The Williams Bros. Brewing Co. is a trading name of Heather Ale Ltd, and was founded by brothers Bruce and Scott Williams. Starting from the family-owned homebrew store ‘Glenbrew’ based in Glasgow, the event that started the brewery off is like something out of an adventure story. In 1988 the shop was visited by a lady in possession of a special Gaelic recipe, handed down for many generations of her family, detailing an ages-old method of brewing ‘Leanne Fraoch’ – an ale brewed with Scotland’s famous and plentiful heather and bog myrtle instead of hops, which are more of a Southern English crop. She wished for help to brew up a batch that she could share with her family. The brothers agreed to help, in exchange for use of the recipe for themselves too. After much experimentation with the recipe, using different malts and botanicals, the foundation of William Bros famous ‘Fraoch’ Heather Ale was created.
Along with recreating historic beers and ales with classic Scottish produce such as Scots pine, elderberries and seaweed, the brewery has also been at the forefront of the Scottish craft brewing scene, experimenting with both old and new world hops. One such favourite to come from their tinkerings is Joker IPA, a hoppy and juicy blend of malts and the ever-popular combination of Cascade, Chinook, Citra and Mosaic hops. Predictably, Joker AF is the brewer’s alcohol-free version of this beer, which was launched in March 2023 to great acclaim, at least on social media platforms such as Untappd. It’s the first non-alcoholic beer I’ve seen that mentions using a ‘Thiolised yeast’ in it’s production. A Thiolised yeast has been engineered to produce more ‘thiols’ – these are the compounds that can give fruity and tropical aromas to beer. They’re found in both malt and hops, though most often in hops, and are usually bound to other molecules – meaning that their aroma is hard to detect. Thiolised yeasts help to break these bonds down, which releases the thiols from their handcuffs and gives a more intense aroma as a result.
This all sounds good in principle, but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or in this case – the impact of the IPA is in the imbibing. Enough with the wordplay, let’s crack this open.
Joker AF pours a pale straw colour with some slight haze visible. A small but dense head is produced and is our companion for at least the first few swigs, transferring to the sides of the glass as lacing for the rest of the session. On the nose there is a load of tropical fruit on show, with melon, mango, passion fruit and juicy pineapple all discernible to my nose, along with whiffs of resinous pine. The aromas are straddling two different biomes and work well to get your saliva glands going, making themselves ready for what comes next.
On tasting, we’re treated to some big flavours, starting with a kick of lively bitterness. This is soon overtaken by juicy fruitiness, initially grapefruit citrus, but soon mellowing into sweeter pineapple and mango, striking a balance between the tropical/citrus mix really well. The body has a decent heft to it, with a pretty thick mouthfeel and gentle carbonation. The finish is bitter and pithy.
Joker AF carries on the high standard that Williams Bros have become known for, and I’m so happy that the brewer seems to have approached their alcohol-free options with the same values as their ‘full-fat’ offerings. The beer reminds me of some of Two Roots’ nolos, and if you’re aware of their output then I’m sure you know what praise that is. Time to put in another order in time for this good weather we’re having!
Buy Joker AF
Williams Bros beers, including Joker IPA, have been spotted in supermarkets like Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons, so I hope their alcohol-free version will follow suit. If not, no worries, it’s always available online:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the can)|
|Water, Barley, Wheat, Hops, Oats, Rye, Yeast|
|Country of Production||Scotland|
|Brewer||Williams Bros Brewing Co – https://www.williamsbrosbrew.com/|
Joker AF Non-Alcoholic IPA Review
Juicy, fruity, pillowy and delicious – this is a triumph of progressive craft brewing.