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Black Orchard | The Bruery

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226 Reviews
Black OrchardBlack Orchard

Brewed by:
The Bruery
California, United States

Style: Belgian Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.70%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by DoubleJ on 05-11-2008

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 226 | Ratings: 312
Photo of jgreenearrow
4.03/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.

A: The beer pours a very dark, deep brown with plenty of aggressive carbonation creating a very thick, frothy head.
S: There is a lot of fruit in the nose. The nose is very citrusy with some grape.
T: The sip begins with strong fruit flavors. A lot of grape and citrus with sour apple flavors, creating a light crisp taste. The sweet roasted malts come through in the finish, giving the beer a nice complexity.
M: The abundant carbonation overwhelms the mouthfeel. This beer drinks almost like a champagne, very light and very bubbly.
D: Overall this is a good beer. The light, crispness of the beer makes it an easy beer to drink. The lightness of the beer is a stark contrast to the color, which more closely resembles a dark porter.

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Photo of bamadog
2.98/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

I recently received this is in a trade with ggwheeler -- a great BA if there ever was one -- thanks for the hook-up! Man, the reviews are all over the map with this one... I'm kind of curious as to where this one will lead... Review is from notes taken on 3/5/2011 and poured from the bottle to goblet.

Appearance: Pour is a deep dark brown with hues of plum and it starts with a massive 3 and 1/2 finger light tan head; fades fairly quickly for a Belgian and creeps to full 1/2 finger cap; body is nearly opaque with the exception of some mahogany highlights near the bottom where the light sneaks through; an oily residue and a few spots and swaths of lacing are left behind.

Smell: Some definite scents of wheat; some musty and dank and slightly faded dark sweet ripe fruits (raisins, figs, etc.); faint spiciness in the Belgian style; lastly I detect a faint bit of bittersweet chocolate and mild presence of the oat (reminiscent of a bit of a no-bake cookie with the sweet fruity and spicy characteristics of the Belgian). Interesting... Good, but interesting...

Taste: Well, here's the danger in drinking a beer that's retired that really isn't meant to be cellared for any real amount of time - it's definitely past it's prime and the flavors are definitely muted and faded... With that being said, there is the dank and musty fruitiness, but it's far from the robust blast that I typically get, and I would say the most dominant presence is a bit of a roasty and earthy maltiness with a slightly stale fruit juice flavor... I know that sounds pretty bad, but it kind of works; there is a mellow spiciness to it but yeah, overall it's pretty faded and unimpressive.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation has held up well and is prickly yet kind of soft; body is of medium weight and there is a moist stickiness that just drips from the roof of the mouth and it's left sticky for a long time afterwards.

Drinkability: Not impressive in its present state, but I have to believe that in its intended age range, this beer would be solid.

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Photo of OldIronLungs
3.8/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was interested in a wheat and I found this guy.
Poured into a Duvel glass.
Aggressive but inviting foam, beige lace over a black brown body. Cakey plum and light spice nose, some overlaying citrus and apple cider. A little thin on body but chewy carbonation. There's more in there I just can't get at it after warming the glass a while. Absolutely dry on the finish. Really unusually crisp.

I really got into crafts with Belgian darks (Ommegang Abbey big ups!) and this was a really pleasant experience for the money.

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Photo of Phelps
2.63/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours a deep, opaque burgundy, untouchable by light. Upon first pour, a massive head of light tan bubbles up and overpowers my tulip glass. It gets to at least three fingers tall, then continues slowly swelling and growing like a little volcano. Interestingly, it leaves zero lace behind. The second pour is more subdued, with a frothy and more manageable one-finger head that goes absolutely nowhere, though it's speckled with corn-flake yeast bits.

In the nose: wheat, apples cider, perhaps some grape and Belgian spice esters. It's a little subdued, but I guess that's what I should expect after two-ish years in the bottle.

A little bit of wheat, some grape juice, possibly some chocolate, very lightly dry and bitter upon the swallow. Some cola flavors emerge as it warms.

