When in Portland at the beginning of August, we stopped by Whole Foods in the Pearl District and I picked up a few specialty beers, Fraoch Heather Ale among them. Fraoch comes from the Craigmill Brewery in Scotland, and is one of the oldest styles of beer in the world; the ale is brewed with the flowers of the heather plant rather than hops. Their website says:
Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. heather ale is probably the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. From an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture.
Into the boiling bree of malted barley, sweet gale and flowering heather are added, then after cooling slightly the hot ale is poured into a vat of fresh heather flowers where it infuses for an hour before being fermented.
I’ve known of heather ale for years and have wanted to try some for just as long. I’m glad I did! It’s a pretty good beer; different, but good.
Appearance: A bit murky… the color of raw apple cider. Nice white head formed on top, not too big.
Smell: Surprisingly fruity. Apple, some green(?) berry (chokecherry), hints of wheat.
Taste: Very good, though a little different. Like a pale ale, but instead of any hop bitterness, the heather has a different character. It’s tangy and floral and malty. Herbal.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, though a little watery.
BeerAdvocate scores it 84 out of 100, with 93% approval. Over on RateBeer it scores 3.25 out of 5, slightly better than average and in their 65th percentile. I think it deserves a higher score than that, myself.
If you can find it near you, try it out.