Monthly Archives: February 2012

Alba Scots Pine Ale

The Alba Scots Pine Ale is the third ‘historic ale’ from Williams Brothers that we tried. As the name suggests, it uses Scottish pine and spruce in its fermentation. This style was originally brought to Scotland by the vikings and was still popular until the late 1800’s. The pine was boiled down with the barley, and the spruce was added shortly before fermentation to infuse themselves into the brew.

– Kamran, Tristan

*****

The most intriguing aspect of this ale, for me, is its aroma. Along with a subtle sweetness of vanilla and oak, there is the smell of skittles! Not any particular colour of skittles, but just skittles in general. This note of skittles isn’t overwhelming, but it’s certainly noticeable. This candylike flavour continues on the palate, while the malt gives it a similar kind of vanilla/wood sweetness typical of the Tullibardine beers we previously reviewed.

While the body has a nice mouthfeel and texture, the ale is surprisingly heavy, in a sort of odd way. I wouldn’t want to drink too much of it — two or three tops. The finish leaves one wanting more, as the flavours dissipate rather quickly. Perhaps this is just because the initial taste is so much more intense. All in all, an enjoyable beer that I hope to get a hold of again.

Nose: 21
Body: 19.5
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 18.5

Kamran: 79.5 pts.

*****

I found this particular historic ale to be a bit of a surprise. It’s aroma was sweet to the nose, as well as slightly malty and even fruity, though I believe that would be the influence of the spruce. As the picture shows, it is a beer with a rich colour. It is crisp, but somewhat heavier than typical ales – so perhaps not one to overdo. When we tasted the beer we felt it was sweet and almost had a taste like Skittles, which was covering a light maltiness to the beer. The short lived finish was what brought down the score on my review card, mainly because the aftertaste is rather brief for a beer with such strong flavors and aromas. Overall though I’d say it was a solid beer and a pleasant surprise to taste, and I look forward to having another in the future.

Nose: 21
Body: 21
Taste: 23
Finish: 18

Tristan: 83 pts.

*****

I tell you, the Scots really know how to brew unique beers. Continuing the tradition of “Let’s brew a beer using random plants we find on the ground”, the Alba Scots Pine Ale is actually surprisingly good. I was really able to notice the pine in the light, fresh aroma that reminded me of a forest on a cool day. Although not terribly crisp and relatively heavy, this ale was still easy to drink due to its refreshing nature. I particularly enjoyed the flavour, which was heavily influenced by the pine, and created a sense of sweetness, reminding a lot of eating skittles. Contrary to my fellow reviewers, I found the sweetness in this particular beer lasted an appropriate amount of time, definitely encouraging you to take another sip.

Nose: 18
Body: 20
Taste: 23
Finish: 21

James: 82 pts.

*****

Final Average: 81.5 pts.

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Fraoch Heather Ale

Second in our Historic Ales Of Scotland collection is the Williams Brothers most popular and well distributed ale: the Fraoch Heather Ale. The Fraoch is available in single 500ml bottles from the LDB, so select BC Liquor Stores and Private Liquor Shops carry it, unlike the other three ‘Historic Ales’ which are not available individually. Brewed since 2000 B.C., the Fraoch utilizes heather in lieu of hops.

– Kamran

*****

What makes this beer special is the unique flavour that the heather imparts. While it is floral and herbal, with a delicate touch of sweetness, there are also notes of peat and smoke, especially on the nose. For the whisky drinker, this peat flavour is highly appreciable, especially since it is so well integrated into the Fraoch.

While it has a robust body, the Fraoch is rather easy-drinking, making it perfect as a session ale. I could easily put this up against some of my other favourite session ales, such as Phillips Blue Buck or Anchor Steam. I could drink many of these in a night, and not get tired of it.

On the palate, the heather comes off with a pleasant sweetness, and just a touch of peat. It’s quite delicious, and the floral finish remains crisp and consistent.

Nose: 22.5
Body: 22
Taste: 23.5
Finish: 22.5

Kamran: 90.5 pts.

