What beers do you bring home from a five-day tasting trip in Italy?
Unlike many more-established beer-loving countries, Italian beer culture is based in large part on bottles, rather than draft. (The Czech Republic is the opposite, with even some local experts arguing that tap beer is always, invariably, 100% better than bottled, the concept of bottle conditioning still somewhat unknown here in Lagerland.) This means that before you return, you can easily load your car up with beers and beer-related items. And when you zip down the Passo del Brennero into Austrian Tyrol, you’ll only go that much faster.
Here’s what we brought back with us.
One bottle of Panil Barriquée (8% alcohol by volume), a stunning or possibly disappointing brew aged 90 days in small oak barriques.
One bottle of Birra del Borgo’s KeTo Reporter (5.2%), a porter-style beer brewed with Kentucky Toscano tobacco.
One bottle of 32 Via dei birrai’s Oppale (5.5%), a well-received ale especially recommended by the lovely Flavia Nasini of A Tutta Birra.
One bottle of Birra Amiata’s Bastarda Rossa (7%), made with 20% Monte Amiata chestnuts.
One bottle of Iris Birra’s La castagnola (5%), a beer brewed with both chestnuts and chestnut honey.
Three bottles of Birrificio Grado Plato’s Strada S. Felice (8%), an excellent chestnut-flavored amber ale.
Four bottles of Grado Plato’s incredible Chocarrubica (7%), an outstanding dark resembling a chocolate stout, brewed over two days using infusions of cocoa and Sicilian carob and a 33% oat mash.
One big bottle of Birrificio Baüscia’s Gea barley wine (10.5%) from Milan’s amazing Decanter restaurant.
One paper-wrapped bottle each of Demon Hunter (8.5%), Draco (11%) and Runa (4.8%) from Birrificio Montegioco.
Two extremely green T-shirts from the Italia Beer Festival.
Two jars of lumache alla birra (escargots — as in snails — cooked in beer) from Elicicola Osaschese.
And that’s about it. Missing are the very hoppy beers from Birrificio Italiano, which we loved, though we’re hoping to get back there soon. And for those of you who can’t believe we returned from a beer tour of northern Italy without anything from Baladin, two caveats: we did manage to taste every beer at the Baladin pub, as well as many rare birds and oddities offered with the multi-course dinner with beer pairing at Casa Baladin. (Plus we brought home one jar of cherry preserves made by Teo Musso’s mother, produced from the leftover cherries from the brewery’s Mama Kriek.)
Most of these beers we picked up along the way or discovered at A Tutta Birra, a must-see for beer lovers in Milan. More on these and Italian beer culture in general once we unpack.