Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

very good
1,148 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: 1,148 |  Reviews: 722
Photo of KFaulkner
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is an exciting beer; purchased as a four-pack in a box labeled "Historic Beers from Scotland," I couldn't wait to try the first one.

The label says that it is brewed using heather in an ancient style that dates back to 2000 BCE. Interesting, I had no idea what heather was, so I looked it up:
According to Wikipedia, Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the family Ericaceae. It is the true Heather of Europe. It is a small shrub growing to 20-50 cm tall (rarely to 1 m), and is found widely in Europe and Asia Minor on well-drained acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is tolerant of moderate grazing and can regenerate from occasional burning. It is a common component of heathland habitats.

Heather is an ingredient in gruit, a mixture of flavourings used in the brewing of beer during the middle ages before the use of hops.

I found this particularly interesting because upon first taste, the first thing that struck was the complete and total lack of hoppiness. Certainly the beer is not unpleasant though and is quite drinkable. In fact, it's uniqueness was an exciting experience.

The smell is herbal, and slightly cinnamony, without any hop characteristics but still malty. The taste is difficult to describe simply because it is unlike any beer I have ever tasted. The absence of hops is significant, but the heather gives it a more herbal flavor, rather than the typical bitterness of modern beers.

The label is also very cool.

If you ever have the opportunity to pick up a box of "Historic Ales from Scotland," I highly recommend doing so.

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Photo of Shovelbum
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a thin white head over a translucent copper body. Aroma of light caramel malt. The caramel malt comprises a good portion of the flavor as well, and contributes a nice sweetness. It is joined by notes of earth and floral herbs that I can only guess is the heather having never tasted or smelled heather before. It quite pleasant and not over the top. There is a mild balancing bitterness that must also be the result of the heather, since I don’t believe there were any hops used in this ancient ale. Medium bodied, low carbonation. Initially quite crisp in the mouth, becomes smooth and finished slightly dry.

This ale is not just of interest to antiquarians, as it can hold its own as a tasty brew whatever millennium it is. Well-balanced despite its lack of hops and a nice change of pace. The Pictish label art kicks arse too!

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Photo of DogFood11
3.32/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Hazey unfiltered type appearance, Orange hue around the edges, oily lacing makes its way down the sides after a good yank.

Sweet malts and a lemony flash of goodness highlight this brew, Some herbal spices. I thought it was kinda thin for my liking but it had such a depth of flavor that the body was an afterthought. Heather gives it the depth of perfume/floral. Unique, deep and complex for (generally speaking) a lighter brew. There is an element of dark fruit and spiced backside.

Its alright in my book. Light but not exactly easy drinking. I think one sampling was enough unless I'm drinking local.

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Photo of snilsen13
4.53/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Great smelling and easy drinking.

The beer pours golden and cloudy like a wheat-beer with a brighter yellow. The head is thin, virtually no head. The look is interesting, reminiscent of a bottle conditioned beer. Smells of flowers, with a deep roasted honey beneath. Very easy drinking, like a lightly sweetened water with a slight tartness and a firm tart aftertaste that lingers gently. Feels like an instant lemonade, slight oiliness gives away the alcohol and particulates. Very drinkable, if cost were not an isuue it would be an easy choice for an all day drinking beer.

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Photo of aforbes10
2.96/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This was one of my contributions to the February meeting of the Michana Coalition of the Drinking. Bottle says best before October 2004, so take this review with a grain of salt. Poured cloudy, orange-brown. no head. lots of sediment. Nose is orangey, flowery, smells like an herbal tea. FLowery taste. orange flavor, some maltiness. interesting and not like any other beer i've tasted. Almost totally flat, which may boil down to the expiration date issue. Too strange to really be drinkable.

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Photo of sopor
3.4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Foggy, dark tan amber with a smallish white head. For as foggy as it is, I can see a lot of rising bubbles. Smells slightly of apples, white wine, and wild vinegar like notes.

Flavor is light, starts out just faintly sweet, developing into and almost cinnamon-like spicyness touched with lemon sourness. A slight hebal flowery bitterness ties the brew together with notes of heather, and I saw smebody else mention this and they're right, roses! Alcohol is not noticed, but does warm the throat.

Relatively light and smooth body with "fuzzy" carbonation. Intriguing, interesting brew, but I won't likely buy it again.

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Photo of UncleFlip
3.36/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Yet another beer I brought back from a church conference. Hang out with the'll drink well. :)

A hazy honey to peach colour with brown hue. Off white head is less than one fnger, and falls to nearly nothing at a decent rate.