Highly carbonated, the bubbles prick the mouth before they break apart and fizz up like soda. The body's a silky medium-light, though it's hard to notice amidst all the bubblies. They're very distracting.

Meh. I know the back of the bottle says to enjoy Black Orchard fresh, but I can't imagine this one having been awe-inspiring when it originally came out. Perhaps that's why they retired it, hmm?

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Photo of impending
3.82/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml into a tulip. Pours a deep dark opaque brown, coffee ice cream color towering head subsides slowly, unexceptional lacing.

Aroma is rich with spices and a hint of soap or pleasant dirty sock. Lots of grains. The appearance would suggest dark fruits but none are to be found.

On top of a base of lightly charred malts, all the spices assert themselves in the flavor, but not the sock. Coriander is offset by spices I can't define including a hint of anise in the finish. Aftertaste is very nice, fades away slowly. Warming is a detriment. Creamy full bodied mouthfeel.

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Photo of swhite11
2.94/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A] - Very dark red, cabernet like appearance. Head pours a foamy, off-white masterpiece. Pours 3 1/2 fingers and retains for days. Lacing is very apparent. Core of beer appears mahogony.

A] - Phenols are very present. Slight graininess with a spicy hop/yeast aroma. Minimal amount of of raison/fig dark fruit nuance.

T] - A little bland upfront. Slight anise notes followed by fig/over ripened grape notes. Slight breadiness closed out by spicy yeast phenols.

M] - Velvety upfront. Feel becomes watery very quickly but finishes a bit thicker.

D] - Alcohol has a minor prescence back palate. Beer is very thin overall. Carbonation is high even for the style.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
3.8/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an even dark brown with a tan head. Big head, with nice lace.

Aroma is all over the place. Cocoa powder, anise, citric notes, white pepper, grain. It works.

What a unique one. Darker roasted malt with some light chocolate and licorice flavors, with some darkened fruit, yeast, bruised apple skin, citric rind, oat nuttiness...bitter, spicy, yeasty bready and sweet.

Medium body and carbonated. Good.

I dug this, even though I'm not sure what I drank. Goes down easy. Try if you can.

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Photo of micmillon18
4.26/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pouerd from a 750 Bottle into a tulip glass. I've had this one before and sadly its the last of three that I bought, which also means its the last I'll ever have of this truly extraordinary beer. No freshness date on the bottle.

A - Fluffly, bubbly, tan 3 finger head after a conservative pour which dissipates quickly. Dark brown color however the true beauty of this beer requires a closer look to fully understand it. Holding it to the light reveals a light orange layer that sits underneath the head. I've exposed it for its true wit qualities! To top it all off, for lack of a better term, the head leaves a cool orange circle in the center as it lessens.

S - Coriander, orange, chocolate cake, wheat, bready.

T - Very unique. Chocolate, slight orange sweetness. Spicey upfront, bready in the middle and finishes with a dark chocolate flavor. An incredible combo of light and dark tastes.

M - Very crisp and smooth. Goes down like any witbier.

D - Oh so drinkable and leaves you wanting more which is unfortunate considering I'll never have it again. Has alot of witbier qualities, you could almost call it a dunkel wit if that makes any sense. I had to resist temptation and sip it instead. Great balance of flavors light and dark. Here's to you Black Orchard, may you live on only in my beer dreams!

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Photo of LordAdmNelson
3.48/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Ok I wasn't aware that this is retired... I already threw my bottle out, but I figure that this isn't retired.

So I think some of the mixed reviews on this one comes from expectations that this is really a Belgian Dark Ale, with whatever that implies--the label calls this one a dark take on the Witbier, which is a more apt description than Belgian Dark Ale (at least in my estimation).

