Orbit Beers, NEU
After 25 years of working 9 to 5, Robert Middleton packed in a fairly dull office job to travel Europe in his old Dutch VW Campervan called Brian. On his return he decided travelling and writing was more fun than working in the pensions industry. Just a bit.
It was Iain Banks’ book, Raw Spirit, about his journey around many of the distilleries in Scotland that inspired Robert to travel the length and breadth of the same country to chart the booming craft beer industry. He even wrote a book about it himself. Learning so much about beer and brewing led him to set up Orbit Beers. Quite the journey that.
Founded in 2014, Orbit Beers were (by our count) the eighth brewery in a 2 mile radius, joining the like of Kernel, Brew by Numbers, Fourpure and others in the brewing hotbed that is South East London. Orbit Beers are further evidence that there isn’t a ‘one in, one out’ policy in brewing in that neck of the woods. Long may it continue.
That’s not to say Orbit don’t need to differentiate themselves or add something a little bit different to the mix in order to be successful, not to mention respected among their peers.
It’s their take on rare German beer styles that Orbit are getting a bit of a reputation for. They brew these mainly because that’s what head brewer Mario enjoys drinking most. As good a reason as any.
The Koln style lager and a Rauchbier are as good as many you’ll drink in the cities of Cologne and Bamberg where they originate from.
The Altbier, which is what you have in your hands, is a kind of German lager and ale hybrid. It is brewed using a top-fermenting yeast, like ale, and is malt dominant, with all the roasted malt character and dried fruit flavours you might expect from a strong British Bitter. Because it’s top-fermenting, it’s technically not a lager (which requires that the beer is brewed using a bottom fermenting yeast) but because Alt beers are matured at cooler temperatures, it gives the beer the kind of crispness you’d expect from a solid German lager.
You may have noticed the subtle references to music in the Orbit range. From the 'Hi-Fidelity Brewing' strapline to the vinyl records on the label and bottle cap. Even the name of this week’s beer, ‘NEU’, is a reference to the German Krautrock band of the 70s.
The South East London brewing scene is certainly getting crowded. But there was always going to be room for a brewery making awesome German beers inspired by music and travel.