Tag Archives: baladin

Final beer at home in Rome

Birra del Borgo's ReAle 8

We’re leaving Rome tomorrow. The shipments of boxes we sent a few weeks ago has arrived in England, the cats similarly made it home on their road trip. But we’re still here until tomorrow, with just a suitcase and rucksack each. And massive piles of clobber to fit therein. It seems to have bred since we packed the boxes.

And of course we have a few final bottles of beer, one of which is this Birra del Borgo eighth anniversary brew, ReAle 8, from their birthday back in May 2013.

Along with Baladin, Birra del Borgo is one of Italy’s most respected breweries. Plus, it’s in Lazio, so, during our time in Rome, I could drink a lot of their wares while also maintaining locavore inclinations. Yay.

Birra del Borgo's ReAle 8 label

ReAle 8 is an Italian American Pale Ale-style brew, amber in colour and part of their annual birthday celebration variations on a theme. I’d love to tell you about the scent/nose/odour/smell, but I’ve got a stinking cold. All Fran can say is “metallic”.

The taste, however, I am getting (at least in part): it’s full-bodied, rich and fruity, providing one of those great, almost chewy mouthfuls with its well-balanced flavour of malts, stewed apple, caramel, and a hoppiness that’s fresh rather than overly bitter. It’s also made with gentian, but I’d be lying if I said I got that.

Thanks to Michele Sensidoni from Mastri Birrai Umbri, who gave us this beer, along with five bottles of one his new test brews. One of which I’m hoping to smuggle back to Britain tomorrow. He’s been a big part of my education in Italian craft beer.

Thanks also to everyone who’s ever served me a craft beer here in Italy, notably Elise Grazzini at Open Baladin whose knowledge and multilingual skills also helped with my  education, after we first found the bar early in our time here.

Oh, and thanks to Nanni Moretti too. His film Caro Diario (Dear Diary, 1993) was one of the first specifically Rome-based films we watched when we moved here, and it helped give us a sense of affection for, and some rudimentary glimpses of understanding of, the city. And, would you believe it, he moved in next door a few weeks ago. So we arrive seeing him on film, riding his motorino up Via Dandalo, and we leave seeing him in the RW, parking his motorino just outside our palazzo.

Borgo 8, leaving Rome home

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Baladin and del Borgo beers at No.Au bistrot, Rome

Baladin Nazionale, Bira del Borgo Keto Reporter at no.au

Just to the northwest of the faintly grotesque tourist nexus that is Piazza Navona, Rome’s Centro Storico (“historic centre”) offers a maze of streets, alleyways and piazzette. There, it’s possible to wander, get lost, find yourself again, elude the tourists mobs, bump into them again, and even find filming locations from Eat Pray Love (ugh). Among the cobbles and crumbling apartment blocks are numerous bars, restaurants and gelaterie. Our destination last night was No.Au, a bar/restaurant located between the handsome Chiostro del Bramante and the somewhat chichi Via dei Coronari (which even boasts one of Rome’s few cupcake shops these days. Bloody cupcakes).

No.Au, which opened in summer 2012, is a collaboration between several big names in Italy’s craft brewing and food scene who wanted to “recreate the atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, with quality products and good company, in the centre of Rome.” You’ll find the whole spiel (in English), and an explanation of the name of the place, here on the Baladin site. Why is it on the Baladin site? Because one of those (five) big names is Teo Musso, the founder and master brewer of Baladin, Italy’s biggest craft brewer.The bar and taps at No.Au Rome

So key is Musso in the Italian craft brewery scene, a biography has even recently been published. It’s called ‘La birra artigianale è tutta colpa di Teo’ (“Baladin. Craft beer is Teo’s fault” – ie Musso is to blame, ie responsible, for the whole craft beer scene in Italy.) Presumably the title is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but certainly Musso is among the most influential of Italy’s craft brewers. His collaborators here are Luca Tosato (also of Baladin), Leonardo di Vincenzo (master brewer of Birra del Borgo), Paolo Bertani (also of Borgo, and previously Baladin) and Gabriele Bonci (renowned pizzaiolo and TV regular whose company produces the breads for Open Baladin bar. We did a pizza course with him last year).