Pours an oily black with moderate milk chocolate head... actually looks like a pretty nice stout. Smell is laden with some citrus, some wheat-y notes, just a slight touch of roasted malt, some yeastiness too. It's a bit subdued. Taste was a bit of a surprise, with chocolate and roasted malt forming the center, with some orange peel and other things in there too. MF is fizzy and light, similar to witbier, but doesn't really hold up to the darker flavors. Decent drinkability, not a bad beer, kind of interesting.

I thought of this as more of a Belgian take on the schwarzbier, which helps me put this in a better light.

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2.28/5  rDev -36.5%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

750mL bottle to the Bruery tulip.

A: Pours with an enormous 4 finger cinnamon-sugar colored head, rapidly deflating. Fizzes out in seconds right before your eyes. The body is very dark, possibly black and 100% opaque. Absolutely no lacing and not even a film or collar. One minute after the pour, this beer already looks like it's been sitting out all night.

S: Average malts of lightly roasted chocolate mixed with a slight pine hop presence. Notes of broth and new leather make up the yeast contriubtions.

T & M: Overall, there is very little depth of flavor. Various spices, sasparillo, Tootsie Roll. Lightly tart and sour. Despite what the label says, little to no wheat or oats are noticeable to me, particularly in the mouthfeel, which is anything BUT creamy, despite what the brewery's description says. Black Orchard is fiercely carbonated. The bubbles strip the tongue of any and all flavor before I get a chance to even think about what's going on.

D: Awful. The mouthfeel absolutely kills this brew. It was bottle conditioned, so maybe something went wrong with that process. I sure hope so because, if not, this is a very poorly crafted brew. And now it's retired...

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Photo of claspada
3.4/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The aromas are really really wheaty for a Belgian dark ale. There were huge aromatics of wheat, dark fruits, and citrus. Some fainter notes of spiciness as well.

The taste is mainly a lot of dark fruit and wheat malts. There was a certain sweetness along with some roasty flavor. There is a hidden complexity. The beer was a bit thin even with the gigantic amount of carbonation.

Overall the beer was really drinkable and fairly complex. Not a complete winner for me as I would have preferred a bit more malty flavor, but for the ABV I really can't be too disappointed. Won't blow your mind, maybe a bit pricey, but worth a try none-the-less.

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Photo of Haybeerman
3.33/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Deep, dark brown color with a light red hue on the edges. Poured a 2 finger tan head with fair retention to 1 finger. Lace washed down the sides of the glass.

S: Wheat malt and citrus zest. Muted yeast spices. Not as complex in the nose as expected.

T: Consistent with nose; wheat malt and spice. Muted dark fruit flavors present in the middle. Slight sweetness lingers in the bitter.

M: Light body. Moderate carbonation. A little fizzy and fruity.

D: Drinkable for sure; just not as flavorful and lacked the complexity I expected.

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Photo of Boto
3.88/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle: This one pours an opaque, dark brown color. There was a huge tan head on it, but it dropped away quickly. Lacing was minimal. Interesting, but slightly lighter aroma. Floral, chocolate, coriander, faint wheat and maybe some grapes. Slightly lighter body, but still a good taste to it. Some spice, wheat, a touch of chocolate. Nice.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
2.66/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Got this one as a very appreciated extra from Deadeye... thanks a ton Charles!! Pour with about 3/4 head brown head and 1/4 black beer that only shows deeep garnet where the stem meets the glass... for such a mammoth head, there was no hint of lacing and the head dropped very quickly.

Very light nose... hints of apple and some other yeasty phenols... not alot going on here... no citrus zest and really no "black malt" aromas either.

Flavor is not really any better... lite coffee malt shows... and the phenols are still very muted.

Waaaay carbonated... I just touched the cap barely with the capper and a loud ppfffssst... Body seems much too light... mehh.. glad I got a chance to try it, but it was really not that good. Thanks for the opportunity Charles!


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Photo of kbeals
3.25/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

mjmadden sent me this in a BIF quite a while ago, figure I better bust it open soon...

A- Black in color, no light appears to penetrate through. Tons and tons of head on this beer, although it wasn't a gusher like other people have stated. Light brown head, some lacing, good retention.

