful smell from the heather, bouquet is the right word.

Again, floral is the key descriptor. Heather works so well as a flavouring. Pale malt flavours offer up some sweetness, but the heather is the star of the show, easy to pick out and very satisfying. Taste stays with you for awhile.

A great, unique beer. A novelty, but also well crafted and I could easily drink it on a regular basis.

 516 characters

Photo of Graham5161986
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: pours a hazy, orange with a 1 finger, creamy off white head that has good retention, eventually settling to a thin film, leaving a decent sticky lace.

S: buttery, honey sweetness with a touch of olive - very unique

T: Buttery and herbal throughout (I get Rosemary mostly) with subtle flavours of olive oil as well. Finishes with a honey sweetness that leaves a nice lingering aftertaste.

M: medium bodied and buttery, nice carbonation and a creamy, crisp, tingly finish.

D: This is a very good beer. The flavours are so unique and it provides for a very memorable taste experience. It's very easy to drink and is quite addictive. Now I want to try more Ancient Ales! If you come across this beer, buy it - you won't regret it.

 733 characters

Photo of botham
4.02/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a nonic. pours a semi hazy apricot-orangish color with a half infger of loose white head that lasts a few seconds. dissolves into a soapy rim. no lacings.

aroma is earthy, with notes of olive oil and a touch of raspberry. reminiscent of an italian salad with raspberries. the aroma overall is lightly sweet, with a bready and grainy character that cuts through the olives and raspberries. faint rosemary comes through upon warming a bit.

taste is more of the same, only more subtle and refined. simply put; this brew is like a good piece of garlic bread without the garlic; olive oil, rosemary, and a light bread character.

mouthfeel is medium-bodied with a smooth and soft texture. finishes smooth on a crisp note with lingering grain and a light sweetness.

drinkability is pretty good. this is quite a unique brew, but the refined character works towards the strange mix of flavors present to provide a smooth and drinkable brew, provided the drinker does not take offense to the actual mix of flavors present. cheers!

 1,049 characters

Photo of Hoagie1973
2.71/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Wow, they are not kidding when they say "Heather" ale. Sweet floral bouquet and flavor are dominant!
I have a great respect for brewing history (and history in general), and I'm sure this beer is well crafted for the style. It certainly is interesting, but it's not my thing. Kind of like I just poured a pale ale into Grandma's potted plant and then took a giant snootfull.
If you're looking for something totally unique, give it a try. There's definitely nothing that I've tried that comes close. I'm happy for the experience, but I probably won't be returning to this one.

 575 characters

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

A: Pours a dark orange with a thin off white head.

S: Caramel and a huge flowery aroma and some sugary sweetness on nose.

T: Soft carbonation. Big black licorice flavor with some hot liquor hints similar to sam buca. Warm licorice on the tongue, malt caramel. Very spicy, licorice flavor with a decent lingering aftertaste.

M: medium body, moderate carbonation, spicy and warm

D: good drinkability, unique flavor keeps things interesting thoughout the course of the drink. a definite recommend for something different.

 525 characters

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.

 600 characters

Photo of windigo32
2.92/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: This poured a golden color that was a bit cloudy. There was slight carbonation rising up from the sides of the glass. There was little head formation and virtually no residual head after a few minutes.

S: This has a unique smell. There is a distinct smell of honey and flowers. If you are familiar with clover honey, it is kind of like that but a bit more herbal.

T: Taste was very similar to smell. You can pick out the honey and you can detect a definite flower taste. There is a slight hint of hops.

M: Mouthfeel was average. It had a bit more carbonation than I like which kind of gave it a bite.

D: I had one bottle of this and didn't want another one. It was on a list of Scottish beers at the bar and was the last one I needed to complete the set.

This was a unique beer, that I have heard has a taste very similar to what a mead would have been like: brewed with honey, flowers and herbs.

 904 characters

Photo of iceball585
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Golden pale yellow color, semi-cloudy, thin layer head that disolved to a thin cover, a few tiny bubbles rising

S- Honey, spices (cloves, cinnamon), flowery

T- Pale malts, sweet herbal spices, sugar, light hops, hint of fruityness

M- Light/medium body, medium carbonation, sweet, smooth, slight oily finish

D- Worth trying

This is a really interesting ale. It definatly has a strong presence of herbs and spices which combines to make an original flavor.

