Tag Archives: italian craft beer

Post number 100, a celebration of Italian craft beer, and getting ready to leave Rome

Italian craft beers

According to WordPress’s strange date conventions I started this blog with a post published 2012/11/07. For most of the world1, this would otherwise be known as 07/11/2012, 7 November 2012.

It was started so I had a place to write about my baking experiments, my interest in the baked goods I encountered while living in Rome, where we moved in August 2011, and my burgeoning enthusiasm for Italian birre artigianali (artisan beers, craft beer).

Some Baladin beers

Leon, Wayan and Isaac from Baladin, the brewery that really kicked it all off in Italy and still produces many of the best, most intereting beers here.

Now, almost 11 months later, I’ve arrived at my 100th post…. just as we’re preparing to leave Rome after two roller-coaster years. These included:
difficult work (Fran);
unpaid work/unemployment (me; including one [dubious] SF-fantasy novel, an internship on the American Academy’s Sustainable Food Project, and this educating-myself-about beer and waffling on about baking project);
faltering attempts to learn Italian;
lots of baking (some great; some heavy; some that went mushy);
lots of food (some amazing, a lot mediocre);
lots of beer (mostly interesting);
bewilderment at the Italian ways of doing things (or not doing things; like having to wait five months to get our internet connected, or the post office that doesn’t sell stamps);
still no kids (sadly);
neighbours from hell (WTF!? It’s 4am! Again! Che cazzo state facendo?! Stiamo provando di dormire. Mortacci tua!);
zanzare;
some great new friends;
witnessing Palme d’Or winner Nanni Moretti move in next door;
and, overall, an incredible immersion in this bonkers, intoxicating, dilapidated, exasperating, traffic-choked, caffeine-fuelled, history-sozzled city.

Draco beer

Draco, from Birrificio Montegioco. Made with bilberry (aka blueberry) syrup, no less.

When I wrote the 99th post, I thought, “Accidenti! I better do something interesting for the arbitrary landmark of number 100″. But that stymied me.

So instead, here are a load of pictures of beer. They’re mostly from a party we had at the weekend that doubled tripled up as a goodbye, a free jumble sale, and a celebration of Italian craft beer. Although we had a great selection of fascinating brews, they are only the tip of the iceberg of the 500 or so birra artigianale breweries currently operating in Italy. I wish I could stay here and keep on drinking my way through them, but we need to return to Britain.

Noa Reserve

Noa Reserve – one of the strangest beers we had that evening. Aged in barrels, it basically tastes of whisky, brandy, or as our friend MM said, “a memory of foreign land you’ve never been too.”

I do hope any readers of this blog won’t be put off by the fact I won’t have the glamorous “I live in Rome” factor any more. For the next few months, we’ll be visiting friends and family in the US and NZ, before settling back home around Christmas. So the blog will change slightly – not its tone, but its context.

We’ll see how it goes.

I certainly have no intention of stopping baking and I’m really excited to get back to the real beer scene in the UK, which, like that of Italy, has grown exponentially the past few years, with 197 new breweries opening in the past year alone, while London alone has nearly 50, up from just two in 2006.

Ecco, more photos of beer:

Marche'l Re

Marchè’l Re from Loverbeer brewery. Possibly even stranger than Noa Reserve, me and chef Chris Behr concluded it was like “drinking fruit beer from an ashtray”.2

Gotica from Brasserie Lacu

Gotica from Brasserie Lacu, a light double malted Belgian abbey ale – made in Belgium for the Italian market.

Rubbiu MRL

Can’t really find out much about this one, Rubbiu, but it was a great gift – as it came from a small brewery in a friend’s small home town outside Rome.

Zagara beer from Barley brewery

Zagara beer, an orange blossom honey ale from Barley brewery in Sardinia. So the first Sardinian beer I’ve ever had.

Line-up left

Line-up, centre

Line-up, right

And finally, a bit of nocturnal ambience. Thanks to anti-mosquito candles.

Isaac, anti-mozzie candles

1 Except you contrarians in the US, of course, who would insist on confusing the rest of us by using putting 11/07/2012 for 7 November 2012.

2 We didn’t necessarily mean this in a bad sense. I wish I’d written about Loverbeer more in my time here, but I’ve only really discovered them fairly recently. (I did write about their Madamin.) As they really are producing some of the most interesting beers in Italy. They seem intent on combining the traditions and tastes of wine and beer. So their D’uva beer  is made with 20% grape must and tastes much more like a sparkling wine than a beer, not unlike say Birra del Borgo’s Rubus.

I’m increasingly interested in this whole area of making beer that doesn’t really taste of hops or malt. It’s fascinating, and I’m very divided. The above mentioned Noa Reserve, from Almond ’22 brewery, is another example, as is the fascinating Etrusca (which can be seen in one of the above pics), a beer made by three different breweries (Baladin and Borgo in Italy, and Dogfish Head in the US) according to an ancient recipe; it tastes much more like wine or mead than beer. I very much enjoyed experiencing the weirder beers we had, but I think my favourite of the evening was Ius Primae Noctis (“right of the first night”, Latin for “droit du seigneur”), a hoppy, citrussy Italian APA from Birrificio Aurelio, which is in Ladispoli, not far from Rome. So yes, I’m clearly not leaving behind hoppy beers any time soon.

11 Comments

Filed under Ale, beer, Discussion, Italian beer

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Ale, beer