Smell is not strong, and has some ovetones of rotten peach- though not in a bad way. There's a bit of brown-sugary malt in the nose, kind of on the bottom.

Flavour is high, light, and sweet- and the heather really does come through. The finish is a little thinner than the rest. I think the flavour is missing something in the middle and bottom of the profile. It just doesn't feel substantial.

Liquid is thin, and the carbonation stays high and tight at the front of the tongue.

For a brew with some shortcomings (IMO), it;s actually quite drinkable. I wouldn't turn it down- but there are other beers I'd take before this one.

Be well

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

"Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C." says the label. I must be drinking beer from the oldest brewery in the world!

The first thing you notice about this beer is its intense spicy aroma. In fact it reminds me of some hot pepper beers I've had. But here's where the similarities end.

The flavor is immediately fruity, floral, and chased by light herbal spice. In fact the initial sweetness fades rather quickly and gracefullly, leaving behind a faint sweetness in the aftertaste. On the whole the finish is drier than you might initially expect. The flavors are surprisingly delicate, especially given what one might anticipate from this ancient, rustic style. A slight bitterness begins to perk up mid-palate after several sips, but this again gives way to the soft finish.

I really have no frame of reference, stylistically speaking, for this beer. I guess I expected more of a rough-edged, primitive type brew, but the actual flavors are surprisingly and pleasantly delicate. I'm sure, therefore, that this is a fine example of the style.

But man I do still love hops in my beer...

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

Best before Feb 2007 (Surprising shelf life!).

A: Gold/yellow-brown with a little chill haze. Pours with a little white head and although there's no retention, it does despirately try to cling to the glass.

S: Bready malt, with a earthy, straw-like odour. Not nearly as floral as an actual heather plant (I happen to have a bouqet left-over from a Robbie Burns celebration).

T: Bready malt that, surprisingly, isn't too sweet. It's pleasantly balanced with a slightly spicy & earthy herbal flavour.

M: Light to moderate body and carbonation.

D: Easily approachable, but it doesn't really bring me back for more.

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

poured a cloudy amber color with a medium size white that left some lacing.aroma is yeasty,sweet and hints of honey. flavor fruity spices with a taste of honey.this a differant beer at 1st I didn’t care for it warmed up I started to get in to it.

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Photo of Enola
3.38/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer has a ton of floaters. The color is a cloudy light orange. The smell is sweet. Reminds me of honeysuckle. The taste is somewhat citrus like. The mouthfeel is pretty smooth. No bite or negative aftertaste. The drinkability is fairly good. I like this much better than the first time I tried it. I could drink it again sometime.

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Photo of sitbooboosit
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy light orange copper colour with very little head that disappears fairly quickly. Beer is only lightly carbonated and hazy.
Smells sweetly malty with a nice yeast aroma and something uniquely floral and plant like that i assume is heather! also a mild flora honey aroma. overall though very mellow.
Taste is mellow and and dominated by base malt. Begins sweetly and finishs with the distinct bitterness of heather. has a lingering aftertaste.
All in all a good beer, easy to drink and something unique. would be good as a session brew.

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Photo of Citadel82
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer smells and tastes of apples. It is a refreshing and quenching beer with a green apple nose, start and finish. I like it alot and should keep some around for the times when I am in the mood for something fruity. There is some bread and cinnamon in the nose as well as the taste. The spiciness is like a chilled slightly spiced/mulled cider. Not overpowering just pleasantly there in the back.

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Photo of SaCkErZ9
3.15/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a hazy rust orange color with little head. Not much carbonation to speak of at all.

Smell is interesting. Different. Citrus and a floral aroma I assume is the heather. Smells a bit like lilac.

Taste is fairly simple. Lilac and lawn mulch.

Very light bodied and quite drinkable once you get past the interesting and different taste.

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Photo of allergictomacros
3.14/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Appearance: Hazy orange without much head.

Smell: A bit of a yeasty smell with some toastiness and fruitiness. Notes of honey as well.

Taste: A bit of tartness and yeast. Some fruit (apricots?). Some hops in the finish but not much. A little on the bland side.

Mouthfeel: Very light. Even a bit watery

Drinkability: Goes down easy.

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Photo of kaimcm
3.73/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

bottle poured into an imperial pint glass. first heather ale ive had, no idea what to expect. also have no idea what heather tastes like.

A: hazy, murky, dull, and dark honey color. tons of floaties, very little head, minimal stick. kinda looks like a green or similar tea with honey.

S: Vinous aromas but slightly sour, pretty herbaceous.

