Beer has four core ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and some kind of malted grain. With those four ingredients, in different quantities and with different varieties, there’s roughly infinite combinations to keep both brewers and boozers busy. But for some, those four flavours aren’t enough.
The three beers I’ve tasted here all include some kind of citrus extract. It’s difficult to work out why, given how many hops give off citrus aromas and flavours – likewise with the addition of coffee or chocolate, given how prominent those flavours often are in darker malts.
So, is brewing with flavour extracts just playing on easy? Not necessarily. In the right hands, extracts can complement and draw out a beer’s own delicious flavour. Used unjudiciously, however, they’re a relatively cheap and simple way of turning a boring batch into something sellable.
Elvis Juice, Brewdog 6.5%
I have a lot of respect for Brewdog. They’re a titan of the British craft brew scene, founding bars up and down the country and introducing supermarket shoppers to an alternative to the endless monotony of San Miguel/Peroni/Birra Moretti. We know these guys know how to make a good beer. Which is why Elvis Juice comes as such a surprise.
Elvis Juice is infused with grapefruit and orange. It pours a cloudy orange, with an assertive, white head. Aroma? Grapefruit and orange. Flavour? Grapefruit and orange. Aftertaste? Malty biscuits, a hint of…nah, I’m messing with you. It’s grapefruit and orange again.
Elvis Juice is the beer for people who don’t really like beer. Suitable for recent converts, not suitable for anyone on blood thinners. 2/5
First Chop, Pop 5.4%
In addition to the flavourings, Pop can proudly boast that it’s gluten-free. How the brains at Manchester brewhouse First Chop have managed to de-glutenise (not a real word) the wheat they’ve added to this beer I have no idea. What a time to be alive.
Pop is slightly cloudy – that’ll be the gluten-free wheat – and dull amber in colour with a bright, white head. The orange oil gives it a mild citrus aroma, along with sweet malt and a metallic tang. There’s more of that pale malt on the tongue, along with honeysuckle and, again, that faint hint of orange.
Pop is very clearly flavoured, but the additions aren’t overpowering at all. It’s just a shame there’s not enough flavour behind the orange oil to back it up. 2/5
Bad Co, Orange Wedge 4.3%
It’s fairly common for beer labels these days to include tasting notes (always helpful for when I’ve thrown my can in the recycling prematurely and can’t remember which I need to retrieve for the photograph). It’s less often you find a beer label offering food pairings. Honestly, I’m here for it. Sadly I don’t have any hearty, winter meals to hand this time.
Orange Wedge is a stout, and looks like one: dark, with a toffee-coloured head that lingers. As one might expect, given the addition of cacao and orange extract, it smells of chocolate and orange. They come through in the flavour as well, though they aren’t overwhelming. It’s smooth, not quite as thick and satisfying as I’d hoped – there’s oats in the grain bill, though perhaps not enough.
A decent flavoured stout. Orange Wedge does precisely what it says on the tin, but no more. 3/5