Exotic, Mysterious and…Ordinary?

mysteryYou see her in the slinky black dress, her green, almond shaped eyes twinkle in the twilight, and her high cheekbones and raven hair speak of the mysteries of far away places.  You absolutely need to learn more about this enigmatic vision of a woman.  You move closer, slipping in next to her at the bar.  When the moment is right you speak, using your best opening line to show your intelligence and worldliness.  Her eyes light up and then she replies.  “Oh my gawd!  That’s the funniest thing I’ve evah hoid!”  And the illusion is shattered.  This is no international spy or Italian supermodel, her name is Fran and she’s a hairdresser from Staten Island.

That’s kind of how I felt when I took my first sip of the Bruery’s Black Orchard Dark Ale.  I had heard so many good things about this brewery and the bottle looked so dark and complex that I expected much more than I received.  But once my expectations were adjusted, I had to ask myself, is it something I’d try again?

photo-1Black Orchard is a Belgian Style Ale brewerd with spices, wheat and oat.  It poured dark, with an enormous head, typical of a bottle-conditioned beer.  The aroma it gave off was very bready and earthy – the malt and the grains were defiantly running the show here, but there was also a hint of raisin and spice.

The taste is where things went sideways for me.  For being such a dark beer, Black Orchard has a very light taste, dominated by an earthy malt flavor and a little bitterness, reminiscent of orange peel. This beer answers a question that I’ve never asked and never will:  Where can I find a dark beer with a light and pleasant flavor?  At 5.7% alcohol by volume, it didn’t give off much warmth, either.  All told, this was a pleasant beer, but a little unremarkable.

And that was the problem I had.  Dark bottle, dark beer, big pour…light flavor?  It threw me for a loop, especially because I tend to prefer complex, big character brews.  That’s what I expected here and didn’t get.  It was a bit of a bait and switch, like the fictitious Fran from Staten Island.

I’m still on board with trying some of the other stuff from the Bruery, but I’ll pass on this one in the future.  It’s a well-made beer, but not suited to my tastes.  Anyone have a suggestion of the best place to start with the Bruery?  I think I need a do-over.

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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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8 Comments on “Exotic, Mysterious and…Ordinary?”

  1. October 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    Interesting review. Actually Jim, that was me you met you met @ that bar. Yes, sometimes I go out as a hairdresser but its fun to see the reactions!

    But seriously…

    I’ve also read many good things about The Bruery. Sometimes I wonder if some of these beers are so hyped up that they can’t be anything but a little disappointing!

    • Jim
      October 5, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

      I have to say that you look great in a coctail dress, Scott. Keep hitting that Stairmaster!

      I agree that it can be tough to live up to lots of hype, but at least live up to your pour! This beer was gorgous in the glass but lackluster on the tongue. I still want to give it another go with these guys. When I picked up this one, I sensed that Kevin at the Liquor Outlet (we’re having a North Jersey moment here folks) was trying to steer me to another one of the Bruery’s offerings, but I wanted a dark beer. I suspect Black Orchard isn’t the best example of their work.

  2. October 5, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    I tried the Bruery’s Autumn Maple this past weekend and was tickled pink!

    I think one must keep in mind, that the Bruery is Avant Garde by choice. Their beers will not fit into any well defined categories. i.e. instead of brewing a pumpkin beer, like every other brewery out there, they brew a sweet potato beer.

    If you appraoch the beer with the mentality: “this is not going to taste like anything I’ve had before” you can pick up on some great flavors. Actually, anti-hype was the Bruery’s initial problem. Every one was stuck in the IPA rut and nobody was venturing into the world of Belgians….now they are.

    BUT if Belgians (odd Belgians in the Bruery’s case) aren’t your thing, then heck, they aren’t your thing. I think it’s ok to feel that way. For a long time I was afraid to admit I don’t care for Guiness…no longer…I’ve come out of the closet (but not in the sense of Scott’s admission above!)

    Those are my two cents. It’s just good you’re trying different beers!

    • Jim
      October 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

      I love it when a brewer puts a spin on something or even goes totally nuts. Good things tend to happen when things are shaken up a bit (maybe that’s not the best analogy for beer, but you get the point). This one just hit me wrong, I guess. If I had it again I’d probably like it. But I probably won’t have it again.

      Any suggestions on a good way in to the Bruery’s offerings? Do they have a signature beer, or one that captures their POV on brewing?

      • Don
        October 5, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

        Sounded like Nate enjoyed the Autumn Maple.

  3. October 5, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    @Jim: right on! I have only had the autumn Maple…Just arrived here in the awesome town of Toledo, OH. Mike has had everything they make, so he could answer your question better.

    @Don: Yup. I’ll be posting a review shortly on the blog. It wasn’t a 5 star beer for me, but pretty good. In fact, it tasted a lot like one of my homebrews that is finally maturing to a great Trappist-esqe flavor.

  4. October 6, 2009 at 3:16 am #

    Have this sitting on my shelf. I just haven’t had an overwhelming desire to drink it for some unknown reason. Now I’m gonna have to try it. I took my bottle out to read the label and teh do describe it as a “distortion of a whitbier” which is maybe why the flavor didn’t meet the expectations of the appearance and aroma.

    I really enjoyed the the Saison Rue and would probably pay a lot of money to try the Black Tuesday

    BTW, you guys on twitter or facebook? I’m horribly bad about keeping up with my rss feeds.

    • Jim
      October 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

      I think I’ll try the saison red next and read the label before I do. I never look too closely before I try a beer, I usually just grab something I haven’t had before. Perhaps I need to slow down a bit at the shelf, but I’m usually pressed for time.

      I’ll look into that social networking stuff. I know it’ll be helpful and fun, but I’m afraid it’ll be a time-suck, too.

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