Moors-ish Ale - a new ale uses heather from the Hole of Horcum

PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:29 24 October 2015

Harvesting heather in the North York Moors

Harvesting heather in the North York Moors


Raise your glass to a very moor-ish new ale from York Brewery

People have long loved to drink in the beauty of the heather that stretches for mile after mauve mile across the North York Moors National Park. And now, thanks to a bit of off-the-wall thinking by a York brewery, that beauty has now been bottled.

Moors-ish Ale is the latest brew in the Off The Wall range from York Brewery which, as the name suggests, is a collection of hand-crafted quirky beers created by experts given complete freedom to innovate – even if it means bottling the spirit of the Yorkshire landscape.

Master brewer Alan Hardie regularly volunteers on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, bringing him into close contact with the striking surrounding scenery. Indeed, it was while noting the changing colours of the moorland that inspiration struck.

He witnessed how the heather in the National Park becomes a sea of mauve and pink when the heather comes into flower in late summer, stretching for mile after mile across the undulating landscape. Drawn in particular to the heather around the Hole of Horcum, he studied it in detail, carefully considering its texture and fragrance and wondering if, just maybe, the ethereal floral notes of the purple flower tips could be the magic ingredient he was looking for to create his next craft beer.

‘Heather was historically used as a flavouring in beer, long before the use of hops,’ Alan explained. ‘We’re surrounded by stunning moorlands here, the essence of which I knew we could capture in a brew.’

He took his innovative idea to head brewer Nick Webster and both men approached North York Moors National Park for permission to harvest the heather from land on the Levisham Estate. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

‘We were delighted that York Brewery wanted to use our heather flowers for their latest creation,’ said David Smith, senior ranger for the North York Moors National Park Authority. ‘The North York Moors has the largest continuous expanse of heather moorland in England and Wales so it’s a perfect match.

‘People can currently eat the wonderful view of the Levisham Estate thanks to honey produced by local beekeepers and now they’ll be able to drink it too. It’s a great profile-raiser for the National Park and one we’re more than happy to support.’

York Brewery staff started by hand-harvesting 15 kilos of ling (common heather or calluna vulgaris) while still in flower and transformed it into Moors-ish Ale, a four per cent ABV golden brew with spicy, floral, earthy notes that give it a distinctly autumnal air.

As a thank you for giving them permission to harvest on the North York Moors National Park, Alan and Nick invited David to experience the brewing process first hand and be one of the first to try their new, off-the-wall brew.

And now you can try it too. But you’d better get your order in quick as production is strictly limited and further brews will only be possible when the purple heather blooms again across our marvellous moors.

For more details about York Brewery, visit You can also plan your visit to the North York Moors National Park at

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