Beer drinker, beer brewer and lover of all things beer.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A Drop of Scotch

Beer that is, not the distilled malt. Scotland has a long history of brewing beer and they have used herbs for bittering and flavouring throughout that time. The Celts would use a gruit using herbs like Meadow-wort and this style would continue in Scotland long after the hopped style became  dominate in England. Hops would replace the use of gruit by the end of the 19th century but some old styles have been revived creating some interesting and quite satisfying beers coming from north of the border.

Williams Bros Brewing Co
A lady of Gaelic descent went into the Williams owned homebrew shop in Partick, bearing a translation of a 17th century recipe for 'Leanne Fraoch' (Heather Ale), Inherited from her Gaelic family.  This translated recipe was developed in homebrew size quantities by shop owner Bruce Williams to the recipe that is used today. The company started life in 1988 with Bruce brewing their flagship beer Heather Ale in a
tiny brewery in Taynult where they could produce no more than 5 barrels per batch. As demand grew a series of relocations ensued till they took over the New Alloa Brewery at Kelliebank, Alloa and started trading as the Williams Bros. Along with Heather Ale, 4 other historic Scottish ales are developed using natural Scottish produce such as elderberries, the shoots of Scots pine, seaweed & gooseberries.


This flagship beer is brewed using flowering heather that is added to the boil and then the hot wort is run into a fresh vat of heather flowers where it infuses for an hour. The idea of this may sound quite bizzare and even un-appealing to some. I was pleasantly suprised to discover what a pleasant beer this makes that is not unlike a floral hopped beer. This Amber ale has a floral earthy aroma that invites the drinker in. With a strong caramel maltiness the heather flavour provides a subtle spicy medicinal tang. The finish is dry with elements of grape. This is a suprisingly morish beer and worth a sampling. 4 out of 5.


Made from a 16th century recipe this beer could be considered more a fruit lager. Brewed using lager malts and wheat it's bittered and flavoured with Bog Myrtle, hops and Meadowsweet. Scottish Gooseberries are added to the secondary fermentation. This 5% beer looks like a lager in the glass as it pours a pale blonde with plenty of fizz. The aroma is very sweet and citruisy but with a suprising roasted quality almost coffee like. This beer is very creamy on the tongue with only a light citruis flavour that is dominated by the sweetness. You are left with a dry mouthfeel and the citruis lingers nicely. 3.5 out of 5.

Atlas Brewery
This small brewery is situated in the Scottish highlands village of Kinlochleven. They have been brewing since 2002 in a building used previously as an aluminium smelter.

Three sisters
Named after the Glencoe mountain range this beer is brewed with chocolate and crystal malts. A dark ruby session beer at 4.2% abv. An inviting aroma of toffee and berries pours with a thick creamy head. There is strong notes of chocolate and liquoriche balanced by a caramel sweetness. You are left with a pleasant kick of dark berries and a medium dry bitterness.
Very satisfying 4 out of 5.


  1. Did you catch the sad news (in July's CAMRA What's Brewing?) that Atlas Brewery is to close soon?
    Owners Sinclair Breweries are nearing completion on the expansion of their Orkney Brewery, and are concentrating production up there.

    (I can't find online confirmation of this, but it seems to make sense)

  2. I can't find any info myself but I suppose this is just the price of success, still sad news though.


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