Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
1,151 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

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Ratings: 1,151 |  Reviews: 722
Photo of biggmike
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a cloudy dark golden color with a thin white head that didn't last very long. Aroma is very sweet and floral, and it smells of nectar. Taste is sweet also, but is balanced by the malt. This beer is incredibly smooth and easy drinking. Not much lacing on the glass. Not necessarily something I would seek out, but I would not turn down another either.

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Photo of alysmith4
2.06/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Tried this on-cask last night. Was sevearly lacking in flavor, color, and texture. Very flat (I'm sure the cask has something to do with that) and kind-of watery. Some floral notes came through as it warmed, but it was a very lackluster beer overall. Not one that I would recommend in the least.

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Photo of squidtrick
3.07/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Appearance - cloudy orange color, white head

Smell - strong floral, spicy smell

Taste - An almost sweet taste, very herbal, at the front. It reminds me a bit of a Belgian ale, but lacks complexity and depth of taste.

Mouthfeel - light bodied, low carbonation. Watery texture.

Drinkability - very drinkable, but not memorable.

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Photo of irishkyle21
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazed golden amber color. Very little lacing or retention but I have become used to this by now. Every beer I have had from Heather seems to be lacking in the looks department but they usually make up for it (IMO).

Smells earthy, flowery, malty and herbs. The nose is faint at first but really opens up once it warms and a few swirls of the glass don't hurt neither.

Tastes flowery, earthy, herbal, pale malt and some spices. It took a few sips for me to start to develop a taste for this brew.

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Photo of Jmamay22
3.54/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

My first Heather Ale! I'm excited and intrigued.

This Heather Ale pours a murky orange, not unlike an orange rust. No head or any signs of carbonation. Lifeless really.

This smells quite complex. There's a strong flavor of mixed berries, heather, and spring herbs. Lurking in the background is the sweet scent of honey. Nice herbal spiciness and everything comes together well.

First taste led me to think of a Belgian Ale that had lost it's yeast and carbonation. Tastes sweet and smooth. The berries don't make their strong appearance as in the nose, but this brew is noticeably sweet. Herbal spiciness is at the forefront with what must be heather and rosemary. No discernible finish as this brew just seems to drift away and comes up a bit short in my opinion.

Mouthfeel is thin and lacking due to the dearth of carbonation. Drinkability is hurt due to the sweetness and lack of balance. I braised some lamb in the same beer while reviewing this. The lamb came out wonderful, but when paired with the meal it came up short and had difficulty holding up.

An interesting beer that despite the lower score I recommend trying for historical curiosity. I'm wonder how similar this is to what was brewed a few thousand years ago.

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Photo of Stoneman78
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Duvel tulip glass
A- Cloudy, dark orange/honey hue, head is small, off-white, and bubbly that is mostly sustained, very thin lacing
S- Nose is dominated by floral tones (including heather of course), sweet spicecake, herbs, subtle malts, other slight fruits/berries, hints of peppermint/candy cane
T- Initial taste is sweet herbs and flowers along with wheat and grain, opens up to allspice, earthy tones, and tea leaves, finishes sweet and dry
M- Light/medium bodied, watery texture, tickly carbonation
D- This is definitely a unique beer, I have never have a 'Scottish Gruit' before (even though I was born in Scotland), it is almost like a cross between wheat wine/winter warmer/fruit beer, but the floral spices are overly potpourri-ish which is tough to handle in large amounts (one bottle was enough for me), very original and quite balanced, the taste is a little too out there for a repeat performance
Buy again? Maybe if I were in Scotland
Overall score- 71/100

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Photo of CharlieMopps
3.92/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Hazy, translucent orange sunburst color that was topped by a white head of just over a finger. Small bubbles clung to the inside of the glass below the surface, while above, a bit of lacing stuck as well.

S: Rather mild bouquet, with a subtle malt aroma and an herbal and floral scent that accompanied it. Heather is noticeable, but not all that powerful, and not expected to be. Has light notes of grain.