It’s no surprise, then, that at No.Au, the main beers you’ll find on tap are from Baladin and del Borgo, but they also have others, in bottles, both Italian and international. Beside where we sat was an old box of US brewer Dogfish Head’s intriguing/strange Midas Touch. I stayed with Baladin for my first choice. As I’d tried a lot of the offerings on tap, I went for a Nazionale (6.5% ABV), which the friendly, helpful waitress described as a “simple” beer. It’s described as an Italian Ale – as it’s top fermented and also because it’s made with entirely Italian ingredients. This includes the hops – which was a pleasant surprise, as so many Italian craft beers seem to depend on international hops.

No.Au Rome snacks

This really was a pleasing beer, perfect to accompany the antipasti we’d ordered:  a plate of bufala e prosciutto and some very fine freshly cooked potato crisps/chips accompanied by three flavours of mayo. As the waitress said, it was simple – a golden yellow, with a quickly subsiding soft head, very subtle aroma of ginger and lemon, and a fairly sweet, mildly hoppy smooth taste (27 IBU). Molto beverina.

Fran’s first beer was Keto RePorter (5.2% ABV) from Birra del Borgo. This porter is made with the addition of Kentucky tobacco leaves, but it was also very mild from the few sips I had.

As the beers were served in half-pints, and we’d finished the antipasti, I fancied trying something a little more interesting, so the waitress recommended Baladin’s Open Rolling Stone, which they described as an Italian APA on their blackboard, but as an IPA on Ratebeer. Either way, this beer, branded for the magazine of the same name, is very tasty. It’s relatively strong, at 7.5%, and had a slight perfume of camomile and a reasonable head. At first taste it was soft and sweet, but this gave way to a drier, slightly hoppy flavour (it’s still only a fairly moderate 36 IBU though, according to Baladin’s site). I was enjoying this one, but about half-way through my half-pint it started getting a bit detergenty, losing its crispness.

Wine, food, beer at No.Au Rome

Fran’s second one was a Genziana from del Borgo. I’ve had this before, though didn’t try it last night. It’s a really interesting beer made with bitter gentian flowers.

When some friends arrived, we ordered some more food. The emphasis here is on snacks and food that’s either stirato (“ironed” ) or crudo (“raw”). The ironing takes place on a piastra (flat top grill).  I was slightly surprised to see a lot meat available (such as sandwiches made with burger buns and sliced roast beef), as over at Katie Parla’s site she reports how Bonci’s places are going vegetarian for a month to protest Rome’s lack of appreciation of Lazio’s farmers and producers. I asked the waitress, and she said the menu was in transition. So if you visit any time in late July, there may be more vegetarian food.  I had seppia (cuttlefish), which had been ironed in a folded sheet of parchment, with zucchini. Served with an ink mayo, it wasn’t bad, but I would say this place is more about the drinks and antipasti, more a place for aperitivi or after-dinner drinks.

Talking of after-dinner drinks, when we’d eaten, I ordered one more (hey, that still makes just one and a half pints).  I got Baladin’s Isaac, a 5% blanche made with orange zest and coriander and it was a perfect palette cleanser.

No.Au exterior, note like of sign

All in all, a very pleasant evening. Although the place only started to fill up, and the lights went down, around 8.30-9.00pm, it’s definitely a good place to visit for quality Italian craft beers. And plates of cheese. And maybe even some wine. Oh, and the music was pretty good too. All this within a stone’s throw of Piazza Navona and its thoroughly-worth-avoiding eating and drinking options.

