Editor’s note: This column was written after the columnist’s vacation to Florida in early February.
by GREG SIERING
Having just returned from a beach vacation, I admit to still having sunshine, sand, and palm trees on my brain. So, when it came time to write this column, I headed out in search of beers with a bright citrus taste to remind me of our time in Florida. Usually, citrus character in beer comes from American hops like Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra, but since I am not a big fan of their grapefruit-like tastes, I went for orange flavors and aromas.
Probably the most common experience with orange flavors in beer comes through Belgian wits, which have a flavor profile dominated by orange peel and spices. I wrote about Belgian witbiers in my December/January column, so I won’t go into them much, but I have to recommend one—Dogfish Head Namaste White. It has a pleasant orange aroma up front, accompanied by a hint of lemongrass. It has the medium-rich, soft body of a wheat beer, but organic orange, spicy clove, and coriander flavors cut through to balance it out. Like most beers from Dogfish Head, Namaste White captures bold character in a glass while still delivering a smooth, centering experience true to the beer’s name.
Probably my favorite beer right now has a subtler approach to citrus flavor—Orange Blossom Blonde from Bloomington’s own Switchyard Brewing Company. This beer is made with orange blossom honey provided by the Florida- wintering bees from Hunter’s Honey Farm in Martinsville. (This is truly local honey, as they truck the bees down for a winter pollination gig.) The honey lightens the body and flavor of the beer, allowing the subtle flavor of the blossoms to come through. The beer pours a clear, rich gold, with a clean aroma of honey and sweet orange. The same honey and orange lead the taste, with only a hint of hops balancing the notable sweetness a bit. The best word I can use to describe these flavors is “gentle”—the sweetness, the orange, and the light maltiness. This is a very easy-drinking and pleasant beer, perfect with lighter dishes. Stop by the brewery for a taste and take home a growler for later.
For those who like bolder, hoppier beers, there are some good options out there. I recommend the Blood Orange IPA from Centerpoint Brewing Company in Indianapolis. This beer includes Amarillo hops, which introduce a more complex citrus character, and enough blood orange to shift its flavor profile to something richer and more intriguing. It pours deep gold with a slightly red hue and deep orange aroma, which gets you ready to enjoy the rich fruit flavor that accompanies the hop bitterness. Overall, it’s a refreshing take on an IPA.
Orange-infused beers aren’t everyday brews, but they are a nice change of pace when you’re ready for a different citrus profile and want a bit of sunshine in your glass—a perfect way to chase away early spring gloom and welcome the sun back to Bloomington.