Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Me likey beer that gets creative with ingredients. Some of these beers are the new-fangled brain children like Craftsman Brewing Company's Cabernale that is made using Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and The Bruery's Trade Winds Tripel made with Thai Basil. Some other beers with funky ingredients harken back to older traditional styles and days of yore.

Take Heather Ale for instance. Having origins that date back to 2000 b.c., this is a delicious and delicate style from Scotland that uses, you guessed it, heather instead of hops to provide balance to the malt. Heather is one of Scotland's most prolific plants, growing over millions of acres as ground cover. Sweet, fragrant and strong, the Scots used this prolific plant instead of hops, which wouldn't grow in Scotland's climate.

And as is the Scottish way, there are many legends, poems, myths and folklore surrounding this ancient beer style. One story is that the first whisky was accidently made when heather ale was distilled by warming over a fire...and you know how I love the Scotch!

Another story is that an ancient Scots king, who after winning a bloody battle over the Pict tribe, found a Pictish father and his son by a cliff. The King, who wanted the secret recipe for the Heather Ale tortured the father and his son for it. The father finally agreed to reveal the secret if the King would kill his son quickly. The King agreed and threw the boy's body off the cliff. He turned to the father but he said, "But now in vain is the torture, fire shall never avail, here dies in my bosom the secret of the Heather Ale." Then he threw himself at the King and they both fell from the cliff. Isn't that heartwarming?

If you feel like trying this rare style of beer and being part of Scottish history, you should start with the Fraoch (pronounced FRAY-OOK) from The Brewery Craigmill in Lanarkshire, Scotland. This delightful beer is a light amber ale with floral peaty aroma, full malt character and a spicy herbal flavor and dry wine like finish. 5% abv.

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1 comment:

  1. Heather Ale has been brewed @ The Williams Brothers Brewery In the old brewing town of Alloa for the past 7 years after the growing to big for Craigmill. Our range of beers has also expanded, now no longer making only Historic Ales we also make a range of Microbrewed ales under the Williams brother guise.