Fraoch Heather Ale | Williams Brothers Brewing Company

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Fraoch Heather AleFraoch Heather Ale
Very Good
1,165 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: 1,165 |  Reviews: 725
Photo of therica
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This wasn't even pouring a head until I fully-inverted the bottle and let it rip. Then, a small but healthy off-white head formed with multi-sized bubbles, lingering for a minute or more. The ale itself is a nice orange-tea.

The aroma is interesting-- a mild bouquet which upon one whiff reminds me of a faded Airwick air-freshener, and the next whiff reminds me of a walk in the woods during the evening.

The taste from the start is very enjoyable. Even my wife's obligatory taste (including the foam) met with an unusual "Hmmm.... good!" Nothing to object to here, nothing offensive.

The taste does have a nice hint of the heather, but it's nothing odd, just very complementary and a smoothly-combined blend, overall. The finish tends to be a slightly watery yet nice flavor. If you're looking for a nice hops-bite or a good belch, you won't find it here. But this is very pleasant beer. I'm sure that between the gaelic-lore and the non-obtrusive not-overpowering taste, it might be a great ale for the non-beer fan or the doubtful girlfriend.

If I could buy this by the case, I probably would-- mine came in a sampler-pack. I'd move on to something with a bit stronger flavor after a few, if I were having more than one, but overall this is a very memorable ale.

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

An extremely nice pour, with the beer settling in nicely and producing minimal but attractive head. Light orange body matches the sweet, caramel and malt nose. The lack of hops is slightly unsettling but that's just habit.

Tasty, light bodied flavor with smooth, nutty aftertaste and a quenching mouthfeel after the swallow. Despite having no hops I would still say this is a well balanced beer since the sweet heather contrasts enough with the malt to restore balance.

This is different but not overly interesting from a taste factor. Still, it's a pretty easy drinker and well made enough.

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Photo of BabaJohn
2.73/5  rDev -27.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This beer looked delicious and smelled very interesting. Beautiful light brown in appearance with some orange and gold hues. Murky with visable sediment. Only a bit of head formed at all. The smell was amazingly complex. Here's the list that hit me (in order): flowers, vinegar, apple pastry, honey, cider, and cinnamon / spices. Unfortunately, that proved to be my favorite part. The taste itself did not suit me and I found it to be a bit lacking in overall flavor. It was somewhat tart and sour, and a bit watery. Herbal tastes, almost medicinal. An interesting beer to try, but I didn't finish the bottle.

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

Nice light copper color that is a bit hazy and caps with a nice lace that doesn't make much head. The smell is light and herbally, presumably heather. There is a malt background in the aroma but it is just that: background.

The taste is quite mellow mostly tasting the heather and the malt. The two balance well and leave a nice flavor in the mouth. It does have a bit of carbonation that I believe initially lightens the mouthfeel but if you let the sip linger just a bit in the mouth you will find that it smooths out and goes down in an almost creamy fashion.

I find this beer very drinkable and a nice companion on a summer evening.

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Photo of beckje01
2.61/5  rDev -30.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured from 500ml bottle into a Pint glass.

Appearance - Cloudy low to no carbonation, little head. Reminds me alot like the look of local grown honey (I used to work in foodservice).

Smell - Rich flower like.

Taste - Tastes very herbal, starts light and refreshing finishing with the herbal tones yet still refreshing.

Mouthfeel - Tingles a bit but feels smooth, and very light.

Drinkability - Its very refreshing and different but the appeal is something that wears out quickly. I would suggest only a half pint at most after which the novelty wears off. I would have another if it was a hot day and came in half pint or less. Reminds me alot of cold herbal tea.

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Photo of ism
3.6/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500mL bottle this time, marked 6 months old, previously had it cask-conditioned. Nice, somewhat cloudy apricot-gold, with a thin off-white head that leaves thin lacing. Nose is more straightforward this time, with a prominent coriander spice, floral and light, with tar bright berries and a subtle biscuity base. Very mild carbonation, medium body, rolls on the tongue, pleasantly. The floral sweetness is interesting, herbal and citrusy, goes down smooth, finishing dry with a bit of earthiness. Drinks like a tea -- soothing and relaxing. Easily quaffable and enjoyable.

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Photo of ultralarry2006
2.06/5  rDev -45.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12 oz. botlle. Slight head quickly recedes to surface skim, no lacing. Body was a slightly hazy yellow orange amber.

Smell - biscuity, doughy malt. Some grassy, herbal, and floral ( but not floral as in hoppy) aromas.

Taste - not qiute like the smell. This ale tastes like a stale and weak gin and tonic, or like old stale, flat lemon/lime pop.

Mouthfeel - very thin and fluid with low carbonation.

Drinkability - goes down with some effort, was nice to try this ancient style, but that's it, don't want another one.

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Photo of crwills
3.55/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a hazy, cloudy, dirty gold with a small head, even after an aggressive pour. I used a standard pint glass because I didn't have anything more suitable.

Aroma is very different than most beers... extremely floral and grassy, with notes of pepper, candle wax, and some kind of chemical acidity. Strong and unique.

Taste is floral, wildflowers, hay, and clover. It's actually quite bitter, even without hops in it. Mild toastiness to the grain. Aftertaste is a bit soapy, and the mouthfeel is just mediocre.

Not something I'd drink all the time, but good to try. There are better beers from this brewery.

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Photo of afordney
3.31/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Golden straw color, thin head with no lacing around the glass.

Smells very spicy, flowery no hop or malty scents are detected.

