Pine and spruce ales were first introduced to Scotland by the Vikings, and have always been popular in the Scottish Highlands since then and right up until the late 19th Century. Spruce ale was used on sea voyages as it helped to prevent ill health in sailors, such as scurvy. Shetland spruce ale was said to have been used as an aphrodisiac and was believed to give you twins, so I’m not sure I’ll drink too much of this ale! Apparently, “Alba” is Gaelic for Scotland. Amber to brown in colour this 7.5% volume was served in a 330ml bottle and brewed by Williams Brothers Brewing Company, in Alloa, Scotland. The ale’s ingredients included; malted barley bree, Scots pine and spruce sprigs. Spruce and pine are picked between April and May every year. In the brewing stages, malted barley is first mixed with sprigs of pine and boiled for several hours. Then shoots of spruce are added for a short infusion before being left to ferment.
No wonder this ale won the World Gold Medal 1998. Alba was certainly strong, with a nearly liquor like sweet smell. There was a rich hardy hoppy bitter almost liquorish and spirit kick to start with that moved to a rich malt which then smoothed out to a floral woody sap like sweetness that travelled through to the aftertaste. This ale was very strong indeed, very pleasant to drink and very warming. No wonder it’s popular in the Highlands with its tough hardy landscape, strapping folk and cold damp weather. I reckon this ale is best enjoyed on its own, possibly on top of a frozen windswept mountain somewhere in Scotland surrounded by ice and snow. In fact mountaineers should have this ale in their beer-hats... Do mountaineers wear beer-hats? If they don’t, they should... and I certainly recommend they drag a barrel of this ale behind them as they climb!