Living the European dream, one beer at a time.
This week’s Tour de Hops ride is relatively short. We ride 30km over to Walworth and Burgess Park to visit the lovely folk at Orbit Beers.
After a few long months of lockdown what we really need is a nice afternoon cycling with a couple of cold beers in the park and a bit of sun.
The reality, however, is classic British summer time. The reality, on our summer ride to Orbit Beers, is a lot of rain.
Our riders this week are Katie riding the ever popular Beer Barge, Myself on my Charge, Paddy riding his Specialised hybrid, Rob on a Cannondale Hybrid (ft. mudguards to the elation of those riding behind him) and our newest rider, Aleks sporting a rather dashing Giant with a tasty 105 gearset.
This week also sees the introduction of our four legged pal, Hector, who makes an appearance with Harry (from week 1).
The rain is relentless in its inconsistency. Revolving through face slashing to a mist like drizzle before a crack in the clouds reveals a warming sun.
It’s the hope that kills you…
As we trundle past the Wandle pub and cross over Garratt lane, the heavens open for the fifth time. Rainwater whips in our faces like ocean spray as we battle our way up Earlsfield Road towards Wandsworth Common.
The rain is relentless in its inconsistency. Revolving through face slashing to a mist like drizzle before a crack in the clouds reveals a warming sun. It continues this cycle as we increase our cadence and fight our way through grey London.
Fortunately, moods stay bright and we ride on. We ride on, smiling and pedalling towards the dry spell that will allow us to relax, enjoy our beers and stay dry in Burgess Park.
It’s the hope that kills you.
No, we’re not talking about J. J. Abrams’ award winning series.
Although if the rain continues and we find ourselves at the top of a hill it could quickly turn into a remake.
No, we’re talking about the hopelessness of our route following.
One small detour in Earlsfield adds an extra two hills to our repertoire as we improvise our way through Wandsworth and Earlsfield. Katie, who’s riding by far the heaviest bike, swears at me as she drags the mammoth Gazelle up another of South West London’s hills.
In an effort to avoid the well-trodden Cycle Superhighway 7 we ride through Clapham Junction and join the A3036 at Lavender Hill. We follow this through the busy streets of Nine Elms playing dodgems with London buses and careless pedestrians.
Katie, who’s riding by far the heaviest bike, swears at me as she drags the mammoth Gazelle up another of South West London’s hills.
At Vauxhall we take a quick consultation of the map and join Cycle Superhighway 5 towards Kennington. Our path leads us briefly onto CS7 south before we turn on to Penton Place and zigzag through the back roads of Walworth to the railway arch that is home to Orbit Beers.
Killer designs and lime kilns
We’re welcomed to Orbit by Robbie Sykes, Operations Manager at Orbit, who has been pivotal in organising this ride. Robbie shows us into their, now closed, Taproom and tells us the story of its closure – you’ll have to ask them for the full story yourself.
We’re treated to a rundown of their core beer selection – Peel, Nico, Ivo and Dead Wax. Four beers rooted in classic European style but modernised to fit with today’s craft beer climate.
We discuss the White label series which features 5 specials including - Hefeweizen, Tzatziki Sour, Prague Pilsner, Elderflower Sour and India Pale Ale. They’ve got a Munich Dunkel coming up too but we’re a couple of days early for that.
The thing that strikes you most about Orbit is the aesthetic of their design. All of their beers come in bottles emblazoned with the vinyl inspired logo. Each core beer sports its own brightly coloured label and cap – they’re instantly recognisable and strikingly European.
The white label series is clean and crisp. They carry the air of a first pressing record that you keep on the shelf away from your general collection.
We fill our bags and a branded box with a varied selection of Orbit’s beers. Katie’s Beer Barge is loaded with as much as she can carry and we make the short journey to Burgess Park.
The thing that strikes you most about Orbit is the aesthetic of their design.
We settle by the Lime Kiln – a local landmark. The kiln is a grade II listed monument built in 1816 where coal and limestone were burnt to create quicklime. For us it makes a great backdrop and gives a little bit of shelter from the wind and rain.
Doggy boxes, wild flowers and proper porters
As we settle into our first beers, Katie circles back to collect Hector from the bikeless Harry. She straps him into the Gazelle’s basket and zooms back to the kiln where she’s greeted with a few licks to the face and a cold bottle of Orbit’s Tzatziki Sour.
A Tzatiki Sour is a beer that instantly peaks your interest. You ask yourself, “surely they’ve not made that into a beer”. But, they have.
