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
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 😥