S- Smells of muted spices, grapes and some citrusy zest. A little bland, but I wasn't really sure what to expect from this style. Somewhat complex, but not really inspiring.

T- SImilar to the smell in terms of spiciness and blandness. Some citrus and bitterness on the finish. Has a bit of a yeasty flavor to it as well similar to other Belgian style beers.

M- Thin body, very prickly mouthfeel. I feel like the lack of taste is detracting from the mouthfeel on this one, but I think a 3 is fair.

D- Light body but the taste doesn't really do it for me. Not real impressed with this as my first Bruery beer, but I'm still looking forward to the Autumn Maple I have chilling in my cellar.

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Photo of FosterJM
3.5/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

25th review on BA
Bottle to tulip

App- Before or after my kitchen exploded in foam? I like to be careful and pour a decent head on each beer but this was amazing. Just overflowed everywhere. Took 3 pours to get it right. Very dark, between a dark brown and light black. Nice head to it when it finally settled down.

Smell- Wasn't much there at first. It takes awhile for a smell to come about. I got coffee, caramel and some spice when it warmed.

Taste- Eh, it wasn't bad, it wasn't good. It's that safe spot in the middle. I think its a start to branch off and do something new in the Witbier category.

Mouth- A bit thin, light on the palate and slightly dry to me. I found it to be a bit dissapointing.

Drink- It wasn't all that complex or that in your face. It was a bit mellow which is okay. I think The Bruery was right to let this one go.

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Photo of jpoder
3.96/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: black dark enough that I can't see through it. big nice tan head on pour, but fades

s: roasty, carmel flavor some alcohol raison/fig. slight belgian aroma.

t: carmel, coffee, and bright fruit

m: thick and sweet up front by VERY dry finish

d: very good.

nice beer. I really like this. not outstanding, but very nice.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours a near black color with a nice head. Pretty good lacing on the way down. The nose is quite aromatic, with some nice pepper, roasted malt, light citrus, and a bit of coffee. The taste brings in some really nice spice and yeast as well as some mild roast. Good, light mouthfeel with nice carbonation. Really a unique bear and another success.

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Photo of bbeane
3.38/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

***Special Note*** this beer was from a bottle... wouldn't let me enter my serving type as bottle for some reason

A- Poured into a snifter... Beer is black in color, with a hint of crimson when held up to the light. A finger thick off white head sits on top... lingers for a bit before disappearing, leaving a some light lacing behind

S- Weak... not much to smell at first. As it warms, a malty sweetness becomes more evident. Dark fruits and chocolate

T- I see why this beer is now retired... pretty boring. Pretty much a weak malty sweetness with maybe a hint of chocolate to start, and light bitter in the finish

M- Medium body with light/medium carbonation

D- Ehh... I think this was the first The Bruery beer I've reviewed and definitely had higher expectations. Whoever made the executive decision to retire this one was right on the money...


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Photo of meatyard
3.8/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark, yet murky brown when held to a light, with a short, 1-finger, light brown head that has little retention and no lace.

The smell is some dark, dried fruit (mostly plum).

The taste is light spices including coriander. The wheat is plainly evident but there is still a lot happening in the flavor.

Mouthfeel is light with decent carbonation.

Drinkability: I had a few bottles of this about 1 1/2 years ago, during the 2009 Philly Beer Week and 1 at home. It's difficult to recall what the differences were then compared to now but it does seem to have lost some of the complexity though it's more mellow. I wasn't too fond of it then, maybe more now. The alcohol sneaks up on you.

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Photo of mstyne
3.83/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bomber from Beverage Mart, NY 66. No dating.

Pours an elegant(?) dark dark red. Head races away quickly. No lacing. Light carbonation. Could easily be mistaken for a wine.

Aroma is ... bold. Sweet and sour, with a slight tinge of alcohol. Taste is crisp -- fruity, malty. Pretty delicious!

