hist-brewing: From HBD: Fraoch Tasting

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Fri Apr 28 06:28:07 PDT 2000

This fascinating post from Homebrew Digest #3311 (April 28, 2000)
(http://hbd.org) seemed to me to be of interest to this readership.



Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 14:12:32 -0400 (EDT)
From: John Varady <rust1d at usa.net>
Subject: Fraoch Tasting

To those who were unfortunate and missed last nights cask sampling of Fraoch
heather ale in Philadelphia, here is an update of what went on...

Historic brewer Bruce Williams took the jump across the pond from Glasgow,
Scotland to be on hand to guarantee that his pride and joy was properly
conditioned, fined and served. The cask arrived at McMenamins Pub in Mt.
Airy, Philadelphia in an unconditioned state. Bruce added primings and then
finings to the cask to bring it up to condition over the next few days. He
even insisted on modifying the resident hand pump to meet his strict
standards (the pump did not have a back flow valve so when the handle was
pumped some beer would squirt back into the cask and kick up the finings).
Bruce is a bright beer freak and even though the beer was clear by home brew
standards, he was slightly disappointed with it brightness.

The cask version of the Fraoch (gaelic for Heather) was brewed to a slightly
lower gravity than his bottled version (a session beer), to an SG of 1041.
It has heather, and sweet gale added during the boil. No hops are present at
all. The aroma was slightly fruity and acidic. The body was very light and
smooth with a dry, wine like finish. Very easy and enjoyable to drink. It
weighed in at 4% ABV.

In addition to the Fraoch, Bruce also brought along some bottles of his
other herb infused brews.

Grozet (auld Scots for Gooseberry) was an ale brewed with wheat, bog myrtle,
hops, and meadowsweet and then secondary fermented with ripe gooseberries.
This one was really good - with a refreshing fruity aroma and crisp wheat
finish. It was very light on the palate and finished like a champagne. 5% ABV.

Alba (gaelic for Scotland) was an ale brewed with young pine sprigs in the
boil (for several hours) and fresh spruce tips added after knockout (85C).
This one was excellent as well. The woody/intense malty aroma was very
inviting. A sip revealed a very non-piney tasting beer - in fact it recalled
cherries. The nice lingering finish left a malty/smokey taste and a desire
for more. As it warmed, the complexity really began to shine. This one was
big, with a 1072 OG and 7.5% ABV.

He also has another beer, Ebulum, a elderberry black ale that was not
present. He did promise to send some bottles back when he arrived back in

Bruce Williams was a very nice guy and very home brewer friendly. He was
willing to give me any and all information needed to brew his historical
beers. He was at one time a home brew store owner in Glasgow and in 1986, a
Gaelic-speaking customer translated an old family recipe for heather ale and
gave it to him. This started his quest to reproduce the historic beers of
his forefathers. I'd say he was very successful.

One other note, the yeast he uses to ferment his ales was isolated for him
from the wild yeasts that naturally occur on the heather he uses. He was
more than happy to part with the yeast, but the bottles, although bottle
conditioned, had been pasteurized. It made a very nice ale and was extremely

McMenamins Tavern in Mt Airy has several cases of the bottled versions of
these beers, so if you want a taste of historic Scotland, you'd better make
it down there in the next few days!

Thanks to Jim Anderson for making the event possible! Be sure to check out
Beer Philadelphia for what's happening in the Philly beer scene.

Now, if US home brewers start making beers like this, I'd volunteer for the
Herb & Spice category at every home brew comp.

Thanks for listening

- --
John Varady                     http://www.netaxs.com/~vectorsys/varady
Glenside, PA                    rust1d at usa.net

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