 463 characters

Photo of becktone
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Eye: Cloudy in appearance and tan in color. This brew also has some thick lacing as well as a pretty damn creamy head with great retention.

Nose: Extremely potent aroma. I get a strong aroma from this brew and my nose isn't even close to the glass. Lots of spice in this beer with a sweet malt backbone underneath. Not quite sure what spices I'm smelling(not all that great with spices)but still I'm getting a very earthy/mossy aroma, rosey, caramel, green, herbal and floral.

Tongue: Sweet malt flavors compliment the herbs and whatnot that are thrown into this brew. There is a very earthy/vegetal taste at the end of this brew, after it is swallowed, not in a bad vegetal though. As for the herbal part of the beer's profile, it is quite hard toe describe. Rose is the big word that comes to mind when trying to describe this brew. The same elements form the aroma are also present in the flavor of this beer.

Mouthfeel and Drinkability: Medium light in body with lower carbonation and a dry finish pretty much sums up the feel of this brew. As as to drinkabilty I personally find it hard to drink more than 1-2 of theses in one sitting. The extreme flavor and forwardness of the herbs just is too much for me...still this is a brew that I'll always be coming back to great taste to this one, really do like it, but it is something that is better when you don't drink it all the time.

 1,391 characters

Photo of Ig0r
3.26/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The pour didn't give much of a head, but what was there dissipated slowly leaving some lacing and clusters of large bubbles.

The color is a slightly cloudy light straw and there are a good number of carbonation bubbles clinging to the glass. The smell seems indistinct, with a bit of sweetness mixed with some floral smells.

The feel is quite light with a good amount of carbonation. The taste is a bit bready with a bitter finish; not much distinction here. The aftertaste is also indistinct but leaves a good film in the mouth.

There isn't any overall distinction that I can see for this beer, but I may have opened an older bottle. I don't know how long it may have been setting at the distributer, but the drink-by date is August 2008 so I feel safe in this review.

 772 characters

Photo of JamesS
4.39/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours out nicely with a decent amount of head and a bit of lacing. Great scent, a very earthy and floral malt aroma. Excellent taste! Not only is it a great beer to try for uniqueness, but it's good on its own anyway. A very refreshing flavor, with a nice maltiness and a great floral/heather flavor. Goes down very easily. In fact I'm quite sad, since I'm nearly finished with the Scots Historic pack I have. Guess I'll have to get more.

 438 characters

Photo of dsa7783
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A very interesting brew, and with its rich history, this was certainly worth a try... Paid almost $5 for a 500 ml bottle from Total Wine and More in West Orange... pours a slight-orange, apple-juice color with minimal head... aroma is similar to that of a floral bouqet... very light, mild, with some minimal citrus overtones... taste was very crisp and clear, with floral notes, no bitterness and an easy-going refreshing charachter... a very unique and light brew which goes down as easily as a bottle of water... excellent mouthfeel and superb drinkability lead to a satisfying and enjoyable brew that would be a pleasure to drink anytime... A must-try, and definitely recommended...

 686 characters

Photo of Traquairlover
3.69/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into a pint glass.

A = Nice deep yellow color, small white head, but the large carbonation bubbles look a lot like a macro lager, not bad but enough to bring this score back down to average.

S = Has a pleasant floral, herbaceous scent, smells reminiscent of sage and heather. Very fresh nose.

T = Fresh flavors hit the tongue as soon as you take a drink, there is no holding back, but the initial floral, hoppy taste is quickly replaced by a much fuller malt and almost smokey herbal flavors that then slowly change to sweet light fruits at mid-palate. Long bittersweet finish that is tempered with some lasting cloying sweetness on tongue.

M = Light-medium bodied, carbonation feel is a little too harsh, mouth coating is very good.

D = All in all I'd say this is pretty drinkable. Interesting enough to have as a stand alone and low enough in ABV to drink more than 1 if you want.

 907 characters

Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 56.9% out of 100 with 1,154 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.