A battle between Toronto's orange beers
Last weekend I had the chance to escape the city for my in-laws cottage on Lake Huron. Since the nice weather and scenic landscape were perfectly suited to drinking, I brought along a well-stocked cooler that included two summer beer offerings from two great Toronto breweries, Great Lakes Brewery's Orange Peel Ale and Amsterdam Brewery's Oranje Weisse.
I decided to compare them side by side to settle the age-old debate as to which one takes the crown as Toronto's champion orange beer. (It seemed much more epic at the time. Did I mention I was drinking?).
For the purposes of objectivity, I've also included the tasting notes of my in-laws, whom I forced to participate in this little exercise.
GREAT LAKES ORANGE PEEL ALE: 650 mL bottle / 5.3% ABV / Price: $4.95
Appearance: The Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale pours a dark, almost-orange amber. There's good head retention, and light lacing.
Aroma: It smells like a fairly malty ale. Some floral notes are evident and just a trace of oranges.
Taste: This is a refreshing, well-carbonated beer that essentially tastes like an ale with just bit more going on. The hops are evident, but it's not overly bitter and there is a touch of sweetness. It's not particularly obvious there's honey in here (as the label states) nor is it even all that evident that there are oranges involved. If it weren't called Orange Peel Ale, I'm not sure the uninitiated would even be able to identify the orange element, but it doesn't taste like a run-of-the-mill beer by any means.
Overall: It's a refreshing beer that offers a little more bite than your typical orange-infused beverage. This would be a great choice for the patio for people who want a slightly easier to drink summer beverage, but who still like their beer to taste like beer.
The In-Laws Say:
Norm: "Mmm. Very nice. No after taste. Very pleasant."
Sue: "It has a little bit of bitterness, but it's nice. It's the first thing I taste and I don't like that, but I do like that the beer is light."
AMSTERDAM ORANJE WEISSE: 500 mL bottle / 5% ABV / Price: $3.95
Appearance: The Amsterdam Oranje Weisse pours a cloudy pale yellow with a light frothy head with excellent lacing. It's a classic, unfiltered wheat beer and the bottle actually comes with a little tag that tells you to roll it before opening in case any of the yeast has settled.
Aroma: This beer smells great. There's a really floral, malty aroma and the orange notes are evident as is some of the spiciness of cloves.
Taste: The malty notes in the aroma are also evident in the taste and the orange taste is also obvious. It's a tart yet smooth beer. There's a bit of spiciness in the finish, but generally it's a refreshing and light-tasting beer.
Overall: This an ultra-refreshing, silky smooth wheat beer. It's got just enough orange and spice flavour to be interesting without overwhelming the palate. You could serve this at virtually any barbecue and it'd be a crowd pleaser.
The In-Laws Say:
Norm: "I love the hint of orange. Such a refreshing drink."
Sue: "This is not hoppy. I like it. I like the noticeable orange."
The Winner: This is a bit of a tough call since the beers are two very different styles. It's a bit like comparing oranges and...um, blood oranges? However, while both beers are great summer sippers, and I had no problem polishing off a couple bottles of each at the cottage, I've got to give the nod to Amsterdam's Oranje Weisse. If you've only got room in your cooler for one orange beer this summer, you won't go wrong with this beer. You'll impress beer nerd friends with your talk of un-malted wheat and complex, spicy aromas and the uninitiated will just think it's an easy to drink, refreshing alternative to a run of the mill lager. (But why not make some room in your cooler for Great Lakes, too?)
Both of these beers are currently available for sale at their respective breweries, at the LCBO, and on tap at select bars, but only for a limited time. Amsterdam's Oranje Weisse will be officially launching at a release party Wednesday May 9th at 6pm at the Amsetrdam Brewery. Check it out if you like free samples and snacks.