And you know what, a cucumber and mint Berliner Weisse is a stroke of genius.
The beer pours pale and hits you with a minty kick to the nose. The cucumber follows promptly and you can feel the freshness of the ingredients emanating from the glass.
The first sip is tart with the refreshing cucumber easing in late, mint comes to the foreground as you hold the beer in your mouth. Finally, your treated to an earthy maltiness that underpins and ties all of these wonderful flavours together.
Orbit’s Tzatziki Sour transports you away from the murky grey skies of South London and into a Hot Greek summer.
Orbit’s Tzatziki Sour transports you away from the murky grey skies of South London and into a Hot Greek summer. The sun beats down onto your back as the ocean sprays against your face. You take another cooling sip and relax.
As we sit amongst the wild flower emblazoned hills of Burgess Park, we chat about pre-lockdown trips across Europe. We chat about lacrosse tournaments in Prague and Berlin, beer trips in Bruges and cycling tours along the Italian coast.
Orbit’s beers do this to you. They bring back memories of beer across the continent. Each beer takes you back to another cherished moment.
In our interview last week, Orbit Co-founder Robert Middleton tells us of the trips they take to inspire their team “We wanted to do something that allowed us to have fun together as a team, but also provide a better/richer understanding of the classic European styles we focus on.”
One thing we can say with certainty is that the trips are working. Orbit provide a taste of Europe in a beer market that is persistently leaning to the Americas for inspiration.
Dead Wax Porter
I find Porters are often overlooked and ignored in favour of milk stouts, imperial stouts and nowadays pastry stouts. Don’t get me wrong, stouts have their place in the world, but there isn’t much that will beat a classic London Porter.
And Dead Wax is just that.
It throws back to eighteenth century London and leans heavily on those classic influences of the style. There’s nothing to blow your mind here. No adjuncts. No twists. No tricks up the sleeve.
Dead Wax brings focus to its simplicity. It carries rich malt aromas with subtle chocolate, coffee and biscuit notes jumping to the forefront. The flavours mix chocolate and coffee and are underpinned by a full body and a dry finish.
This is as classic as that set of Springsteen records your dad has locked in the attic. Yes, there are new fads and exciting newcomers. But, no matter what happens, you find yourself gravitating back to it and listening again and again.
Second breakfast anyone?
As any good hobbit knows, second breakfast is as important - if not more important - than the meals that come before and after it.
And if you haven’t heard of second breakfast, well what kind of hobbit are you anyway.
Our journey home takes us back to Orbit for exactly that. Second breakfast.
We’re so impressed with the beers we picked up on visit one that we refill our 12 box (and a rucksack or two) pile it back into the beer barge and bid farewell to the good folk of Walworth.
As we set off back down Cycle Superhighway 7, we surround the Beer Barge like a set of celebrity body guards.
For anyone who has played Final Fantasy 7 (another week another Final Fantasy reference) we ask you to picture the escape from Shinra headquarters on a motorbike and a pick-up truck.
Katie is that truck and the rest of us are Cloud aggressively warding off anyone who comes too close to our precious cargo.
For anyone who hasn’t played it, here’s a pic.
To complete our route home, we follow CS7 up to Clapham, cut through to Wandsworth Common and ride our normal route through Earlsfield.
Once we’ve stripped off our wet kit, we crack open a final bottle of Peel and settle in for a quiet night and few records.
Peel is the perfect session beer. It’s the perfect first beer. In fact, without blowing anyone’s horn too much, it’s just a downright good beer.
The first thing you notice is the Belgian yeast. As you sniff the glass and take your first sip you’re hit by the recognisable aromas of banana, bubble-gum and clove. Classic characteristics of Belgian yeast.
The surprise comes from the hops, the New Zealand hop Motueka (which we’d never heard of) gives the beer a flourish of citrusy hoppiness that distinguishes this beer from its counterparts.
Thanks to Robert and Robbie at Orbit for being gracious hosts and for all their help in organising this ride. We can’t wait to come back and visit once you’ve got your new taproom set up.
For now, we recommend you head over to the Orbit online shop and order yourself a box load of fantastic Orbit Beers.
Here at Tour de Hops we run small group cycles to independent London breweries and post about it every other week. Each write-up includes ride highlights, beer reviews and snippets from an interview with each brewery.
We visited Orbit Beers on the third Tour de Hops cycle club brewery ride on Wednesday 8th July 2020.
To go alongside our ride, we interviewed Robert Middleton, founder of Orbit Beers. You can read that full interview here.
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