835: Fraoch Heather Ale

835 - Fraoch Heather AleName: Fraoch Heather Ale
Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Country of Origin: United Kingdom (Scotland)
City & State: Alloa, United Kingdom (Scotland)
Style: Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale
Alcohol Content (ABV): 5.0%
First Brewed: 1992
Price: $5.99

Tasting Notes
A light floral scent accompanies this honey amber beer, which boasts a dry winelike finish. It has a full malt character and is slightly sweet, with earthy, haylike undertones and a spicy, herbal flavor. There’s no finer choice to wash down your haggis on Burns Night.

Ricky’s Thoughts

William, the beer manager at Total Wine & More in Scottsdale initially recommended this beer to me. After reading about it, the brewing process, and what all goes into it, I am if nothing else curious. I am excited to see how the heather flower affects the color, aroma, and flavor of this beer. I like words like “winelike” and “dry finish” when used to explain this beer. I have no idea what to expect, but for that price (and that ABV) it better be good! I am sure drinking this will remind me of Europe, and it will make me want to go on a trip. Speaking of that, I am in need of a vacation. It’s been too long! Where should I go?

I am excited to drink this beer, and we will actually be doing two beers today. It has been a few days since we reviewed a beer, and are excited to get back into the swing of things. We have a lot of good beers lined up, and I want to drink them all! Speedway Stout is one of them from AleSmith. I have heard nothing but good things about that beer. Anyway, let’s see what the Heather Ale tastes like.

In the Glass: When I poured this, I could smell the dryness from the heather. When I think of heather, I think of tall thick grass on a golf course. That is what I call heather… some golf courses have high grass, think raptors from Jurassic Park, and most courses that have heather are links style courses. Makes sense this is a Scottish beer, as most traditional links style courses come from Scotland.

At any rate, Sheryl said, “This looks like orange juice.” Hardly. It’s cloudy, but looks more like a Blue Moon than orange juice. We have orange juice in the fridge if she wants to compare the two! The beer pours smooth, with a lot of bubbles, and a nice thin white head. Not much lace here, but my glass is really full. The bottle is 500ml. I can already smell this, so let’s see what it smells like when I stick my nose in the glass.

Nose: I guess that is what the heather flower smells like. I always thought it smelled like grass, but what do I know? It has a nice dry aroma to it. It almost smells like sake. The beer has a really low ABV, though, coming in at only 5%. I bet this would be a good beer to pair with sushi. A second whiff has continued dryness and begs for a sip.

Flavor: William said this beer was good. He’s right. It is good. But it’s weird. Not in a bad way, but in a complex way. I have never tasted anything like this before. It has a mouthfeel of a beer (we will get to that) but it has a lot of flavors dancing across your palate. The flavor, to be honest, isn’t that impressive. Once you get past the fact you are drinking a heather ale, with all the history that goes behind it, you don’t really think about the ingredients or the flavor profile. It has a quick finish and practically no aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: When I was pouring this, I could tell there were a lot of bubbles. It isn’t as carbonated as I had expected, and actually slides across the palate with a certain thickness that you wouldn’t have guessed. The bubbles really hit toward the end/back of the palate, and as you swallow, you are left with the dryness that everyone talks about. I wonder if the flower is what is causing that…

Aftertaste: What aftertaste? There isn’t much of an aftertaste here. The tongue is left dry, but I wouldn’t call that an aftertaste. This is where the hops are supposed to be taking over, but since they don’t use hops (or very few hops) in this beer, there isn’t much bitterness.

Basically, this is a weird experience and an awkward flavor. I would order this again if I was eating, but only if there was food involved. I have a feeling this doesn’t get better as it heats up, either. Just has a certain flavor that I would expect from a wheat beer that gets gross as it gets warm. Glad this was on the list, but I am not blown away. Has anyone tried this with food? (Oh, and the burp is horrible. It tastes like sour grapes.)

Fraoch Heather Ale – The bottle says: “Fraoch is Scotland’s native ale. Heather ale has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 BC. Brewed using heather flowers and Scottish malt, it has a distinctive floral aroma, full malt character and a dry wine-like finish. As one of the oldest styles of ale in the world there are many legends and folklore surrounding it.”

Rating: 2/5 

Sheryl’s Thoughts

Well, I am going to start today’s review with a disclaimer.  See, I went to the dentist last week and they gave me a rinse to use before I brush my teeth.  I just used it, and I’m not supposed to rinse out my mouth or eat or drink anything for a half hour after I use it.  Well, ok, maybe it’s actually been past a half hour now.  But – the other issue is that this rinse leaves a funny taste in my mouth.  It’s like I ate some hairspray, and it makes everything taste funny.  So my review of the taste of this beer may not be the most accurate.  It should be ok – I will try to be as accurate as possible, but it may not taste quite the same way to you as it does to me today.

When Ricky handed me the glass, I said it looks like orange juice.  And it kind of does.  It’s very thick, and, well, orange colored.  There’s not a lot of head, and not really many bubbles as much as there is some sediment floating around.  But those are usually the good kind!  It smells pretty citrusy as well.  I’m not sure what kind of beer this is, but the look and smell of it kind of remind me of a hefeweizen so far.  Let’s see how it tastes.

Ok, so I know the flavor of that stupid rinse is affecting my taste buds here – I can tell.  It actually makes it really hard to describe how the beer tastes.  I can taste the thickness of it – it has kind of the same mouthfeel as a wheat beer.  And that’s mostly what it reminds me of, only it seems to taste a bit more spicy and a bit more citrusy, like a wheat beer on steroids.  At any rate, I like it.  I have a really hard time rating beers sometimes on our 5 point rating system.  Like, some beers that I have given a 3 I know have really been more of a 2 or a 4 to me.  I usually will give a beer a 3 if I like it and would buy it again.  It gets a 2 if I don’t like it, or a 4 if I think it’s better than just good.  It’s rare that I will give a 5 – those are my favorites.  This time, I would definitely buy and drink this beer again, but I don’t think it’s quite in the rank of a 4 just yet.  So there you go.

Rating: 3/5

834 bottles of beer on the wall…

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