When I had picked up the heather ale in Portland last month, I also bought a bottle of Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale, brewed by the same brewery as the Fraoch. How could I not? It was such an unusual-sounding beer. Here’s the description from their website:
Introduced to Scotland by Welsh druids in the 9th Century, elderberry black ale was part of the Celtic Autumn festivals when the "elders" would make this strong ale and pass the drink round the people of the village. The recipe was taken from a 16th Century record of domestic drinking in the Scottish Highlands. Elderberries were used for many natural remedies to cure sciatica, other forms of neuralgia, influenza and rhumatism as they contain tannins and fruit oils.
Ebulum is made from roasted oats, barley and wheat boiled with herbs then fermented with ripe elderberries.
I made an elderberry wine once, but I hadn’t seen beer made from the fruit. So not knowing what to expect, let’s check out my notes…
Appearance: Deep ruby-red-black beer. One and a half fingers of creamy, brownish head.
Smell: Elderberry (I assume), coffee, chocolate—like a stout. Smokey dark malts… no hops.
Taste: Smokey, coffee tones, a hint of chocolate… no real berry flavor there though. No hops of note. Perhaps a hint of elderberry at the edges…
Mouthfeel: Rich, astringent (dry), kind of oily. Medium—like a porter, not thick like stout.
My verdict? It was good, but different—different in the same way that the heather ale was different. More herbal, tangy, malty, partially because of the lack of hops and largely because of the different additives used. I like it. Dry and dark, like a porter, but with a lighter and distinctly fruity/herbal character.
I’ll have to seek out the other two beers from the Craigmill Brewery; they are a pine and spruce ale, and a seaweed ale. No kidding!