19 January 2008

Heather Ale Alba Scots Pine Ale (SCO)

With all the talk about hop shortages, no one has mentioned using an alternative: twigs. Scots Pine Ale uses sprigs of spruce and pine for flavoring in place of hops, replicating old recipes. It ends up being mostly a malt bomb, with less piney flavor than in many Northwest US ales.

The bottle says to drink "at room temperature from a wine goblet," but I tried it slightly chilled from a water goblet. It pours a very clear dark brownish-reddish- orange. It's a pretty full-bodied beer, almost syrupy, with merely a spritz of carbonation (which is what I like). The smell is noticeably of berries. As mentioned, the taste is malty, really pretty sweet and fruity. There's also an earthiness to it that keeps the sweetness in check a bit. Maybe that's the pine and spruce, but I don't know if I would have defined it as such if I drank this blindly. At over 7% alcohol, so it's more of a sipper than sessions beer.

I bought this as a single -- drink by April 2009 -- but it's also available in a Traditional Ales of Scotland (or something) 4-pack that seems to be widely available. Alba Scots Pine Ale is intriguing enough that I might recommend purchasing that.

Update: Keith Brainard pops up in comments to references this blogpost of his about the history of brewing without hops, and why brewers might have resisted using them for so long. You can also visit his site My Life with Beer to follow his homebrewing experiment with a hopless (but not hopeless) Pre-Cut Ale with Fir, which he recently bottled.


Beer Blokes said...

G'day Buttle,
Just found your blog via one of your linked blogs. I'm drinking beer here in sunny Melbourne, Australia and everyday finding a new beer blog to enjoy.

Although I have as much chance of finding any of the beers I've read about from the States as I have of becoming US President, I still love sharing the passion for real, flavorsome and non-mainstream beer.

Thanks for the blog -would you mind if I added yours to my beer blog friends?

Pete (Prof. Pilsner, Beer Blokes)

Keith Brainard said...

Hey, I've written about non-hops beer! I made Pre-Cut Ale With Fir a few weeks ago. It's not commercially available, but I've been talking about it.

I also talked a bit about beer without hops here. It wasn't that long ago (in the big scheme of things) that no beer had hops.

I'd really like to try some commercial beer without hops. I've been eager to try Fraoch Heather Ale, but haven't picked it up yet. I will look for the Scots Pine Ale!

Buttle said...

would you mind if I added yours to my beer blog friends?

Sounds great. I've added Beer Blokes to my links, and am always eager to read about dickhead teenagers throughout the world (as well as about beer, of course).

Prof. PIlsner said...

Thanks mate. Have also recently enjoyed some non-hops beer in the form of the revived tradition of FROACH or Heather ale from a very good supplier near me. Another similar one you may be able to track down is GROZET which is bittered and flavoured with gooseberries. Different, but then that's what the Scots do best!

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