Heather Ale (Cambridge Brewing Company)

Style: American Gruit brewed with Heather Flowers

5% ABV

OG: 1.048

FG: 1.010

Malt: Scottish floor-malted barley

Boil: fresh harvested Heather Flowers, Sweet Gale, Lavender

Conditioning: fresh Heather, Yarrow

Bottled on: August 2012

Batch #1

Brewer’s Notes: “From out of the darkness of pre-recorded history, Heather Ale is an altogether unique brew. Originally crafted by the inhabitants of coastal Northern Europe, Scandinavia, and the Northern British Isles, fresh heather flowers and other herbs were used to balance and flavor the rustic yet sweet toasted character of the malted barley. Its brewing tradition existed long before the advent of hopped beers, and has continued, sporadically, in small rural communities for millennia./ Brewed with imported Scottish floor-malted barley, fresh hand-harvested heather flowers were added to the kettle during the boil along with sweet gale and lavender, with a further addition of fresh heather and yarrow to the conditioning tanks. Each year the CBC brewstaff handpicks the fresh herbs for this beer from a field along the Atlantic Coast, and adds them into the brewkettle the very next day. The aroma and flavor are a surprising jog of ancient memory, with commingling subtle notes of heather and honey and an obscure wildflower spiciness complemented by the interplay of mild but assertive, toasty-sweet malt. Medium bodied, light amber-gold in color, with a dry finish that hints at tartness. Special thanks to our friends for their support with this year’s heather harvest. Slainte!”

Heather Ale 1

The beer’s label is funky, but I like it.  The font choices are excellent, going from the scribbly font for the brewery’s name, to the funky clean font of the beer’s title, and all the little fonts.  I do wish that they had kept all of the writing in white coloring instead of black for the description of the beer style and the writing on the sides.  All of the boring information is cleverly hidden on the sides of the bottle, and is not an eye sore at all, which is really quite spectacular.  The stripes of blue are a nice background, and the hotrod/hippie van with heather streaming from it and a man sitting on the back and eyeing you seductively are nice touches, and are definitely a shout out to the fact that the CBC hops in a van and travels around the north east collecting the herbs for this wonderful gruit.  The label is definitely worth keeping, and should be considered for the shelf.  Extra points for the inclusion of the batch number and the bottled on date clearly on the side of the bottle.

Heather Ale 2

The beer pours a dirty golden brown color, almost like honey or a light cream soda.  The head is massive and creamy white with big rocky soap bubbles that leave foamy, clinging bits of lacing on the glass.  The beer’s body is fairly clear with a nice light haze murking the body enough that this beer is not entirely translucent.  On the nose, this beer smells sweetly herbal with a good grainy kick.  The herbs pack a lovely cornucopia of spices onto the nose, moving from minty to spicy, to everywhere in-between.  The beer almost smells like a super spicy hefeweizen, as it has some awesome banana and clove esters lying as the backbone of this beer.  The smell is quite enticing.  On the tongue, the beer tastes like a liquefied and refreshing spicy bread with light touches of banana.  The heather shines in the beer, obviously… leaving an almost minty tingle on the mouth.  The beer begins with light grainy bread with a faint touch of banana esters, before it opens into an herbal wonderland that starts more spicy, moves towards grainy, then bursts with big cooling herbal mint flavors before rounding itself into perfect balance of all of the different flavors listed.  The aftertaste is of light tingly herbal mint (heather?) with a touch of grainy bread.  On the mouth, the beer feels light to medium in body with a certain congealing feeling to it as it stretches out over the tongue.  The beer is supremely refreshing and clean feeling, though the strong herbal flavors in the middle of the taste do place a slight graininess on the tongue.  The mouth is left clean with some nice little puddles on the sides of the my tongue begging for more of the beer.  Overall, this beer is supremely tasty, and another excellent example of the burgeoning American Gruit scene.  Bready, complex, refreshing, rejuvenating… my list of descriptions for this beer could go on and on.  This is a delicious success from the stellar CBC, and definitely a beer you should try.

Heather Ale 3


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