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Heather Ale Days

"From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground."

~ Heather Ale: A Galloway Legend, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1890

Raise a glass of heather ale and toast the new season! Unlike traditional beers, heather ale, a type of Scottish “gruit” ale, does not make use of hops for fermentation and bittering but instead uses fragrant dried heather tips which infuses this ancient drink with both floral and earthy tones. The brewing process involves fermenting the heather alongside malted barley, creating a light, refreshing flavour with a subtle peaty essence, often complemented by other native herbs like yarrow or bog myrtle (also known as sweet gale). The legend of heather ale is famously captured in the Scottish folk tale of the Picts, an ancient Celtic people who possessed the coveted secret recipe for heather ale, a brew so delightful and unique that it was considered a treasure of the land. The rival and invading native Scots, eager to obtain this secret, capture the last Pictish king and his son. Despite brutal coercion, the Picts chose to keep their secret, leading to its loss with their deaths. Poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson was so enamored with this legend that he wrote the namesake poem, 'Heather Ale: A Galloway Legend". This allegedly 4000 year old brewing style was almost forgotten until the Williams Brothers Brewery revived it using a 17th century recipe for their Fraoch Heather Ale. Sláinte! 💜 🍻 🌱

Designed by Lochcarron of Scotland, this tartan was inspired by Scotland's beautiful natural surroundings using vibrant tones representing heather and thistle in combination with the verdant greens of rolling hills.

The Picts were one of the main groups of people living in what is now Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. Their history is somewhat mysterious due to the limited written records from the Picts themselves; much of what is known comes from Roman and later Scottish and Irish sources.

The Picts were not invaded by the Scots in the sense of a foreign invasion; rather, the history of the Picts and Scots is more a tale of gradual assimilation, alliance, and eventual unification. The term "Scots" originally referred to the Gaelic-speaking people from Ireland (also known as the Scoti) who settled in the west of Scotland, in a region known today as Argyll and later spreading further. Over time, these Irish settlers and the native Picts, among others, gradually merged through intermarriage, alliances, and the expansion of Christianity, which played a significant role in uniting the different groups under a common faith.

By the late 9th century, the distinction between Pict and Scot began to blur, culminating in the reign of King Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), who is often credited with founding the Kingdom of Alba by merging Pictish and Scottish kingdoms around the middle of the 9th century. This unified kingdom eventually grew into the medieval Kingdom of Scotland. The narrative of an invasion might stem from later interpretations or simplifications of these complex interactions. In reality, the processes were more gradual and involved a mix of conquest, assimilation, and political marriage, rather than a straightforward invasion by one distinct group against another.

For more details of the famous legend of Heather Ale, click the painting of the gathering of heather!

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