*****

With an inviting floral/herbal nose, it is hard to pass up a Fraoch Heather Ale. I’ve had this beer on several occasions and have always enjoyed it and recommended it to friends. In the light golden appearence is a crisp, fresh beer with a smoothly balanced combination of malt, peat and the heather’s floral sweetness.  While the aftertaste is slight, it has a flowery taste on the palate and is dry like a white wine. Really the best features of this beer are the flavour and finish. In British Columbia this beer is released seasonally, so if you see it at your local store in a 500ml bottle, grab yourself a couple for roughly $5 a piece; on a hot or busy day you wont regret cracking open this one.

Nose: 20
Body: 22
Taste: 23.5
Finish: 23.5

Tristan: 89 pts.

*****

Another in the unique Scots brew collection, the Froach offers yet another unique drinking experience. From the outset, it is hard to know what to make of this beer, since the heather used in the brewing process does not create a very discernible scent, only leaving a slight hint of heather behind and nothing else. The main attraction, however, is the body and flavour, where the floral presence really comes out. With a smooth, light texture, this beer goes down very easily, giving it the refreshing properties more associated with a lager, without the carbonation. The taste add a light floral essence, which really lightens the impact of the hops and creates a distinctive and enjoyable experience. The heather remains on your palate throughout the finish, though this beer would benefit from the experience lasting a little longer.

This is definitely a great beer to enjoy on a hot summer day, so, for those Coors Light fans out there who aren’t opposed to shelling out a few dollars for good beer, this is definitely for you.

Nose: 15
Body: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 20

James: 79 pts.

*****

Final Average: 86.16 pts.

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Grozet Goozeberry & Wheat Ale

Grozet is the first of four Williams Brothers beers we tasted on this night. They came packaged together in a collection called The Historic Ales Of Scotland, a relatively expensive, but amazing collection that I would urge anyone to try — apart from the Fraoch, these unique beers are virtually impossible to find outside of this rare collection.

Each beer utilizes a particular ingredient that was fundamental in historic Sottish beers — Goozeberry, Heather, Pine, and Elderberry. They are basically used in place of hops, to give the beers flavour, as well as balance the sweetness of the malt. The Grozet, which we are reviewing here, is a wheat ale that uses goozeberry.

– Kamran

*****
The first thing one notices is the cloudiness, typical of a hefeweizen. Next, one realizes how pungent the wheat smell is. Though somewhat masked by the unique goozeberry sweetness and florality, the flavour of wheat is quite overpowering; this continues on the palate, and reaches lows during the finish, where the sweetness dies fairly quickly, while the wheat taste lingers.

Though it is quite light, the beer is not highly refreshing; it’s not a beverage you want to drink quickly, nor one you want to drink heavily — one is enough! One would be better off to sip it and try to acquire a taste for the interesting flavours. While I was never quite able to do this, I’m able to recognize that it is not a ‘bad’ beer by any means, just one that fits certain palates better than others. Love it or hate it.

Nose: 19
Body: 20
Taste: 17.5
Finish: 16

Kamran: 72.5 pts.

*****

This beer, as Kamran mentioned, is certainly one that you either enjoy or feel let down by. While I did not really find it that great a beer, I still would highly recommend people at least try it to decide for themselves. While I enjoyed the smell and even the body of the beer, the flavour  and finish certainly left much to be desired in my opinion.  Really not much I can say about this one… the other beers from the collection are much better all around.

Nose: 20
Body: 20
Taste: 15.5
Finish: 10.5

Tristan: 66 pts.

*****

Here’s an interesting concoction, a wheat ale processed with goosberries. Not actually knowing what a gooseberry smells or tastes like made it difficult to pick out these essences in the beer, however it should have been easily distinguishable from the wheat.

