Showing posts with label fraoch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fraoch. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tradition Ale

There are some things that I assume lovers of beer are aware of. I assume that people know that pilsner is more than shorthand for pale lager, whether figuratively or literally, for example. I would love to be able to assume that people know that the word 'ale' does not mean 'top-fermented beer', or at least, that it didn't many moons ago.

If you are, like me, an avid reader of Martyn Cornell's wonderful blog, Zythophile, you will know that that the word , as opposed to that foreign 'beer' muck that had hops in it. Eventually hops made their way into every form of malt liquor that warmed the cockles of the native English speaker, but only to the degree that ale was less hopped than beer.

Recently, as I pottered around a local bottle shop, I decided to get myself some ales that are light on the hops, but heavy on other bittering agents. Thus is was that I ended up with bottles of Williams Bros Grozet, Fraoch, Alba, and Kelpie in my fridge, and last night I polished them off.


First up of the four ales was Grozet, brewed with probably my favourite fruit, gooseberries. As you can see from the picture, the glass is a hand blown affair that I bought in Williamsburg a few years ago, pours a pale yellow though you can't see the firm white head. In terms of aroma, we're talking a light breadiness, some honeyed notes and a noticeable fruitiness which reminds me of gooseberry fool. The aromas blend on into the taste side of things as well. While the ale does have hops in it, there are really not that noticeable, but the bogmyrtle helps to balance the sweetness of the malt, making it a nice, easy drinking brew.


Fraoch heather ale is legendary, and was one of the first non-macro ales to cross my lips. I remember it well, I was home in Uist after my first year in Prague and after a year of drinking Czech lager for come reason Caffreys didn't do it for me anymore. Fraoch pours a slightly hazy dark straw, topped with a fluffy white head that sits and sits. Aroma wise we're talking a hefty earthy, floral smell, backed up with a sweetness which reminds me of my mother's tablet. In tasting,  we're back on familiar malty ground, think a fresh scone from the over, smeared with honey and you're somewhere close, but then with a long, dry, crisp finish. Did I mention yet that this is one of my favourite beers?


According to the label, Alba is an ale brewed with pine and spruce, based on a recipe that was popular in the Highlands until the 19th century. I was expecting a very different beer to the one was poured a beautiful light copper, capped with a nice ivory head. For some reason, I expected the aroma to remind me of an American style IPA, redolent with the pine resin that goes hand in hand with grapefruit. What I got though was more of a Seville orange marmelade with just a touch of pine in the background. Tastewise the dominant flavour was one of chewy toffee and just enough bitterness to balance the malt and avoid it being cloying. Definitely the kind of beer to sit next to the fire with in the depths of winter.


There is a beach on my home island of Benbecula known as 'Stinky Bay' for the piles of rotting seaweed strewn across the bay. My dad is an avid gardener, and in continuing an old Highland tradition, would dump seaweed on his vegetable beds to add nutrients and make the thin soil fertile. Using seaweed as fertilizer would have given the ales of coastal Scotland a distinct brininess, which is really difficult to explain as anything other than the taste of sea air. Marry that aroma and flavour with the sweet, almost smokiness, of chocolate malt and you have a complex brew that would pair wonderfully with a rain driven winter's day, next to the fire, and with a side of Lagavulin...I can see Kelpie becoming a regular in the cellar this winter.


Sometimes it seems as though the beer world these days is obsessed with more, and the latest, hops, Just now and again though it is nice to take a step back in time and enjoy something a little more traditionale.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Brewer of the Week

This week's Brewer of the Week brews one of my favourite tipples whenever I head home to Scotland, the magnificent Fraoch.


Name: Scott Williams
Brewery: Williams Bros Brewing Co.

How did you get into brewing as a career?

Homebrew. I have a homebrew shop in Glasgow which I took over from my dad via my brother years ago. I work in the shop one day a week and chat to brewers – sharing ideas and talking about malt n hops etc.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

To love beer. To be open to variety and seemingly opposing styles.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes. Loads.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

Yes – but truth be told mainly I brew at work.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Ask me which of my children I love most why don't you.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Didn't. But would like to brew in Japan.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

See #5.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I feel very strongly that using authentic ingredients is important – i.e. using heather picked in Scotland and in the right way – picking pine and spruce at the right time etc. However. I brew a lager using a single stage mash and lager yeast (ferments at 8 degrees), Saaz hops blended with bobek and Amarillo – Belgian lager malt and then lager the beer for 90 days. So using the word "lager" is correct and unusual, however non-traditional in that the ingredients are a blend of influences.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Lets say 'Little Creatures' – sounds like a fantastic place to hang out and watch the Ocean after I have been kicked out of the brewhouse for interfering.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

For the sake of my family I would have to say Carlsberg – nothing to do with the beer but could do with the distribution (and dosh). Just think how many fantastic microbrewies/brewpubs I could build with those resources.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lads Among Heather

I seem to be an eternal expat. I haven't lived in the country I call home in any meaningful sense since 1995 (sure 3 years of that time was living in Birmingham in England, but it counts in my mind). Part of the expat experience is that occassional hankering for something from home, whether that takes the form of haggis on Burns Night, a nice single malt scotch, preferably Talisker, or one the beers that you always held a soft spot for; being the stout drinker I am, I still miss Gillespies. One of the beers I like to drink when these almost melancholic moods hits me is Fraoch, a beer I tried and loved long before I knew anything of beer beyond the megaswill.

Thankfully I have found a supplier of Fraoch, and the other beers that the Williams Brothers make in Alloa, although I still need to find somewhere to get my hands on one of the anniversary bottles - whisky aged Fraoch sounds like a dream to me! So I was really pleased to see that the recent International Beer Challenge awarded the WIlliams Brothers a slew of medals, and in order to mark the occassion I though what between song from the Corries to post here on a Friday than The Lads Among Heather?!

Enjoy the song, and have a good weekend people.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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