We’ve spent a little over a year producing quality, consistent beers. Beers that we would (and do) choose to drink. Beers that are all about patience in their production and balance and simplicity in how they’re enjoyed. This is a big part of what we’re about and what we do, and we will continue to do just this.However, that’s not to say we don’t like to experiment, to brew something perhaps a little stronger, a little more left field. And so, our White Label Series is born. White Label records are handed out to DJs and radio stations to whet the appetites of clubbers and listeners for future releases. Similarly our White Label series will provide a little taster of something new and different. One-off brews that will each be around for only a short time…
Anyone who knows Orbit Beers almost certainly knows Nico, our Köln style lager.
Cologne is a wonderful city with a great number of characterful brew pubs, serving up the deeply loved and fiercely protected Kölsch beer. Measures are tall and thin and still served straight from a barrel that sits atop a small bar in many establishments. Kölsch is meant to be drunk fresh and still chilled – presumably the reason for such thin, elegant glassware – yet in great volumes. Indeed you won’t be leaving after just one beer: the famous Köbes (waiters) will see to that. Those beers you have already drunk will be represented by a pencil mark on your beer mat ready for you to pay when it is finally time to leave.
Our interpretation of a Köln style lager was born of many trips to Cologne – returning with a fist full of pencil marked beer mats and a taste for pork knuckle, as well as Kölsch. And since we first brewed it back in summer 2014, Nico has proved to be our most popular beer. And so, what better way to kick off our White Label Series than with a bigger, bolder ‘Kölsch’?
We took a scaled up version of Nico’s malt bill and hopping rates, and used our house Kölsch yeast (sourced originally from Cologne) to create a 6.8% Double Kölsch. After primary fermentation was complete, we added a healthy dose of Spalt Select as a dry hop to add an extra layer of delicate spicy character before cold conditioning in tank for several weeks.
The result – White Label Series #1 Double Kölsch – is available now right up until the last drop has been drunk!
It began with a meeting between an Italian and a Scot one Sunday in Oxford Circus. Between them passed 5kg of a much loved and sought after substance. Vacuum packed in shiny foil, being discreet wasn’t easy: wasn’t even an option as the magpies looked on. It was carried quickly and excitedly back to Walworth, back to the brewery and placed in a secure lock-up, ready for use at the next possible opportunity.
The very next February day, the opportunity arose! A visitor arrived at the brewery from Argyll via Barcelona Beer Festival. The silver package was removed from its place of safety under cover of early morning clouds and a large quantity was weighed out into bags, filling the air with its pungent, tropical aroma.
As hot water and grain were carefully mixed, and the resulting wort was then transferred to the kettle, the workers enjoyed a well-deserved morning beverage. Andrea Ladas from Fyne Ales sat and supped some Köln style beer direct from the wooden cask with his Orbit hosts before they partook in what is sure to become a future Orbit tradition: a February afternoon BBQ. Chicken hearts and Turkish peppers were flash grilled, as human hearts warmed in the surprising sunshine.
Before long the kettle reached the boil and bittering hops were added before, a short while later, the contents of the shady package were unleashed into the boiling wort. Here it was, the beginnings of the Orbit Beers/Fyne Ales Citra Kellerbier!
And now for something completely different, a few words from our head brewer:
Kellerbier is, without a doubt, my favourite beer style. I’ve enjoyed many of them around Franconia, served in the traditional ceramic Krug, especially enjoyable in the summer sitting in one of the beautiful beer gardens that are very common around this region of Germany.
Keller is style that, like bitter, encompasses many varieties. It can be very pale, or darker like the Altfränkische (Old Franconian) examples, extremely hoppy and bitter like Knoblach or Roppelt, maltier like Griess or Gradl, but always full of character.
Our version is closer to the western Franconian examples in its lighter colour, with only a bit of Munich added for a touch of that rustic toasty character. We then added a generous amount of Citra (thanks to our friends at Fyne for that!) for a modern twist. We’re incredibly happy with the result, the hop character is most definitely there but it’s not overpowering, the body is just right, light enough for great drinkability… We are trying very hard not to drink it all.
Having produced our first true cold fermented beer with White Label #2, we had an opportunity to do something similar with the third beer in our one-off series. After the Kellerbier fermented out we carefully harvested some of the W34/70 lager yeast, and pitched it into the wort that was to become White Label #3.
With the cold months hopefully on the way out we decided to brew something to be enjoyed in glorious beer gardens all over the capital, hopefully in warming sunshine. Something low in alcohol but with a pleasantly full body and the aroma of citrusy Ahtanum hops. Something to be enjoyed in great volume should one choose, over a long session. Though OK, perhaps not for a full 24 hours straight. Nonetheless the chance to pay homage to a wonderful record label using a name originally suggested (mostly) in jest, was one we decided we just couldn’t pass up. And so our Factory Records referencing White Label #3: 24 Hour Party Pilsner was born and named thus! Please drink responsibly.