BA reports it as being retired; no idea how old the bottle is that I have but I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it at the store before.

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Photo of codewarrior
3.11/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750 mL bomber poured into a Dogfish Head Snifter

I have heard nothing but amazing things about The Bruery from people that I truest and respect. There are several things that may have been off about this beer:

1. It's a wit, I got it aged. This beer might just not stand up to aging well.

2. I drank it a bit warmer than the recommended 45 degrees.

3. I drank it after it travelled with me on a plane back from Western NY to Denver on it's side.

So, the conditions are not ideal, obviously. I have another bottle in the cellar, which I will drink at the appropriate temperature, without yeast everywhere.

A: Very, very dark, 3 fingers of head, dissipates rapidly, little lacing.

S: Sweetish, lots of iron in the back of the nose ... seriously, lots.

T: Sweet and bubbly, fades into iron really fast.

F: Light. Bubbly. Much lighter than it looks.

D: Don't know how much of this I could drink, honestly, which is a problem for a wit.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.2/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Beer served in a Bruery tulip because I can. Beer is brown and clear with a big brown head of medium and large bubbles that rallies to form some lacing on the glass.

Aroma is sweet and mild overall, it smells kind of like candy.

I wish they would bring this beer back. The Bruery is too young to have retired beers. Beer is light in body and has a roasty back end, not much sweetness up front but there is an odd almost lactic note to the back of this beer. Carbonation is moderate on the palate but the more I drink / allow it to warm up, the less I am enjoying this beer. Ultimately I don't finish it and just go to bed.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.5/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review from BeerAdvocate magazine Vol. II Issue IX:

Ah, the elusive Black Witbier--an emerging version of the Witbier.

Good foam with a moderate pour that crackles down to a thick rim of tan lace. A shade or two away from pitch black. Aroma ranges from light peppercorn and citrus peel, carob powder and toasted grain husk, to light licorice root and plum fruitiness. Needless to say, this is a very aromatic beer. Big on smoothness that comes from a really deep, crisp carbonation. Dry malt flavor to star, carob powder and dry toast. Pithy with citric, hibiscus-like orchard flavors of fruit skin and pit. Mild sweetness from the oats is deep within. Suggestions of anise, plum skin and green apple. Faint mineral, chalky yeast and earthy tones in the middle; modest hopping with a muted bitterness though the orange peel that seems to balance more. Bone dry finish with lingering spices and a light, peppery alcohol.

Beyond complex, though still easy to drink thanks to the smooth, dry character. An absolutely stellar beer that we were not ready for but happily welcomed.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
2.52/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Poured into an snifter.

3.5 A: First pour yielded one hand of head. After my fourth round of pouring, I finally had a full glass. Black color. Two fingers of frothy tan head with pretty good retention and minimal lacing.

4.0 S: Surprisingly grainy, which I like. Roastiness, some toffee, and a touch of coffee. Subtle grassy hops, touch of burnt, and a slight peppery yeastiness. Fairly simple, but pleasant nonetheless.

2.0 T: Fairly powerful and unbalanced roastiness. I think I'm detecting some of the orange peel in the form of bitterness, joining with the hops and roastiness. Clove and pepper yeastiness. Pretty dry. This could benefit from a higher mash temp. Oats and brown malt are there and maybe a touch of chamomile. Really mismatched flavors. This doesn't seem to have any direction. Doesn't taste anything like a wit.

2.5 M: Lighter medium body. Carbonation was explosive in the mouth initially. I had to wait a while and drink half the bottle before it was acceptable. I never got to a point in drinking this that I was happy with this. Too thin, too carbonated, not particularly smooth.

1.5 D: Though the Bruery seems to be doing a bit better with carbonation levels now, late last year they overcarbed the hell out of stuff and this is none the different. I'm all about innovative, but they should have made a test batch of this first, then decided it wasn't going to pan out.

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Black Orchard from The Bruery
3.59 out of 5 based on 312 ratings.
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