T: Very reminiscent of green tea, though the finish isnt as tannic and dry. Smooth with virtually no bitterness to be found. a touch of honey and spice. coating malt body.

M: light but refreshing, nice carbonation level.

D: an interesting and welcome change. Would pair well with more herbaceous foods.

had with some stilton and salami. the cheese was to rich and overpowering but the salami added a much appreciated spice to the beer.

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

Sampled in an Orval Glass

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

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

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

MF: Syruppy and slightly under carbonated

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

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Photo of mdagnew
3.95/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml Bottle bought from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured a golden amber colour... Big, slightly off white, head faded to thin layer round the edge....

Aroma - Quite sweet, floral, grassy, some lemon notes, peppery, woody, whiskey notes ?

Taste – Nice sweetness, malty, nutty, earthy, some spiciness, definite floral notes...

Feel - Quite sharp - med carbonation.. medium to full body....

Overall - An excellent beer.... recommended...

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Photo of WMBierguy
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had never before tried a heather ale, and I did not know what to expect from this beer. The beer has a pale brown-gold color. Did not have much of a head. It has a unique, mellow flavor, something that can obviously be attributed to the use of heather flowers. Though an ale, the familiar ale bitterness is very muted. This is a very drinkable and enjoyable beer, and is recommended for anyone who wants to try a new style of ale.

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Photo of mmmbeer
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've been wanting to try this for awhile, but waited until I could find a place where I could mix it into a six pack. 330 mL bottle with best by April '06 notched on the back. Pours a bright and radiant, unfiltered orange/gold with one finger of white head that leaves some wisps of lace. Smells flowery (roses?, probably heather), with a light honey aroma, sweet malts, and spices (ginger?, orange?, tea?, mint?). It has a fairly strong aroma and a medium to full body that is smooth, yet tingly and evenly coats the palate. It tastes malty with the same flower/spice profile, a low bitterness, and maybe some nuttiness. Has a fairly high drinkability as I went through the bottle fairly quickly and wished I had another. Both a very nice beer and a unique one that makes for a good change of pace - will buy this one again.

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Photo of mitchfor3
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Now THIS is a unique brew.

Pours a hazy gold with a thin white lace for head. Smell immediately jumps out of the glass - smells of strong herbs and sweetness.

One of the most distinctive tasting beers I've ever sampled - the heather really stands out and really shines in the aftertaste.

I'm going to have to try this beer again to decide how much I like it, but after one tasting I can say that I really appreciate its distinctiveness and there's no doubt that it has a lot of desirable qualities.

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Photo of rebel1771
4.18/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazey dark copper color with little head. Smell is very slight with hints of honey and flowers. The flavor starts out with bready maltness and fades to a kind of floral, honey flavor. When I first saw this brew I thought it was a gimmick, I was very wrong. This is a very good ale, much better than I thought it would be, will be picking this one up again.

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Photo of BamaScholar
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I was very pleased having tried this on a bit of a whim. Another find at Frugal MacDougal's.

Picked up the nicely designed bottle and poured a (much lighter than expected) hazy goldenrod.

Smell is like the Highlands...floral, crisp, herbal. Some sweetness, very pungent.

Taste is good, though the heather didn't flex its muscles quite as I expected.

Strongest aspect is the mouthfeel/finish, IMO which acts like a white wine, floral and crisp, dry dry dry to the end.

Not really sure what to give on drinkability. I'd have another, but after that the uniqueness suggests trying something else. Maybe the Kelpie offering by the same label? Intriguing...

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Photo of sevineyes
3.64/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a brown bottle.

A: Hazy apricot color. Poured with a small head and little lacing.

S: Floral sweetness with a spicy backing. Alcohol-soaked fruit. Bready, toasty.

T: Green melon sweetness, also somewhat like chamomile. Perhaps this is the heater. Malty, but dry finishing.

M: Carbonation. Coats the tongue, but not the mouth. Rather watery.

D: Decently drinkable.

Overall: I was more impressed with the nose than the taste, but it's still a good beer. Have access to four packs of Fraoch or a mixed four pack with other Heather Ale beers and although this is my least favorite I certainly don't object to it and would gladly drink it again.

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

pourde a slightly hazy deep peach color with off-white head. Smnell is earthy, dark fruity, sweetish, toasty and very enjoyable. Taste can only be described as very herbal. Seems to have characteristcis of herbal teas I've had in the past. Alsp seems to taste of flowers (in a pleasant way) . Finishes with a slight dryness and more flowery notes. A very different beer than any I've had before. Very pleasant.

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Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 1,148 ratings.
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