Fraoch (pronounced Fru-aack) Heather Ale is the only beer available here in Milwaukee that substitutes the use of hops with heather flowers. Brewed in Strathhaven at the Craimill Brewery near Glasgow, Scotland, this is a beer with a long history, purportedly brewed since 2000 BC.
This makes Fraoch Heather Ale one of the oldest styles of ale in the world. The beer as we taste it today was revived in 1986 by a Scottish home brew shop owner named Bruce Williams. Williams asked a Gaelic-speaking islander to translate an old family recipe for "Leann fraoich" (heather ale) .
He then began the crusade to revive Scotland's brewing heritage by trying different varieties and quantities of heather flowers, making up batches and testing them on his customers. Once the formula was perfected he began to sell the brew as Fraoch (heather) ale. The results are something to behold.
It's hard to classify this beer. As you pour it into a glass it is slightly cloudy and has a unique light amber color. It has a very floral heather character, complemented by a full-bodied malt presence. After a few sips you'll notice a pleasant dry winey finish, very different from other Scottish ales. It's this very complex character that compliments the heavy malt body. After a while this cloying character remains on the pallet, but it sits very well. You know you have drunk a real ale after finishing a Fraoch.
The malts used are 100% Scottish malt, which lend it a strong malt character. Though heather is the main aroma ingredient, a small amount of First Gold Scottish hops is used in the beer as well as something called sweet gale and bog myrtle. Bet you never thought you would ever be drinking anything with bog myrtle in it!
A proprietary yeast strain is used to ferment this beer and I'm sure it adds to the singular flavor profile. You can see that this is one very interesting and unique beer.
Fraoch averages 5% alcohol content by volume and is available in single 11.2-oz. Bottles. The sample bottle was priced at $2.19. It is interesting to note the importer of Fraoch also has several other interesting Scottish brews available including Alba Scott Pine Ale, Dark Island and Skullsplitter Ale, one of the best-named beers on the planet.
Next time we'll find ourselves in Belgium for Witkap-Pater Single ale. Keep your kilts out of the wind till then.