Jenna McCray’s Taste of Scotland
Jenna McCray’s first drink in Scotland, when the New Yorker find herself in the coastal village of Anand, is a pint of Scottish-brewed heather ale, Fraoch. Why?
Well, it’s Natasha’s favourite Scottish Ale, and there are plenty of flavoursome brews available! While as far as alcohol is concerned, the Scots are more known for whisky, and rightly so. It’s not the only liquor that we produce and do so well. Leann Fraoch has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C this ale is historical and, like great folk stories, has stood the many tests of time.
It has been produced to its ancient Gaelic recipe and exported exclusively in modern times by The Williams Bros. Brewing Co since 1988. Their description of this amber nectar of the old gods is perfect—
This beer allows you to literally pour 4000 years of Scottish history into a glass.Williams Bros Brewing Co
Even the secret of the heather ale recipe is one that’s been long told through spoken folk tales. Not just in Scotland, Ireland too has its variance on their brew known as ‘bheóir Lochlannach’ in Irish legends.
Edinburgh-born novelist Robert Louis Stevenson is known for classics a Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and if unfamiliar with those one of his poems is the theme for the popular tv show Outlander, ‘Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone’. He, too, wrote a poem about the amber nectar in his poem A Galloway Legend:
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. There rose a king in Scotland, A fell man to his foes, He smote the Picts in battle, He hunted them like roes. Over miles of the red mountain He hunted as they fled, And strewed the dwarfish bodies Of the dying and the dead. Summer came in the country, Red was the heather bell; But the manner of the brewing Was none alive to tell. In graves that were like children’s On many a mountain head, The Brewsters of the Heather Lay numbered with the dead. The king in the red moorland Rode on a summer’s day; And the bees hummed, and the curlews Cried beside the way. The king rode, and was angry; Black was his brow and pale, To rule in a land of heather And lack the Heather Ale. It fortuned that his vassals, Riding free on the heath, Came on a stone that was fallen And vermin hid beneath. Rudely plucked from their hiding, Never a word they spoke: A son and his aged father— Last of the dwarfish folk. The king sat high on his charger, He looked on the little men; And the dwarfish and swarthy couple Looked at the king again. Down by the shore he had them; And there on the giddy brink— “I will give you life, ye vermin, For the secret of the drink.” There stood the son and father And they looked high and low; The heather was red around them, The sea rumbled below. And up and spoke the father, Shrill was his voice to hear: “I have a word in private, A word for the royal ear. “Life is dear to the aged, And honor a little thing; I would gladly sell the secret,” Quoth the Pict to the King. His voice was small as a sparrow’s, And shrill and wonderful clear: “I would gladly sell my secret, Only my son I fear. “For life is a little matter, And death is nought to the young; And I dare not sell my honor Under the eye of my son. Take him, O king, and bind him, And cast him far in the deep; And it ’s I will tell the secret That I have sworn to keep.” They took the son and bound him, Neck and heels in a thong, And a lad took him and swung him, And flung him far and strong, And the sea swallowed his body, Like that of a child of ten;— And there on the cliff stood the father, Last of the dwarfish men. “True was the word I told you: Only my son I feared; For I doubt the sapling courage That goes without the beard. But now in vain is the torture, Fire shall never avail: Here dies in my bosom The secret of Heather Ale.”
This poem depicts the slaughter of the Picts by the Irish King, who wanted the land and the secret of the magical heather brew. It’s quite something isn’t it? Read it aloud, and feel it in your blood.
It felt only fitting to cleanse Jenna’s palate with something exceptional. Something made from the roots of Scottish history, from the glorious soft water, rich peat and wild floral heathers.
Even this seemingly minor detail of a woman having a drink after a long flight was considered and further strikes distinct parallels with features such as the landscape iteslef and other characters in the novel, Delevan House. What did you pick up from Brazen Folk Horror’s debut brew?
If you fancy giving Fraoch a try or learning more about how it’s brewed today, click here to visit The Williams Bros. Brewing Co.
And if you want to know about Robert Louis Stevenson, his biography on The Poetry Foundation is a great place to start.
Leave a Reply