My better half gave me a sampler of the historic ales from Scotland. This sampler pack is from Williams Brothers Brewing Company, a Scottish brewer that began “operations” in 1988 using a single recipe and space at a 5 barrel brewery. Today, Williams Brothers is the sole remaining brewer in Alloa, Scotland and has a line-up of 24 beers. A part of this line-up consists of the 4 bottles from the sampler. Made with such fine additives as elderberries, heather, kelp and pine, I wasn’t quite sure whether to thank her or quietly dispose of the sampler in the recycle bin. Not one to waste a beer, I chose the former and placed the bottles in the mini-fridge until such time as I had worked up enough nerve to give them a try. New Year’s Eve seemed like a good time as I was fairly certain that there would be other libations to speed any recovery from any off-putting taste. The first bottle that I selected was the Fraoch Heather Ale. This was the original recipe that was perfected by Williams Brothers. It had been brought to the brothers by a woman of Gaelic descent who offered to share the ancient family recipe in return for some instruction in brewing. The recipe was then reformulated by the brothers until they arrived at the Fraoch Heather Ale.
Here is what Williams Brothers has to say about the Fraoch Heather Ale:
Fraoch: – The Original Craft Beer; brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. The Brotherhood have been guardians of the ancient Gaelic recipe for “leann fraoich” (heather ale) since 1988 and are proud to be the only brewery still producing this unique style of beer and distributing it world wide. A light amber ale with floral peaty aroma, full malt character, and a spicy herbal finish – This beer allows you to literally pour 4000 years of Scottish history into a glass.
I found the Fraoch to be:
- Appearance: Hazy, golden with a white foam and minimal lacing.
- Aroma: Malt, hops, grass and mint.
- Taste: Medium body with good carbonation; sweet with a hoppy tang and slightly grassy/minty finish.
- ABV: 5%
While not all that remarkable, I found this to be a pleasant, drinkable beer.
The second bottle that I selected was the Ebulum – Elderberry black ale. I am a big fan of brown and black ales and have been known to enjoy a fruity beer as well. So, after the Fraoch, I had high hopes for the Ebulum.
Here is what Williams Brothers has to say about the Ebulum:
Elderberry ale has formed part of the Celtic tradition since it was introduced by Welsh druids in the 9th century, where the ale was passed around the people of the village during the Autumn festival. Our recipe was taken from a 16th century record of domestic drinking in the Scottish Highlands and is Brewed with roasted barley and chocolate malt, then infused with elderberries to deliver a dark, rich, fruity beer with a strong single hop aroma and satisfying bitter conclusion.
I found the Ebulum to be:
- Appearance: Black, ruby-tinged with a quickly dissipating foam.
- Aroma: Sweet malt, flowery, with a bit of a barley wine or grapey aroma.
- Taste: A little flat, a little sweet and a little bitter with that acrid roasted malt/coffee flavor. Not especially fruity
- ABV: 6.5%
Unlike the Fraoch, this one wasn’t as consistent. The flavors were a little unbalanced and hit one after the other and not in a real complementary way. After the Fraoch, I had expected a little bit more and had hoped to get a little more sweetness from the elderberries and a little less coffee flavor. While certainly not a bad beer, the Ebulum just wasn’t as drinkable or as refreshing as the Fraoch.