It used to be that drinking beer involved a relatively simple choice: ale or lager at the pub, with a wider selection available at the local shop. Comparatively, wine presented an unwieldy plethora of possibilities, whereby the straightforward decision of which colour to have was only the beginning of a spiral into grape varieties, countries, regions, oak, and countless others. It required initiation into the pantheons of vinious knowledge. Beer, on the other hand; easy.
The rise of craft beer over the past decade has thrown this straight forward choice into disarray. With the literally waves of U.S. Indian Pale Ales and other beers with huge hop contents flooding our shores, no longer was Pale Ale an known quantity. Would you like some beer with your mouthfuls of bitterness? It had a profound influence on U.K. craft breweries as well. There was an initial rush to replicate this brash, punchy style. Along with the big hop contents, there was boisterous levels of alcohol. The objective of these new beers was to knock you out rather than caress a drinker into a polite drunken slumber, such was the effect of British ales.
Although craft brewing has matured now, there are still new breweries popping up in huge numbers, looking to make a name for themselves with extravagant beers. Recently this has been puddle-like murky double IPAs. What’s next? Who knows. Once such brewery who doesn’t follow suit is London’s very own Orbit Beers.
Started in 2014, Orbit Beers came at the end of an exhaustive tour round all the breweries in Scotland. Thirsty work indeed. What came across among all the high quality beers was the need for clean, properly-made liquid that doesn’t sacrifice flavour for drinkability. I mean, everyone wants to sink a few jars every once in a while. They turned to Germany, who had for centuries been producing clean, crisp beers using historical techniques and ingredients. For example, take Kölsch: a larger-style beer, produced in Cologne, which has a specific designation of origin meaning that only beers made in this style in Cologne, can call themselves Kölsch. Similar to Champagne.
And so Orbit took off. From their tiny brewery located in one – soon to be two – arches railway arches near Elephant and Castle in South London, they produce exceptional beers with heritage. Nico is their “Kölsch style” lager, which is exceptionally refreshing, with gentle citrus and hop flavour. Others such as Peel and Ivo, follow the same tracks of drinkability, flavour and high quality. Once a month they produce more experimental beers: Elderflower Saison for Summer, and a Smoked Lager for Autumn. Visiting the brewery is intimate and generous, where the guys are happy to welcome you and pour a few beers to sip during a walk around their modest property.
This is how beer should be done: with quality and personality. Having just returned from Oktorberfest as a certified expert in beer, I can attest to this. Pop by a Jeroboams to pick up a few cold ones, or drop in Orbit on Saturdays, when they open up the tap room for pints.
Their website is currently under development, but contains links to social media news and events: orbitbeers.co.uk