T: Malt presence is felt right away, and carries the other flavors to the finish as a base. Herbal spice is noticed toward the front of the palate, almost a piney flavor, but is followed by the grainy malt aspect taking it away. There is also a sharper sweetness that rears its head.

M: Low level of carbonation, but this seems fitting for the style, and not an aberration or defect. Very slight feel of viscosity, but does not really coat the palate at all.

D: Fraoch is drinkable in the sense that it is rather mild, but has enough interesting flavor to keep the tongue intrigued. Abv isn't very high, and the mild heather and herbal notes are satisfying over top of the regular malt profile.

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Photo of bboven
2.82/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Clear medium gold body with no head retention or lacing.

Smells a lot like Anchor's small beer, very light malt a little of what I would peg as lilac if I didn't know any better.

Taste Is very flowery, tastes like lots or coriander, mostly. It definitely overpowers the malt.

Very thin body, too thin really, but the carbonation is very nice and subtle, which I liked.

The spicing and expensive four-packs are a bit much for me, but I'm glad I tried it as I have a friend who is allergic to hops. I'd recommend a BA try it at least.

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Photo of BBM
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

While I'm not sure what heather is, I did enjoy this beer. It poured a hazy blonde into the glass, with a thin white head atop it. Aroma was musty, earthy, and herbal. But there was also a noticeable malt characteristic.

The taste is indicative of the smell; musty, earthy, and herbal tea-like. I'm assuming it's the heather. There is also a husky malt flavor, bread-like almost, to balance out the beer. It ranks high on my originality scale, but in terms of overall flavor, it's slightly above-average.

Mouthfeel is medium and carbonated. This is a nice beer and a welcome change of pace. If you can find the Scottish four-pack of these gruit ales, then I would certainly recommend trying em if you're feeling adventurous.

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Photo of thierrynantes
3.32/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Beer bottle (33cl), tasted in 2000.

Appearance: amber color, with white foam head
Smell: woody nose, a floral bouquet
Taste and mouthfell : a taste of hazelnuts, and spicy finish
Drinkability: heather (fraoch in Irish) is used instead of hops, to amoratiser this genuine beer

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Photo of Rainintheface
3.59/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1 pint 0.9oz. April 2008

Poured into SA glass.

A: orange/copper and hazy. light carbonation with minimal head- leaving just a ring

S: sweet, floral, malty and berries

T: sweet with a lurking bitterness, malt and again, berries

M: light, not much carbonation but something tickles the tongue.. dry finish

D: Interesting and yes, it's quite drinkable.

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

Slight reddish tinge to an amber color, a little cloudy. Surprisingly drinkable for an unusual craft ale. The flavor of heather is hard to describe; much less harsh than hops, halfway between floral and herbal?

Anyhow, the flavor is complex but fairly subtle. Not my absolute favourite, but I went out and bought it again immediately after buying the first batch.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This brew has a big and quick carbonation that creates only a thin, bubbly, scattered all-white head over a frosted honey colored body and leaving a fine-white circle of froth around the edge.
Sweet heather honey on the nose with lavender, herbs, molases soaked wheat, sour hops and yeast, corriander, cinnemon, and spices much like a pumpkin ale. all very detectable and in good balance.
hits the palate tart with a wheatie citric lemmon malt balanced with sweet honey but very herbal and even zesty at times with a mint-green veggie garden hop finish.
Light bodied feel, crisp but with a bit of graininess and a dry fin.
Overall, very unique with some interesting complexities that work together well. Being a product of Scotland, share one with that special someone while watching the original Wicker Man and it'll be a great evening.

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Photo of BeerBelcher
2/5  rDev -46.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

I don't really know what heather tastes or smells like, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this beer. And it didn't really taste like anything was just kind of generic, not great, beer.

