The indigenous beers of the Scottish environs are as varied as they are creative. With a
multitude of interesting styles, reflective of the various cultural influences present in the
region over the centuries, the area has a rich past of fine ales and lagers. Unfortunately,
many of these styles were essentially lost to history. There is hope of reclaiming these beers and it comes to us from a handful of keen individuals who have sought to bring these ancient ales and lagers back to their former glory. One of these individuals is Bruce Williams, a brewer and homebrew shop owner in Scotland, who began making batches of a unique Heather Ale using an astonishingly old recipe. Heather, the flower responsible for the purple hues in the mountains of Scotland, was used to make beer long before the introduction of hops to the brewer’s recipe books. It is among the oldest of beer styles produced in the world. Brewed in Scotland since 325 B.C. by the Picts, a Celtic tribal race, the history of heather in alcoholic libations goes back much further – in fact, traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers have been found by archaeologists dating back to 2,000 B.C.! However, it was the Picts who made this ale legendary - guarding the secret recipe, quite literally, with their very lives.
Now don’t ask us how, but in 1986 Bruce Williams uncovered an ancient recipe for
“leann fraoich” (Gaelic for heather ale). Since then, he has triumphantly resurrected this
and other styles which are currently enjoying widespread acclaim through a partnership
with Heather Ale, Ltd., a company dedicated to resurrection and preservation of authentic Scottish beers. Included in their current line up are revived concoctions that once passed the lips of Welsh Druids, Vikings and Celtic tribesmen. Each contains unconventional ingredients – anything from bog myrtle, meadowsweet, Scottish gooseberries, pine, spruce shoots, and bladderwrack seaweed.
This month, we are proud to offer you an authentic taste of Scotland’s tasty malted
heritage by sending you what just might be the oldest style of beer still in production.
For more information about Heather Ale, Ltd. and their many interesting concoctions, check out their web site at http://www.heatherale.co.uk/.