Tastes very spicy, citrus and clove, very flowery finish

Mouthfeel is slightly watery, and bitter

An interesting style, you can really taste the heather in this beer. While a well made beer, I don't think it's really my style but hey, at least I tried something new today.

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Photo of sullysbeer
4.25/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Aroma: Malty Sweet, Sweet Tart Candy Floral Aroma. They Say Floral Peaty Aroma.

Appearance: Clear Golden Color: Nice White Head.

Flavor: Starts Out Malty, Has a Spicy Herbal Flavor and Finishes Dry With a Wine Like Ending.

Mouthfeel: Full Bodied Ale

Overall Impression: Brewed in Scotland Since 2000 B.C. Heather Ale is Probably the Oldest Style Of Ale Still Produced in the World. The Heather Flower also Know as Heather Tips Impart a Pleasing Aroma and Smooth Bitterness to Beers. With the Flavor Similar to a Chamomile/Mint Blend with Hot Lavender. Heather Pairs well with Honey. It is Also Great for Tea, with Reputed Calming Qualities. This Beer Definitely Has a Distinct Flavor with the Use of Heather Tips Instead of Hops. Very Smooth and Refreshing.

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

Pours a cloudy straw hue with fluffy one finger buttermilk head and mild carbonation. Lemony floral nose with hints of coriander, maybe cinnamon. Very floral taste with cinnamony finish. A little hop presence buried deep in the mix. Well blended. Mouthfeel is of medium density with light carbonation. I got a strange burning sensation on my lips, although I couldn’t tell whether that was coming from the beer or some other factor. I wasn’t eating at the time so aside from the glass I was using, I’m not sure where else this could have come from. I could see this making a good session beer - not too strong either tastewise or in terms of alcohol content.

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Photo of kkipple
3.32/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

My first time trying an "Herbed Ale" of any sort.

Pours a hazy, foamy dark yellow. I smell lots of honey and malt and a peaty earthiness. A bit floral. Nothing too crazy though.

Taste is decent, a very malty, sweet and mossy flavor with lots of honey.. A bit sour on the backend, and a bit of a corn flavor to it. Reminds me of some Scottish ales I've had more than anything. Finish is dry and crisp. Rather drinkable.

All in all, not a bad beer, but not a great one either. I wouldn't necessarily seek this one out, but I’ve had a lot worse. Thanks to Ostevela for the bottle.

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Photo of Brian700
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a light orange with nice clarity. It has a nice white head that sat about one finger's width and then settled to a ring around my glass. Moderate lacing.

The aroma is of sweet malt with some floral presence. It smells alot like a belgian style triple.

The nose kind of leads you to believe that this beer is going to have a big candi sugar flavor to it with a lot of esters going on but it is totally not. The taste like tonic water with a malt presence that is real delicate like a tea.

The mouthfeel is that of tonic water. Light bodied with medium carbonation.

I think this is a drinkable beer. I like a beer with a little more flavor to it but I think this is a nice one to put down with a fresh palate.

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Photo of charlatan
3.37/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

From 500 ml bottle with freshness date over a year away. Light amber colour with significant head. Smells of honey with a hint of orange peel and of course heather.

This doesn't seem sweet at all even though there is some underlying honey flavour to it. Heather is dominant though doing the work one normally expects of hops and producing a complexity of flavour comparable to some of the better hops used for potent IPA's, but distinctively different. Unfortunately I'm not really up to the task of describing it. There is a rather oily feel on the tongue and a pine sap aftertaste which I quite appreciate.

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Photo of goochpunch
4.61/5  rDev +22.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours out a hazy, rusty orange with a weak head. Smells lightly of bready, biscuity malts with a humongous perfumey heather aroma. Almost smells a bit minty and berry-like. Some yeast in the nose, as well. Flavor is big on the heather and berries with a light malt backbone. The malt really seems to take a back seat to the "flavoring," but that seems to work out just fine here. Flavors thin out a bit in the end. Mouthfeel is light and prickly with bubbles. This drinks way too fast.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
2.31/5  rDev -38.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - Hazy light orange brown with a one finger head that dissipates quickly. Intense visible carbonation and no lacing. Not too impressive.

S - A potent sweet chemical aroma with a bit of light bodied malt underneath. The sweet odor is strange, it seems like something that smells like it would taste good, but then would kill you if you drank it. In line with how an upholstry glue, antifreeze or some kind of poison would smell like. I don't like the odor, in fact it quickly became a bit nauseating.

T - A light sweet malt flavor with a slight appearance of the same taste as the smells seems like it would taste like, but much, much milder. Since it is milder, it is not as sickening to taste as the corresponding smell is to smell. There is a dry grainy finish to the beer. Although out of the ordinary, I'd say the taste is a little below average.

M - Moderately smooth, carbonation is just a tad bit strong, a tad bit refreshing.

D - The smell really gets to me. If it wasn't so potent I think that I would like this more. I can't take another sip without holding my nose. The insert said that it goes with "rich and spicy foods" so I tried it with some pepperjack cheese which overpowered it's taste completely. Went very well with a slice of Manchego though. If one could get past the smell then it wouldn't be so bad.

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Photo of rustymoore
3.81/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a cloudy orange with a generous head and a decent amount of lacing. Smell is very much like a green olive along with floral hints. Tastes very much like a flower so that must be the heather shining through. Very strange taste combinations. Mouthfeel is very dry especially in the aftertaste. Drinkability is limited in my opinion as this isn't something one could drink regular but rather try out for the novelty aspect.

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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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Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.75 out of 5 with 1,165 ratings