Beer of the Week: Orbit ‘Leaf’ Rauch Alt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“It tastes like garlic. And Werther’s Originals!” Promised the promotor of the cause of Leaf, our Beer of the Week.

Never ones to shirk away from a flavour combo that sounds like a Masterchef ingredients challenge gone awry, ICIP scooped up a few bottles of this altbeir-style smoked beer from Orbit, a relatively-new entry to the London craft brewing map.

Leaf is a “Rauch Alt”, which took (me) some unpicking. Rauchbier is an old, German beer style, typically smokey (rauch means smoke in German, I learned thanks to this beer) because the young malt is dried over beech wood. Altbier – literally, “old beer” – is a German-style brown ale.

So, label glossed, we were expecting a smokey brown ale – and, man, is that what this beer delivers.

It pours a clean, ember-y red, with a melting, sandy head. Once you get past the woody smoke on the nose, Leaf reveals all sorts of interesting, complex layers – soft cheese, something quite earthy, butterscotch and – yep, garlic.

Taste-wise it manages some impressive special effects; like a sweet out of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory it hits you with toffee caramel – so far, so brown ale – with, I thought, a tang of citrus. But that rolls away to peaty, Islay whisky. Warmed just slightly, it feels afterwards like woodsmoke is billowing around your mouth. It’s almost disconcerting and clings a good minute after you’ve finished, like the morning after a bonfire.

For me, there wasn’t much left behind after the smoke died out. But I’m a tongue-numbed hop addict and my taste-testers disagreed completely, detecting butterscotch-y notes long after I’d chugged another few mouthfuls to recreate the brilliant smoke effect.

Even though it didn’t linger enough for my palate, this is a fun beer from an exciting newish brewery. Orbit works out of a double railway arch in Walworth in south east London (what is it with breweries and arches?); they have a core range of three beers (a kolsch, an altbeir and a pale ale) and some limited edition bottles, of which Leaf is one. I tried Seven, their stout, at Islington Craft this week – it was brilliant – so I suggest stocking up on anything you can lay your hands on.

At a glance

A smouldering brown ale; smokey and complex. Drink alone (I mean without food. You know what I mean) or with chocolate-y puddings, smoked, salty (vegan alternatives to ed.) meat

ABV: 6.2% 

Cost: £2.40 at Green Lane Larder, in north London, which we recently discovered and is absolutely brilliant so please don’t all go there at once and buy all the delicious beer 😥


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