Birra Italiana at the Taphouse

Italy is not widely known as a place for quality beer and I, like others, was surprised to learn that in fact Italy has a burgeoning microbrewery scene. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been. In a country famous for its love of great food and wine, it makes sense that craft beer would also thrive.

The SpecTAPular, the Local Taphouse’s quarterly tribute to a country and its beers, presented a great opportunity to drink some Italian beers rarely if not never before seen on these shores.

The scene at the Taphouse, as always, was good fun. Tables covered with red and white Italian cantina-style tablecloths and completed with a jar of breadsticks. The ever-enthusiastic staff were dressed up in whacky Italian-inspired regalia like a Super Mario outfit, or a Venetian costume and mask. Tacky photos of Italian icons were pinned up on the walls. And to top it off, there was a guy who played a mean accordion and had “That’s Amore” in his repertoire.

But the day was of course all about the beers and they didn’t disappoint. There was a good mix of different styles and tastes to appease almost any type of beer drinker.

The Birra Del Borgo and Dogfish Head “My Anotonia” for me summed up the general theme of the Italian beers. An Imperial Pilsener with a warming alcoholic kick, a good bit of sweetness and a crisp bitter finish, it was elegance personified.

Other beers were similarly well balanced and refined. Another Birra Del Borgo, the “Duchessa” Saison, was the least Saison-like Saison I might have had, but nevertheless was so damn drinkable with a nice creamy mouthfeel and peppery touch.

I do like my dark beers and the Tobacco Porter, yet another from Birra Del Borgo, and Milk Chocolate Stout from Brew Fist, both had unique complex flavours and held together nicely. Feedback on Twitter suggested that Hoppy Cat was the favourite of a few drinkers and this was certainly one of the best examples of a Black IPA, finding the right mix between the disparate elements of the contradictory style.

For a bit of craziness, the Extramones “Zest” Belgian Ale packed one hell of a nose with lots of grapes and lychee and even a bit of herbs, and it was just as zany in the mouth.

Italian craft beer, like Australian craft beer, is on the rise, and this event showed that it’s headed in the right direction. If this continues, perhaps soon more people when they think of great Italian produce, will also think Beer.

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