Whenever I’m traveling, one of the necessities of my trip is to try and find a good beer shop. While I was in Knoxville a couple weeks ago visiting my sister, I stopped in at Harvest Towne Wine & Spirits, as they had a small, but quality, beer selection. They had a couple that were very intriguing, including a beer that was brewed with pine and spruce in place of hops. I had never had a hopless beer before.
Alba Scots Pine Ale, brewed by Heather Ale from Scotland, is a “triple” style ale. According to the label, this was a Highland recipe that uses sprigs of spruce and pine. Introduced by the Vikings, this style of ale was popular until the late 19th century.
The beer pours a slightly hazy copper color. Has a nice, creamy white head. The aroma is malty sweet, but if there was any pine or spruce in the aroma, it was very subtle and I can’t really detect it.
Flavor is malty, but not overly intense. Again, I can’t detect any pine in the taste. It actually has a sort of a candied sweetness, kind of like you might expect from a normal Scottish Ale. It has quite a pleasant flavor. At 7.5% ABV, it is very easy drinking and has a pleasant mouthfeel.
If I had not read that this beer had no hops and used pine, I never would have guessed. It just tastes like a regular ol’ Scottish Ale. I was expecting a beer version of gin, but it was anything but. It wasn’t piney at all. I am very impressed!
I have a friend from church who theorizes she is allergic to hops. This will be a great control variable to experiment and find out of that’s it, or if it’s something else. I love the scientific method!
Evan and I have been discussion trying to flavor a brew with juniper boughs, which supposedly has been done for a really long time in Finland. The only problem really is figuring where the heck you get good juniper boughs.
Personally I am really interested in beers flavored with things other than hops. I like hops as much as the next guy, but it seems that the possibility to use other flavors is really open too. I tried a grout about three years ago and it was awesome (grouts are old-school beer styles that used a mixure of various herbs for flavoring instead of hops).
Anyway, cool post, I’m interested in trying to find some of this.