When walking around my local beer shop, sometimes it takes a very specific hankering to get my attention. What with the weather turning into spring, I had a taste for something summery, something fruity, something light. When I saw the name Orange Blossom Cream Ale, it just about hit all of my buttons for what I was craving. Now, I’m not particularly crazy about added flavoring – often what you end up with is a beer that is artificial, overly sweet, and uncharacteristic in general. However, something about the old-timey, anachronistic packaging convinced me to give it a shot. Was this a victory for strength in advertising? Surely. Was I an all-day sucker? Keep reading.
Buffalo Bill’s Brewery brews this beer with sweet orange peel, orange blossom extract and honey. They also use First Gold hops and pale malt in sparing quantities, making this a very easy-going beer. The alcohol per volume is only 5.2 percent, and you can get a six pack for a paltry $7. I took my time with this one, trying one or two beers at a time over the span of a week. It passed the first minor test: I wanted to keep drinking it.
The ale pours a bright, golden orange color, and is fairly clear. The head is very lively, fizzing down to a thin lacy layer. It gave off a strong aroma of orange oil and yeast, kind of reminding me less of an orange creamsicle, and more of perfume. I was surprised, but not off-put by this. The first taste was the citrus peel, with just a touch of honey, not so much the sweetness of honey, but that interesting earthy, floral quality. This was definitely pleasing, but I noticed a distinct lacking in the actual “beer” flavor. The hops were just barely there, and the malt didn’t provide a very good base for the flavors.
I hesitate to make the comparison, but it almost was like an American macrobrew. The only saving grace was the creamy texture the yeast and carbonation provided. While the interesting mix of fruit flavors and honey were pleasing, it just doesn’t leave a good impression. If I had to blame a particular culprit, I would say the lack of character comes from being too formulaic or middle-of-the-road. Instead of making an interesting beer to showcase all these great orange and honey flavors, they kind of dropped the ball and let a boring beer carry them. While there is nothing wrong with a well-flavored and reliable beer, there is nothing in this one that can bring it above ‘average’.
I’ll take this as a lesson not to go sample a new beer from an unfamiliar brewery with such “pie-in-the-sky” hopes. It has refreshing, tasty, and being somewhat economical, on its side, but I wouldn’t explore it looking for a good beer. With summer coming along, this one can have its place at an outside barbecue as a refreshing and light accompaniment to a hot day.