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Belt's Beer Garden: Colorful brews

Orange and Amber are the colors of the week.

This week I review two new brews that are both quite colorful. One's a tasty amber while the other is made from Spanish oranges out in California.

I'll start with the amber: Maine Beer Co.'s Zoe:


Maine Beer Co. calls Freeport, Maine home and can be found in only a handful of states (mostly in the Northeast): Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maryland (and DC), Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois.

MBC has the distinction of being the first ever brewery I reviewed here on Belt's Beer Garden. However, now well over a year later, their delicious IPA, Another One, is still the only beer I've reviewed of theirs. I needed to change that so I went out and found a beer I had yet to try from them: Zoe.

Zoe is a hoppy amber ale made with seven types of malts and three types of hops (Centennial, Simcoe, and Columbus). The beer pours a dark, dark amber dark that it's almost brown. Just under two fingers of head topped the beer initially but the foam fizzed away quickly until there was just a splotchy dusting around the edges.

You can tell this beer is hoppy from the smell. The hops create a nice citrus aroma but this beer is so much more than that - there are also lots of raisins, plums, and a bready malt aroma backs it all up.

It's an interesting amber to say the least. When I first sipped it, the raisins and bready-ness were was some chocolate and a hint of pine. You could feel the hops on your tongue briefly, but the citrus aroma was no where to be found in the least not in the beginning.

As I continued to drink down the contents, the raisins and chocolate still remained up front but, on the backend of each sip, the citrus flavors from the Centennial hops became more and more present, cutting into the initial malty flavors.

The 7.2% ABV was hidden entirely throughout the beer, making it a dangerously good beer. Like all of MBC's beers, the price might be a little on higher side. This one was $6.99 for the 16.9 ounce bottle but, as what's inside is always amazing, the quality is well worth the cost.

Plus 1% of all sales go to non-profit organizations. For Zoe, those profits help Allied Whale, an organization "committed to the understanding and preservation of marine mammals". MBC also donates all of their used grains, grain bags, and yeast to local farmers and uses Green-e certified energy credits to power their brewery. Their motto is "Do What's Right" and they sure lead by example.

Maine Beer Co. is one of my favorite brewers. They help others and their beer is amazing. Zoe is no exception here. It's a deliciously smooth and hoppy amber that you need to try. 8.5/10


Next, I travel across the country to get to the orange, where I try Almanac's Valencia Gold (hey, there's a third color!).

valencia gold

Almanac Beer Company calls San Jose, California home and opened back in 2010. According to their website, they try to make "seasonal artisan ales, brewed specifically to complement local cuisine sourced and prepared with the same great care and craft" that they have. They recently expanded to the Chicago market but outside of that, they are only available in California, Colorado, Washington (the state), and New York.

This is a limited release so the price is a little steep, at $9.99 for the 22 ounce bomber. But Almanac just began distributing to my neck of the woods and so I figured I'd give this a chance.

Valencia Gold is a Belgian-style golden ale made with Valencia oranges and orange blossom honey so it came as no surprise to me that it gave off a sweet, yet slightly spicy, yeast aroma with copious amounts of honey hiding underneath the yeast.

It poured a very cloudy, but bright straw color with about a finger of thick white head that slowly continues to build over time as the billions of bubbles rise to the surface. The head is retained really well throughout the beer and continuously leaves a thick lacing around the glass with every taste.

My first sip was a cacophony of bubbles, orange, spiced yeast, and honey. It starts with a fizzy orange and tangerine flavor that is quickly followed by the spices. On the backend, the honey smooths it all out and calms the taste of the yeast and the fizz of carbonation.

As I continued through the beer the yeast became the more prolific flavor; with the taste of coriander, bread, and sage coming out more as the citrus flavors began sinking into the background. The orange blossom honey, however, stays consistent as the end flavor. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the Valencia oranges throughout the beer instead of just up front.

I will say that the alcohol is hidden pretty well and, at 8.5% ABV, there is quite a bit to hide. But, overall, this beer is missing's good just not great. 7/10

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