Appearance was rather pale, with just a touch of white head. Aroma was pretty minimal. Flavor was a bit cerealy, but also very subtle. Mouthfeel was a bit watery.

Far from the best beer I've had in recent memory.

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

Pours amber, decent white head. Smells very sweet maltiness. Taste is slightly sweet, malty with a nice medium body and light carbonation. Some strange aftertaste, I guess it's the heather. Overall pretty enjoyable and unique, worth trying for sure.

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

Appearance - Poured a nice hazy orange color with a 2 inch off white head which disappears quickly

Smell - very strong floral, spicey smell to it. Has a hint of malts as well.

Taste - Nice flavor to it. Very interesting. I can taste the heather in it. It comes across spicy.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with low carbonation.

Drinkability - Not bad. I actually like it.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I had a bottle of this at CK Diggs in Rochester MI. I'd never had the style, and didn't know what to expect, so my rating needs a grain of salt.

The appearance was clear golden colored, thin white head (read "looked like a standard pilsner"). The aroma was pretty funky, probably from the heather the wort is soaked in. I've had a few other beers with this smell/flavor, Rogue Festive Ale comes to mind. The flavors are all floral and a little spicy (not hot spicy), kind of good and probably authentic for the style. Not my favorite flavor combination though, so my drinkability score is lower.

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Photo of pmcadamis
2.68/5  rDev -28.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

A - I'm pretty excited about trying this unique brew, and I love the ancient celtic bottle! This looks pretty dull once poured. It's kind of a muddy river water brown with a flimsy soapy dishwater head. The head has no real retention, and a collar of big soapy bubbles is all that is on top of the brew. It's opaque and cloudy, and shows some gold when held to the light. Not really a looker, but then again some awesome Quads have the same muddy water color...but much nicer heads. This does, strangely, have some really nice lacing despite the lack of respectable head.

S - Smells much better than it looks....actually if it smelled like it looks it would probably be reminiscent of diarrhea. This however, smells like a great oktoberfest with loads of caramel malt and carrot cake notes. I actually have no idea what heather smells like, but if it smells like this beer I plan on planting some in my new yard! I detect a Riiicolaaa! herbal aroma that is pretty that the heather coming through? Also, I smell some lightly toasted bread with butter notes. This smells awesome!

T - Ok, not quite as good as the glorious scent, but it's really unique. I'm reminded of sasafrass and Ricola herbal lozenges. This also tastes very much like the rootbeer brew from the Sam Adams Brewer Patriot Collection 4-pack. Very old school...tastes like chewing on roots. I actually don't really like the flavors that are going on here, but I respect this beer for it's individuality and complexity so I won't slam it.

M - Restrained carbonation and a light body make this a slightly watered down brew. It's pretty thirst quenching, but the finish is vegetal and off dry. Really feels like Ricola lozenges.

D - Blah. This stuff is an oddball brew that is worth trying for it's unique flavors, but I probably will never drink it again. There are no real beer flavors. It smells lovely, but so does potpourri and you don't want to put that stuff in your mouth either.

Note: The fact that this tastes like beer did 4,000 years ago is pretty cool since it probably fueled the druids hoisting the monoliths of Stonehenge, but while that makes it interesting it doesn't make it good. I'm pretty sure the food they ate back then was pretty rot-gut too.

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Photo of brendan13
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle with awesome looking artwork. History of the style on the back of the label.

A - Slightly hazy orange colour with a inch or so of off white head that quickly falls away to a thin whisp.
S - They got the herbal part right...floral & quite a strong spice note - cardamon I think. Some biscuity malt buried in there.
T - Taste is along the same lines as the smell. I've never tasted or smelt heather, bog myrtle or meadowsweet by themselves but they make a pretty good combination.
M - Medium bodied with low carbonation. Dry finish.
D - Not a beer for everyday drinking but a good, intresting beer for every now and then.

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

My first of this kind of ale. I'm a little excited after reading about the history behind it.

