Tag Archives: artigianale

Specchia White Night amber ale at Tree Bar

Last night, we had tickets to go and see Neneh Cherry and Fat Freddy’s Drop at the Cavea of the Auditorium Parco della Musica, in the Flaminio district of Rome. This is the area to the north of Piazza del Popolo,  the popular spot for tourists, shoppers and manifestazioni at the top of Via Del Corso, central Rome’s main consumer strip and sometime location of yacht races *.

We’d never been far into Flaminio, so were keen to check out a spot called the Tree Bar, and the Auditorium itself. The Auditorium was designed by Renzo Piano, who has more recently radically altered London’s skyline with the Shard, and was inaugurated in 2002. The complex consists of three beetle-roofed concert halls with the Cavea in between – a fourth, open air auditorium. This is where we were headed. But first, a beer.

The central Roman section of Via Flaminia (one of the city’s ancient routes, heading north) is canonically long and straight, and plied by trams. It’s lined with handsome mid-20th century apartment blocks and collection of tired looking markets, workshops and older, more historical buildings, along with a couple of stretches of open park. Tree Bar, a former kiosk, nestles in one of these.

Inside, it has has light, Scandinavian style wood fittings, outside there’s a terrace area that spills into the park. Some kids’ football kept escaping from their game – inside a dry fountain – and flying past us while we drank.

With its emphasis on aperitivo drinking, Tree Bar has a long menu of sparkling wines and cocktails, but thankfully there were also a few craft beers tucked in there too, with three bottled beers in a section marked “Birre Artigianale”. I didn’t know any of them, so asked the waiter what one, from a brewery in called B94 in Lecce, Puglia, was. He said it was a birra artigianale. Yes, but what type, I persisted, and he managed to come up with the fact that it was an amber ale. Okay, fine, that’s enough for me. He also said it was enough for two (a 75ml bottle), but Fran wanted a cocktail.

B94 Specchia White Night, plus snacks, Tree Bar, Rome

When it arrived, a black bottle with a slightly muddle label design and the apparent name “Specchia White Night”, I told him not to worry, it’s not too much for one person – as I’m British. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes.

Anyway, he poured and inch of so, and there wasn’t much head, and the liquid was a murky amber-brown. I poured more, a bit more vigorously, and got a better head. Head, or schiuma, is very important in the appreciation of Italian craft beers – all the descriptions mention it. My Guida alle Birre d’Italia 2013 says it’s a beer with colore ambra intenso con schiuma di buona persistenza. Which I’d have to disagree with – the head wasn’t very persistent.

I didn’t get much in the way of strong scents coming off it, bar malt and some melon, or apple. Which made a nice contrast to the more citrusy beers I’ve been drinking a lot lately. Taste-wise, the maltiness (from both malted barley and wheat) was combined with a fairly strong bitter hoppiness and yeastiness, along with some spice (cloves), caramel and even a soapiness. It was a reasonably drinkable beer, with a medium body, low-middling carbonisation and 6% strength, though perhaps slightly heavy for my tastes for a warm summer evening. Plus, well, another aspect of my Britishness – the name and label brought disconcerting flashes of White Lightning, a trashy cider from the early 1990s. An unfortunate association.

B94 Specchia White Night's label, at Tree Bar, Rome

Still, it’s always good to try something new, from a brewery I’d not heard of before. Apparently B94 was founded in 1994 by Raffaele Longo to make beers for his friend. It’s that step from home-brewing to commerce that’s the familiar narrative for many micro-breweries.

Having quickly consumed Tree Bar’s stuzzichini (a plate of appetizers/snacks often served at aperitivo time), we had a pizza too. The food wasn’t bad – the stuzzicini included some pieces of particularly nice frittata and they seem to use some wholegrain flours in their doughs. Thus fuelled, we dashed on up the road to get to the venue.

