“ Brand: Heather Ale / Type: Ale „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Seaweed? Heather? Pine needles? Elderberries?
The Germans may have their Reinheitsgebot ensuring only hops, malt, yeast and water can be included as ingredients in beer, but Heather Ales don't give a fig for purity laws. (Figs? Now there's a thought.)
Craigmill Brewery, home of Heather Ales, is located in an old watermill in Strathaven, Lanarkshire. The owners (Bruce and Scott Williams) used to own a homebrew shop in Glasgow but after perfecting a recipe for Heather Ale, they founded their own brewery.
Their claim to fame is their practice of using different, and sometimes unusual, ingredients to produce their beers. These are based on traditional recipes, using local produce. Examples include Fraoch Ale (brewed with Heather), Kelpie (using seaweed), Alba (using pine needles, and Grozet (brewed with gooseberries). They also brew seasonals as well as ales under the name Stone Kettle.
This beer, EBULUM BLACK ALE, uses elderberries picked in Scotland from late September through October. I'm not sure where the word Ebulum comes from though - the Scots word for the elder tree is Bourtree.
Welsh Celtic druids drank a dark fermented beverage brewed from cereals, herbs and elderberries during Autumn ceremonies and this practice passed to Scotland where it was in common use by the 9th century.
There are many wine and ale recipes using elderberries, and Heather Ale Ltd. has re-created the most common one with this ale by brewing from roasted barley, oats and wheat boiled with herbs then fermented with ripe elderberries.
An armless man walked into a bar which was empty except for the bartender.
He ordered a drink and when he was served, asked the bartender if he would get the money from his wallet in his pocket, since he has no arms.
The bartender obliged him. He the
ed if the bartender would tip the glass to his lips.
The bartender did this until the man finished his drink. He then asked if the bartender would get a hanky from his pocket and wipe the foam from his lips.
The bartender did it and commented it must be very difficult not to have arms and have to ask someone to do nearly everything for him.
The man said, "Yes, it is a bit embarrassing at times.
By the way, where is your restroom?"
The bartender quickly replies,
"The closest one is in the gas station three blocks down the street."
Back to the beer.....
"A rich black ale with fruit aroma, silky soft texture,soft roasted flavour and gentle finish."
EBULUM pours a slate-black, almost Guinness-like colour topped by a tight half-inch of creamy, coffee-coloured foam which lasts well and leaves liberal amounts of lace on the glass.
The aroma is dominated by malt. It's toasty and sweet, with roasted grain and hints of licorice. There's a touch of woody earthiness about it, and, as it warms, some some tart fruitiness there too - probably from the elderberries but since I don't really know what elderberries smell like, I can only guess.
The mouthfeel is as smooth as silk and that, with the moderate carbonation, makes this full-bodied brew slip down a treat. The initial taste reminds me of a porter, or stout. It's a little wine-like, with a bit of woodiness and some sweet, fruit-juice flavour. The malt gives lots of sweetness to this beer with a nice, soft toffee profile, but it also counteracts with a slight bitterness from some of the more heavily roasted ingredients. You can just about sense a soft sweetness from the oats that are used, but it's very subtle. All the way through, the licorice flavour is very noticeable.
The beer finishes quite sweet with
a feeling of over-ripe fruit and leads to a woody, dryish aftertaste.
* The Verdict *
At 6.5% ABV, this is an extremely interesting and pleasant beer. The alcohol is masked very well and is very easy to drink, but I don't think I'd want to spend an evening knocking back a few of these. The brewery recommend serving it slightly chilled as an accompaniment to stewed or baked food - I would suggest it would be far more suitable as a dessert beer.
It's very different - not like most fruit beers at all - and it's very interesting. It tastes lovely, but it's definitely a very occasional sipping beer.
A 330ml bottle of this will cost around £1.99, but a gift-pack containg four different beers from this brewery is slightly better value at £5.99 from Safeway.
Would I drink it again? - Yes, because it's berry nice.
Thanks for reading,
A rich black ale with fruit aroma, silky soft texture, soft roasted flavour and gentle finish. Recommended with stewed and baked foods. Drink slightly chilled from a straight glass. Brewer: Heather Ale Ltd. Style: Ale Alcohol Content: 6.5% Seasonal: No