Info
No.Au, Piazza di Montevecchio 16A, 00186, Rome
No.Au blog / noauroma@gmail.com / 06 45 65 27 70

Baladin brewery (English site)

Birra del Borgo brewery (English site)

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Turan Neos APA with suppli

suppli and Neos on windowsill 2

Sunday evening, our chum Cameron made a delicious tomato risotto. She made what’s known in the vernacular as a “shit ton” of the stuff, but that’s good. We’re in Rome. And in Rome, when you’ve got leftover risotto you make suppli. So on Monday we did. I’ve mentioned the Roman love of fried goodies before. Suppli have got to be the best though. Deepfried risotto croquettes with a heart of melty mozzarella. What’s not to like?

You can use plain risotto, or a fancy flavoured risotto, depending on what leftovers you have, but generally it’s risotto rice with tomato, at least round these ’ere parts. Said leftover risotto is made into a ball, a piece of mozzarella is stuffed in the middle, then the whole lot is rolled in flour, then dipped in beaten egg, then rolled in breadcrumbs or pangrattato (toasted/dried crumbs). Then deepfried – long enough to melt the mozzarella so that when you eat it, it forms a string. Apparently this recalls the curly telephone cable of yore, before wireless handsets and mobile phones and all that newfangled stuff and the full name is suppli al telefono.

Me and Cameron learned to make them while working in the kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. They can be a bit fiddly, as it can be a bit messy making sticky balls and dipping them in egg. Frankly, I’ve no idea how one keeps one’s hands clean making them, despite how much I was shouted at by Academy chefs. At the Academy, we used an icecream scoop to make the balls, but even then you had to do all that dipping. There was a video (featuring Mr Bonci), but the link’s dead now. There, they made a point of wetting their hands first. They even made a pastella – a batter – to roll the balls in, combing egg, flour and water. Might try that next time, though even they’re getting messy. In this video (Italian, but subtitled in English), he just uses flour then egg, and does manage to keep the whole thing nice and tidy. Practice I guess.

Still, having said all that about messiness, our suppli were the best I’ve had. A delicious risotto, with plenty of garlic and a subtle chili heat, and some lovely breadcrumbs from my own bread, all fried until golden brown in hot sunflower oil and then eaten with Neos American pale ale (APA) from Turan brewery in Lazio (in Montefiascone, north of Viterbo to be exact). Yum. I’d bought the Neos for a ridiculous price at the slightly ridiculous middle-class food emporium that is Eataly and been waiting for a special occasion to crack it open. Cameron had recently revealed she’d OD’d on APAs, coming from their heartlands of California, but I’m still loving them, or at least the Italian take on APA. Over here, one connoisseur writing in English and certainly more knowledgeable than me is quite sniffy about a Neos he had, draft, at Baladin bar, calling it “kind of boring,” but the bottled one we had was delicious.

Fougass, Neos and suppli (unfried)

It’s a dark amber ale, with a medium head that dissipates fairly quickly (thankfully, given that I’m often rushing and pouring badly trying to get the right photo…). Me and Fran enjoy malty beers (indeed, she’s a stout and porter kinda girl generally), so the fact that this is a fairly malted beer with strong flavour of caramellised, or even slightly burnt, sugar is good. Any sweetness is balanced by a subtle hoppiness and a medium-light body, making it a decent ale to accompany food. Fried food. Deepfried, cheesy food. Perhaps the bottled version differs to the version the guy had at Baladin.

Talking of Baladin, and boring beers, we also had a few slightly disappointing beers at Open Baladin bar on Saturday. I’d been looking forward to some golden ale (with fond memories of things like Fuller’s Honey Dew – my gateway beer on the path to enjoying real beer) so was happy to see Baladin had a few listed in their menu. I tried Cortigiana (4.6%) from Birra del Borgo in Lazio, then Gold One (5.2%), from Baladin’s own brewery in Piedmonte and found both slightly weak and watery, more than like a lager or pils than a more full-bodied summer ale. They were fine, just a little underwhelming.

