Fraoch heather ale review

By | September 5, 2014

Fraoch heather ale has an interesting, mystical story to tell.

To my mind at least, Fraoch sounds like a character out of The Hobbit or an expletive Bilbo Baggins might hurl at unsuspecting residents of The Shire after a particularly heavy session down the boozer.

The name of this heather ale isn’t the only Tolkein-type thing about it. The label looks like it might have been designed by one of Middle-earth’s top craftsmen.

Oh, and then there’s the mysterious ingredients. Surely this so-called heather ale, made with something called Bog Myrtle, is just a wacky gimmick thought up by a central London think-tank comprising of floppy-haired bright young things, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

However, you would be forgiven for thinking Bog Myrtle was a girl with a certain reputation after dark in Mordor and the surrounding areas.

Fraoch -  an ale with an impressive history

Brewed by Alloa-based Williams Brothers Brewing Company, Fraoch’s story is far more interesting than most, and to give you an idea, we are going back in time. Way back in time, in fact.

Fraoch Heather Ale

The label proudly states Froach has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 BC, enticing would-be drinkers to take a swig and go back 4,000 years.

Heather ale comes from the old Gaelic recipe – leann fraoich (heather ale) – and is quite possibly the oldest style of ale still produced today.

This incarnation of an old recipe was resurrected by chance in 1988 when a lady with strong Gaelic ancestry visited the brewery with a translation for leann fraoich, and so began the business of recreating this special brew for the lady, her family and the rest of us, to enjoy.

It’s made using British pale ale malt, caramalt, and malted wheat malts. It also includes Bog Myrtle and that most vital of all ingredients for a heather ale, heather.

It turns out that Bog Myrtle isn’t a lady of the night, but a deciduous shrub with aromatic properties found in some boggy areas of north-western Europe and north America. It forms a crucial part of this particular brew.

The tasting

This beer certainly promises plenty of character and flavour but does it deliver the goods?

There’s only one way to find out; crack open a bottle and give it a whirl.

The faintly peaty aroma reminded me of the first time I ever went into a pub where scent of booze lured me through its doors like a Bisto kid following a whiff of gravy.

Once poured, I had glass full of clear amber ale which I allowed to settle. It certainly wasn’t the rather darker beer I was expecting.

My first impression of Froach (5% ABV) was that it’s a beer which goes down well on a summer’s day, perhaps too much so. You could easily have a few of these and the heathery hangover to show for it.

I was expecting to taste something more earthy but, had I not known what I was drinking, then it could have passed as another run of the mill ale. Perhaps I’d built it up to be something magical and mystical.

The carbonation was quite prominent and, in my view, detracted from what little I could taste.

I tried two bottles; one chilled and one at room temperature. I definitely preferred the latter.

The verdict

I must be honest, I found it slightly disappointing.

Williams Brothers has an impressive ine-up of bottled beers in its armoury including Kelpie Seaweed Ale, Roisin, Nollaig, Good Times and March of the Penguins.

Fraoch has gained in popularity over recent years and is now a familiar sight at many of the country’s supermarket chains. It’s certainly come along way in 4,000 years.

The brewery proudly states: ‘This beer allows you to literally pour 4,000 years of Scottish history into a glass.’ I’d encourage you to head to your Hobbit hole with a few bottles of this easy-to-drink stuff but don’t expect anything out of this world.

Try some Fraoch for yourself.

More real ale reviews here.

The InnSpectre reviews…

The Ship and Shovell has an area called The Snug which consists of a table and two chairs at the top of a small staircase. It provides the ideal place for two lovers to gaze into each others’ eyes and have a blazing row in private – a point well worth remembering the next time you and the missus have one of those make-or-break chats.

The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge is surrounded by the beauty, peace and tranquility of the North Yorkshire Moors and this is what lures me back time after time. It’s where I come to escape the rat race and the wretched rodents who compete in it.

A young barman at the King’s Head in Deal came right over to me and played the spoons to an impressive standard before wowing his audience by drinking beer from his shoe. Once the applause died down the lad jumped on a table where he danced with a blonde female colleague.

The barman at the Windsor Castle in Clapham could barely take his eyes off television coverage of the horse racing and pulled my pint with about as much vim and vigour as a donkey being led to the glue factory.