Neneh Cherry had, disappointingly, bailed (with no reason or excuse forthcoming online), and the support act were pretty noodly, but the Cavea is a great location, the overcast weather didn’t give way to rain, and Fat Freddy’s Drop – New Zeeland’s finest reggae-dub-soul-rave combo – were energetic and entertaining, taking us through their new album, Black Bird, and including a few old favourites. Though they didn’t do an encore. What’s up guys? Grumpy? Tired from the world tour?

Fat Freddy's Drop, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, 3 July 2013

Infodump
Via Flaminia 226, 00196 Roma
treebar.it

* “In December 1878 [the Tiber’s] floodwaters in the Via del Corso were so deep that a sailing race was held held there…” (p114, Whispering City, RJB Bosworth)

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Another beer from 32 Via dei birrai brewery – Audace

Back at the Oasi della Birra in Testaccio last night. That’s “wah-zee”, not “oh-ace-ee” della Birra. My pronunciation got corrected (rightfully so) just the other day.

As per usual, you ask for beers from the scrappy menu, and they haven’t got them. So he suggested something else and as we were busy yacking we just said okay. We ended up having another of the range from 32 Via dei birrai birrificio (brewery), with their snazzily designed bottles, here terribly photographed on my phone.

Last time, I tried their Atra, a strong brown ale (7.3% ABV). This time it was Audace. On their site, 32 describes it as a birra bionda forte (Belgian strong ale). The first bit means strong blonde beer – and indeed it was strong, even more so than the Atra, which is already hefty enough for someone who’s grown up with British ales. When I say “grown up with”, I of course mean, “learned to enjoy responsibly at a legal age”. So yes, Audace is 8.4% ABV. Audace indeed. In case you hadn’t guessed from the Latin root, the name means “audacious”.

It’s audacious on a couple of levels. Firstly and foremostly because it’s ridiculously drinkable for such a strong beer. Even the Guida alle birrre d’italia (Guide to Italian Beers) 2013 says it’s molto beverina, nonostante l’alta gradazione alcolica: “very drinkable, notwithstanding the high alcohol content”. Secondly, it’s got a really notable citrus, slighty spicey, flavour. The brewery’s in-house experts have got it right when they refer to its taste giving una sensazione citrica astringente: “an astringent citrus sensation”. It’s reasonably hoppy, but that is balanced beautifully by the citrus flavours, spicyness and malt (it’s double malted).

Just reading 32’s site some more now, it says something appropriate to the current flap in the UK media about certain stray red meat.

The site suggests what food it pairs well with: Cibi senza salse grasse ma sostanziosi, affumicati come gli sfilacci di cavallo, o salati come montasio stravecchio e ostriche, in quanto birra poco luppolata. Which means (ish), “As a lightly hopped beer, it goes well with hearty foods without greasy sauces, smoked foods like shredded, cured horsemeat, or savoury/salty foods like Montasio Stravecchio [a type of cheese] and oysters.” The northeastern food suggestions – both the horse and the cheese – are in part because 32 is in the Veneto, inland from Venice.

I’ve never encountered horsemeat in Rome, though it’s probably available here and, frankly, sfilacci di cavallo has got to be nicer than the pajata alla griglia I tried the other day. It’s the intestines of unweaned veal (though some say lamb), grilled. It smelled and tasted of the digestive tract. Which doesn’t come as a surpirse. What surprises me is some people’s passion for it. (Sorry Rachel – I know I had to experience it, but I can’t pretend I enjoyed it!)

Unsurprisingly, half a 75cl bottle later I was feeling quite amenable. While there wasn’t any sfilacci di cavallo available, the boss of Oasi did encourage mean to buy another of 32’s beers to take away. I won’t say “one for the road” as that a bloody silly expression as it implies driving. Come on people: Walk. Public transport. Taxi. Designated drivers.

Anyway. Watch this space. I’ll be reporting back on 32’s Oppale soon. Untappd calls it a Belgian pale ale, the gaffer at Oasi referred to it as a lager. It’s only 5.5%, which is another surprise considering these previous experiences with 32’s beers.

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