This article was originally written in April 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in September 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after the Taste T.O. blog was shut down and taken offline.
I had a bit of trepidation about this week’s column, as I’m coming off of a battle with a nasty stomach bug, and wasn’t sure if I was up for a beer yet. But my weekly mission cannot be denied, so I pulled my two latest purchases from the fridge: Duchy Originals Organic Ale and Atlantic au Pineau, both part of the LCBO’s Spring seasonal beer release that is starting to trickle into stores. Reading the label on the latter, I saw that it’s an ale infused with Pineau des Charentes, an apertif made from Congac and grape juice – a little too esoteric for my barely recovered belly. So it went back in the fridge for next week’s instalment, and I was left with Duchy by default.
Duchy Originals is a line of organic products created in 1990 by Prince Charles, who has long been a proponent of whole & natural foods and traditional farming methods. The beer is a Bitter that is brewed under contract by Wychwood Brewery (best known for beers like Fiddler’s Elbow and Hobgoblin) using exclusively organic hops and malt sourced from farms in Britain. And like all Duchy Originals products, profits are donated to The Prince’s Charities.
It’s a very noble endeavour, so I wanted to like the beer before I even poured it. Thankfully, I did. It’s got a nice brilliant copper colour with a good sized white head, so it scores points for appearance. The aroma is decent, with some solid maltiness, and notes of caramel and orange peel. Body is good for the style, with soft carbonation. The flavour is pleasant and well balanced, with malt and grain notes off the top, some orange-candy sweetness in the middle, and a grassy hoppiness to finish.
There’s nothing especially unique about it, but it’s certainly a pleasant and quaffable beer for those who enjoy UK ales. I just can’t help but think that if it weren’t for the organic hook, it wouldn’t stand out much from other quality UK imports, especially given the slightly higher price point (LCBO 26971, $3.60/500 mL). But it’s not often that we see an organic beer besides Mill Street Organic Lager on LCBO shelves, and it’s for a good cause, so I say it’s worth the splurge for a couple of bottles.