Lots of people don’t seem to realise what an incredible beer scene Italy has developed over the past few years.
Clearly, our Mediterranean cousins are best known for their vino prowess, but there’s a monstrous amount of high quality brewing happening and the beer world is slowly starting to take notice.
Ireland has been lucky to get an increasingly regular supply of top notch beer from serious and innovative Italian birrifici such as Brewfist and Birrifico del Ducato, but we’ve had to wait a good while to get our hands on some gear from the much-lauded Birra del Borgo.
These guys are located an hour’s drive northeast of Rome and have made a serious impression on the global beer scene since they began production in 2005, appearing at many high profile beer fests and notching up some interesting brewing collaborations along the way.
One of these collaborations has just hit the shelves and fridges of good beer joints in Ireland, and is well worth a look…
Birra del Borgo & Dogfish Head: My Antonia
There’s no doubting that Dogfish Head is a massive name in the world of brewing, so you’ve got to be doing something right to collaborate with them.
My Antonia is a 7.5% ABV hopped-up Imperial Pilsner – not normally my favourite style to be fair (it can often give off a cheap sweetcorny thing). This one, however, gives a purer hop kick than many New World IPAs.
It pours a light golden colour with a big white head – looks the business. There’s sweet tropical fruit on the aroma (think melon and passion fruit); definite sugary lemon sherbet notes on the nose too, with a bit of slightly-harsh booze and shortcake biscuit. The taste is led by sweet mango, melon and orange alongside some slightly more bitter citrus (more of that zingy lemon sherbet). Shortcake biscuit malt and a bit of slightly harsh booze in there that I definitely associate with Imperial Pilsners. Lingering bitter citrus and lightly grassy herbal notes fill the back of your throat for a good while. Yeah, this is the business.
Birra del Borgo: Re Ale
Also recently landed on Irish shores is Birra del Borgo’s take on an American Pale Ale: Re Ale.
Coming in at a pretty meaty 6.4% ABV, this beautifully designed little number pours a darkish copper colour, again with a big fluffy white head. These beers look great both in and out of the bottle. Nice bright pineapple and grapefruit on the nose, some sweet caramel, and earthy peppery notes too. There are great sweet fruits in the taste: pineapple and orange coming to the fore especially, with a hint of sweet apricot. Crunchy caramel and biscuit malt in there, giving a fairly thick backing to the bright hoppiness. Residual pepper, earthy herbs, sweet bready malts and grapefruit in the finish. This is definitely on the sweeter side of APAs, but there’s an incredibly moreish fruity hop character to it. You’d have a few of these.
These two will be found in the usual specialist beer retailers around the country, for around the €4 mark for a 33cl bottles (off-sales). Quite pricey, you may think. Well, Italian craft beer is notoriously expensive so we’re probably getting a pretty decent deal, to be fair. Both of these bottles were really fresh when I had them last week (less than 2 months old), so now’s the time to snap ’em up. That cracking hop character won’t improve with age!