Beerista: The bittersweet role of oranges in beer

This fruit has varied and fascinating presence in the making of many beers

Oranges have a special place in the brewing world. Subtle or strong, their presence in beer is varied and fascinating – sometimes bringing out the hoppy bitterness of a beer, adding a bright citrus tang or a delicate summery sweetness.

Belgian breweries have used orange peel in their recipes down through the years – most notably in their Wit beers – and often paired it with coriander. Now you’ll get more brewers within the craft world experimenting and adding the juice and zest to get a more intense burst of orange flavour.

Oranges fall into two categories: sweet and bitter. Valencia and blood oranges are sweet, while Seville and the specially harvested Curacao oranges are bitter. Traditionally only sour oranges were used by brewers, primarily for the pungent oil in their rind. Hoegaarden, for example, uses Curacao oranges, but you’ll find Valencia orange peel on the list of ingredients in the mainstream Blue Moon beer.

Orange is the New Black, made by Waterford brewery Metalman, uses Italian sun-dried orange peel which gives the beer a gentle orange taste to contrast with its dark, almost chocolate character. In comparison, Rascal’s Yankee White IPA also uses orange peel but it plays a quieter, more background citrus role.


Colorado company Ska Brewing has an IPA called Modus Mandarina (their famous IPA is called Modus Hoperandi) which is brewed with sweet orange peel and dry hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops. It has a lovely coppery and amber colour and is quite bitter with an orange marmalade zing (think Jaffa Cakes without the sweetness).

Beavertown's Bloody 'Ell Blood Orange IPA uses the zest and juice of blood oranges. This is a perfectly balanced beer that tastes lighter than its 7.2%, has a sweet, hoppy aroma and a warm tangerine crispness that slowly builds the more you sip.