From an initial sniff, however, the wheat is by far the dominating scent, burying any other essences that may have been present. Upon tasting, you notice a slightly heavy beer which manages to go down quite smooth, yet has some tartness, possibly due to the presence of the gooseberries. This lead to an interesting flavour that seems dominated by wheat, which appears even stronger thanks to the goosberries, but once again, the berries are not directly detectable. If the berries were brought out more, they would act as a nice compliment to the wheat, but unfortunately this never happens. The finish is particularly disappointing, starting off far too sharp, quickly transitioning to a dull, lifeless taste that fades away very quickly. If the finish was able to keep the positive aspects of the base flavour, it would have scored higher.

If you fancy trying a unique, hard-to-find, original Scottish brew, I would suggest trying the Grozet, but I doubt you will want more than one.

Nose: 20
Body: 20
Taste: 18
Finish: 12

James: 70 pts.

*****

Final Average: 69.5 pts.

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Coney Island Lager

The Coney Island Lager, produced by Shmaltz Brewing — an authentic Jewish brewery from New York — is a (hopped) lager that utilizes Czech pilsner yeast and multiple strains of malts and hops. Along with other Schmaltz beers, such He’brew: The Chosen Beer, this lager is Kosher!

– Kamran

*****

One sniff or sip of this ‘lager’ and one immediately thinks of India Pale Ales. Though I’m unsure of what the IBU (International Bitter Units) for this beer is, I’m sure it’s high enough that it could be classified as an IPA; however, due to the bottom-fermenting yeast being used, it must be known as a lager. Regardless, it is much hoppier than so called IPA’s such as Alexander Keith’s, which should itself be called a lager.

The Coney Island Lager should really be referred to as a hopped lager, comparable to Czechvar — which uses similar yeast, malts, and hops — Phillips Eternal Optimist, Lighthouse’s Overboard Imperial Pilsner, and Okanagan Springs Hopped. As such, I find it much more enjoyable than your typical lager — there’s more complexity and flavour!

With a pleasant, citrusy nose, solid hop profile — replete with robust aroma hops — crisp finish (no lingering lager aftertaste, just a consistent floral bitterness), and relatively light body, the Coney Island lager is a great beer, and not a huge step for a lager-boy who wishes to expand their beer horizons.

Nose: 21
Body: 20.5
Taste: 22
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 85 pts.

*****

With its unique labeling, we were not exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into when we selected this beer for our tasting. Certainly once we started dividing it between the three of us did we realize we had found something that certainly changed our perceptions of what a lager could be. The rich colour, the sweet balance of 8 malts (Specialty 2-row, 2 types of Pale Ale, Marris Otter, Red Wheat, Cara Munich 60L, Light Munich 6L, Vienna 4L, Flaked Barley) and 6 hops (Warrior, Amarillo, Cascade, Tettenange, Saaz, Hallertau) this delicate balance was held together by the Czech pilsner yeast used by Shmaltz Brewing. It has a bitter and crisp taste mellows out on the palate to a nice smooth, slightly hopped aftertaste. Certainly it would be a beer worth exploring again in the future.

Nose: 20
Body: 18
Taste: 20
Finish: 18

Tristan: 76 pts.

*****

If you went to Coney Island, I’m assuming you would find 2 things; this lager and the iconic Ferris wheel made famous by 1979 film The Warriors. Here’s the kicker…I actually thoroughly enjoy both!

As Kam mentioned above, this really should not be calling itself a lager. Judging by the scent this beer greets you with, which is a surprisingly strong array of hops leading to a pleasant aroma,  Coney Island Lager should really be  Coney Island IPA. The body also does not adhere to the name, as it combines a dark appearance with a smooth texture to create a rather heavy beer that could easily fill you in two or three bottles. The taste is also heavily reminiscent of an IPA, with the hops from the aroma carrying over into the flavour, creating a very bitter, slightly citric tang. The finish continues the IPA style textures, with the citric flavours carrying for around a minute before fading. All in all, a very nice ‘Indian Pale Lager’ which may act as a good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with IPAs. Definitely recommended.

Nose: 23
Body: 21
Taste: 20
Finish: 20

James: 84 pts.

*****

Final Average: 81. 66 pts.

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