Baladin golden ales

Similarly underwhelming was FluviAle’s Golden Ale, at Porto Fluviale bar in Ostiense a few days previously. Though I don’t think I’ll be returning to Porto Fluvial for a while as the beer they served my friend Rachel, a Terminal, was terrible. It was very flat but worse it just tasted musty. When we complained the waitress said it was because it was hand-pumped. Hand-pumping might explain a lack of effevesence, sure, but not the mustiness. When my wife had another drink that also tasted musty, it put me off the place completely. Guys – there’s something mouldering in your system. Clean your pipes!

So yes, the best beer experience I’ve had the past week-ish, was definitely the one involving a  bottle of Neos and home-made suppli, served with a tasty tomato chutney.

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Baladin’s Pepper and Borgo’s Maledetta at Open Baladin, Rome

Whenever I visit Open Baladin, possibly Rome’s finest birreria, I like to sample some novelties. It’s not hard, as they generally have several dozen beers on tap, of many ilks and genres. The menu, which changes every few days, is divided into categories. Yesterday these were: Blanche/Weizen (white and wheat beers); Bitter/Pale Ale/IPA/APA; Brown Ale; Saison; Lager; Belgian Strong Ale (style, not necessarily origin – they’re mostly Italian); Lambic; Smoked Ale; Golden Ale; Belgian Ale (again, mostly actually Italian); Honey Ale; Stout/Porter; Birra Alla Castagne (chestnut beers); Barley Wine. There were around 50 in total.

The first category on the menu, however, is generally Birre cha fanno stile a se’. I’m not sure I can translate this quite right, but it means something like “Beers with a style of their own”. That is, beers that don’t quite fit into the other, more conventional, categories. Not that a lot of those are conventional, especially by British standards – Saison are enigmatic ales, and chestnut beers are elusive in the UK.

Anyway, I like to go for the first category, see what’s new, what’s novel. So, without consulting the staff in any way, I ordered a Pepper, a 6% ABV mystery from Baladin’s own brewery. (On US site/app Untappd, it’s classified as a Saison / Farmhouse Ale, but that’s not how Baladin themselves categorise it). The menu said it’s produced with pepper, and called it fresh and lightly spiced. I love black pepper in cooking, and like spices, so it sounded good. When it arrived, though, I was baffled. Firstly, it had absolutely no head (schiuma, foam, froth – the term used for beer, waves and cappucini alike). Many of the Italian craft beers I’ve tried have a serious head on them, something that takes some getting used to as a British beer drinker. It was entirely still, not a bubble in sight. Sure un-fizzy ale isn’t a great rarity, it was just so surprisingly flat, inert. Check out the photo – it could almost be a wine or a liquor, visually.

As for the smell and flavours, the first thing that hit me as it neared my considerable snozz was nothing to do with pepper or spice, it was banana, which continued with the first sip, along with hints of honey. I had to reach a quiet, zen place before I could taste any elusive pepperyness. (And offer it to my wife, who said she could.)

It just didn’t seem right, somehow. I managed to ask a friend who works there and is very knowledgeable, and she confirmed it was indeed liscia, smooth, by character and not error and that she’s never order it herself! Oops. So she suggested my second beer. We’d only stopped for a swift one, but who was I to resist?

So beer number two for the evening (and only two, as my friend had a stinking cold and wasn’t up for it) was Maledetta, from Borgo, NE of Rome. It’s a great name for a beer – meaning damned or words to that effect. This 6% ABV Belgian Ale (Belgian style, Italian-made) was a much more enjoyable affair. The glass was a third full of head (again, it might be strange to a Brit, who’d probably ask for a top-up, but it’s important here, where the beer criticism talks about the character of the head alongside the smell, taste and colour of the liquid itself), and the first scent was of caramel, sugar just starting to burn. Tasted, it was was more grapefruity, with a nice full, almost chewy, body. I didn’t curse it, despite the name. Instead, I drank it with a mellow sense of satisfaction.

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