Historic Ales of Scotland (Concluded)

historic_ales_scotlandIt’s just one day to Christmas, and as expected, I finished the pack of Historic Ales early. Call me self-indulgent, but there was simply no way I couldn’t let my curiosity to get the better of me. It’s been many years since I drank from this pack, and my tastes have become somewhat refined in that time. And interestingly enough, I found that I actually enjoyed the experience more this time around. So without further ado, here are the last two samples from the Williams Brother’s historic lineup.

Ebulum:
ebulumMy favorite of the pack, the Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale is brewed in accordance with the Celtic tradition that was introduced to Scotland by Welsh druids in the 9th century. Traditionally, this ale was crafted and then passed between the people of the village during the Autumn festival. The recipe for this particular beer 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, malty beer with a stout-like flavor that also has some satisfying fruity notes. It is also the second strongest beer of the collection, weighing in at 6.5% alc/vol, making it an all around very pleasant drinking experience. Whenever I get a pack, I usually go for this one first. I feel my restraint this year is to be commended!

Appearance: Deep brown-black, clear, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malts, stout-like, mild fruit aroma
Taste: Rich malt start, hint of sweetness, discernible fruit
Aftertaste: Slight tartness and lingering dark malt flavor
Overall: 9/10

Fraoch:
fraochThe most ancient and venerated style in this collection, Fraoch takes it name from the Gaelic word for “Heather”, and just happens to be the oldest variety of beer still consumed today. For over four thousand years, this sort of beer has been brewed in the Highlands, and is often associated with the Picts who ruled Scotland until the 9th century (hence the label art, which is Pict-inspired). The beer a combination of boiled barely, sweet gale, and an infusion of heather flowers, a flora native to Scotland. Until the 18th century, when British law mandated that Scottish brewers begin using hops, it was extremely popular.  And although it is very understated and subtle, much like the Grozet, I can certainly see the appeal. In addition to being golden in color, the beer also has a sweet, honey-like smell and taste, with a touch of peaty flavor, and is one of their lighter beers, weighing in at 5% alc/vol.

Appearance: Deep gold, cloudy, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, notes of honey and flowers
Taste: Very mild malts, notes of honey, peat moss, mild pine
Aftertaste: Mild lingering honey taste, very clean finish
Overall: 8/10

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get more Christmas beer. Somehow, my supply became mysteriously depleted… Merry Christmas to all and hope it finds you surrounded by friends, family and plenty of good food and spirits!

Historic Ales From Scotland

historic_ales_scotland

It’s a remarkable process. You put in a request for an obscure beer at your local store, and they get it for you! And just in time for Christmas, my local watering hole was able to procure for me a pack of the Historic Ales From Scotland. This variety pack consists of Scottish beers that are made in accordance with traditions that predate the adoption of the Bavarian Purity Law in Scotland, all of which are brewed by the the Williams Brothers Brewing Company.

These include beers made with berries, heather flowers, spruce and even kelp (if you’re lucky enough to find a pack that includes it). And having had them before, I can honestly attest to their quality. Though they are surely not for the faint of heart or uninitiated, they are all fine examples of traditional ales which are sure to appeal to the discerning beer drinker.

And over the next few days, I’ll be reviewing each of the beers in turn. First up, their Alba Scots Pine Ale.

Alba:
albaIntroduced by the Vikings, spruce and pine ales were very popular in the Scottish Highlands until the end of the 19th century. Many early explorers, including Captain Cook, used spruce ale during long sea voyages since its natural vitamin C content prevented scurvy and ill health. Shetland spruce ale was said to “stimulate animal instincts” and give you twins. Alba is a triple style ale brewed to a traditional Highland recipe from Scots pine and spruce shoots pickled during early spring. Malted barley is boiled with the young sprigs of pine for several hours before the fresh shoots of spruce are added for a short infusion before fermentation. In this respect, spruce and pine are used much as wet and dry hopping are, and imbue the beer with a crisp, refreshing, piney taste. In terms of color and appearance, the beer is similar to a pale ale, but with little head to speak of, and clocks in at a robust 7.5% alc/vol.

Appearance: Amber, clear, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Syrupy malt, sweetness, strong piney notes
Taste: Immediate sweet burst of malt, gentle spruce and pine flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness and spruce/pine flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

So far, its been a good season for beer. Tomorrow, its on to my favorite of the bunch: the Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale, followed shortly thereafter by the Fraoch Heather and the Grozet Gooseberry Ales. Stay tuned…