A: A slightly amber honey color, very cloudy, 1.5 finger head with lots of large soapy bubbles that is gone very quickly. Lacing sticks like glue.

S: Sweet malt, honey, caramel, hops are present but there's something different about it, possibly a kind I'm not used to. Some spices like clove and others I can't quite make out.

T: Hops come right up front at the bottom of the initial taste, smothered over by honey and wheat. The cloves and other spices are right at the top to balance things out. Fades very quickly leaving a crisp and clean finish with just a hint of lingering hops and cloves.

D: Just about perfect carbonation. As is warms in the mouth, a whole palate of flavors begin to surface. The spices come out and take over, warming up the tongue with a very unique combination that I can't completely describe. The spices are definitely my favorite part. Fairly light body but with enough flavor to make you want to keep drinking. Overall a very refreshing experience.

I have to say that I'm surprised. This is an unexpectedly delicious ale that can easily be enjoyed by itself or with a lightly spiced white meat.

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

My first Gruit. Purchased at Eagle Provisions.

A-Slightly hazy honey colour with a soapy 1.5 head that dissipates fairly quickly to a slick of a head. Heavy sheets of lace cling to the glass though.

S-there is a spice I can't determine, slightly flowery hop character. Smells pleasant enough.

T-Very bread like malt that is dry yet sweet at the same time. There is a certain mustiness here as well as that same vague spice in the smell. The sweetness is honey like and the aftertaste comes through with a bit of flowery lavender like herb taste which I am guessing is the heather. There is a lot going on here. I am digging this.

M-Slightly thick, fair ammount of carbonation. Nice

D-This is a unique and tasty treat. There is a slight contrast here between the dry malt character and what I believe to be honey. The aftertaste is very nice here as no particular spice overwhelms. There is just a vague spice character and residual sweetness that makes this a great after dinner treat.

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Photo of rafjr00
3.29/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip glass from a bottle.
Poured with a good bit of carbonation with a thumb of head that fades fast to a thin film then to just a ring that clings to the glass. Burnt orange / honey color.
Smell is floral with citrus and honey.
Taste is flowers, slight citrus / bitterness and tupelo honey.
Mouth feel was a little on the watery side with only a slight carbonation on the tongue.
Not a bad beer and one I would have again, but one to drink when you don't want to think about the beer just enjoy it.

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Photo of ralree
4.09/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

This is an extremely drinkable ale. It has a crisp herbal aroma emanating from its generous head. When drinking, there is a bittersweet taste that is unlike any other ale I have tried. I was surprised that it does not have more of a hoppy flavor. It leaves a sweet aftertaste in the mouth, but I find it amazing that there is no alcoholic aftertaste that I can detect. At 5%, this is definitely a plus. I could see myself getting very intoxicated while drinking this beverage since it goes down smoother than most anything else I have tried. If you're looking for something light and a little bit different, give this a try.

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Photo of skineg
3.2/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Misty Amber color with a few bits of wheat floating around. Small head that disappears fast.

Smell: One word: flowery.

Taste: Surprisingly weak. I was expecting a little more boldness from a Heather Ale. Smooth and well rounded with only a hint of floral. Once your hit with the floral flavor, it fades away quickly and leaves little to no aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, lite and flat.

Drinkability: Very drinkable, easy on the palate and not filling.

Comment: I have to hand it to the marketing department of Heather Ale Ltd because they make one hell of a package. It made me buy a four pack of their product. Not a bad beer, just nothing too special.

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Photo of belgbeerdrinker
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

a: golden/copper color with decent head and very good lacing and carbonation
s: light sweet fruits - nectarine, floral aromas and some spices
t: same combination as aromas -- light nectarine, floral & spices. hops seem ready to pop out during and after taste, but never quite materialize -- interesting
m: a smooth, refreshing ale -- light body, very crisp without any hoppy bitterness
d: very different brew. refreshing, light, crisp finish. worth a try.

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Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 1,151 ratings.
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