Before beginning this review, several disclaimers:
1. The actual, full name of this review is Eugene City Brewery Honey Orange Wheat Ale, which for the purposes of titling has been cut down to size.
2. Eugene City is actually Rogue, which bought the brewery in 2004, and was formerly West Brothers, but was not actually formerly the brewery established in 1866, as the label claims.
3. This is not the same beer brewed under previous ownership, which was a wild, thick, cakey ride that actually had orange in it. It was totally unique and unprecedented in the annals of brewing (or anyway, those with which I was acquainted).
4. Honey Orange Wheat Ale is actually a modified Wit.
What is the quintessential summer beer? Belgian White Beers have a reasonable claim. Their name derives from the very pale, cloudy color (white is stretching it), but they might more properly be called orange, after the predominant flavor element. Traditionally, whites are made with coriander and orange peels from curacao oranges, as well as unmalted wheat (which contributes the cloudiness). Ironically, the orange flavor comes from the coriander and tart punch of the yeast; in the absence of hop flavor, the orange peels provide some balance.
Rogue's variant is sweet--overly so. Whites balance the innate sweetness of wheat malt and coriander with a tartness derived from the yeast and a bitterness from the orange rind. The balance is key, and Rogue's version doesn't get the bitter or tart right. It's almost like an alcopop, and I imagine few 17-year-old girls would turn one down. The coriander provides most of the character, but unbalanced coriander tends to turn syrupy--anyway it does here.
The style is hard to mess up, and I enjoyed this beer as far as it went, but compared to some of the world standards--Hoegaarden, Celis--Eugene City falls short. I'd love to see Rogue go back to the original.
Alcohol By Volume: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Available: The pub is located at 844 Olive Street, in Eugene. Bottles (22 oz.) are available at the Rogue Brewery in Newport. Via Rick: it's also available at the Rogue Public House (formerly Portland Brewing Flanders Brewery) on NW 14th and Flanders in Portland.
Post updated July 2, 2006.