Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Birrificio L'Olmaia - BK

Hello hello, welcome to the month of May and my first new post. We are ushering in a new era in the beer blog here for I am treading in unexplored territory; I have crossed into the great country of Italy. I've been here for just about 10 days now, but what kind of repercussions will this have for the beer blog now that my supply of worldwide high quality beer (from de Bierkoning in Amsterdam) cannot be purchased any longer? Does this mean I'll be reviewing Chianti and local Umbrian red wines? No! Not at all. I'm not worried, and neither should you. In all honesty the two words: Italy & beer have never been synonymous, but wait a minute now. Put them together for just a moment. Stretch your mind a bit and allow me to paint a picture for you; one that combines the two into one lovely work of art (something else Italy is known for). Let me explain....

The beer up for review tonight is not only my first taste of higher quality Italian produced beer, it is my first sampling of an Italian produced English Style Stout. So check this out: here I am earlier tonight, reading a facebook post from my favorite pub in Amsterdam (The BeerTemple) writing about how they just got a delicious new hopped out version of the Beer Geek Breakfast Stout from Mikkeler. I'm totally wishing I could be there to have a pint. Anyhow, I have a bottle of Italian beer in my possesion that I picked up at a wine shop last week. I was thinking I knew exactly what to expect when I read on the side of the bottle: Doppio Malto (Double Malt). It would be some kind of overly sweet and malty concoction they'd try and pass off as some kind of Belgian Dubbel or something along those lines. In fact, just before cracking the bottle open, I proceeded to Beeradvocate to have a look and see what kind of style I was dealing with here (I really trust those guys). To my great surprise and excitement, Beeradvocate had it labeled as an English Stout. This piqued my curiosity a great deal.

The doppio malto on the label beneath the name: BK, was a bit misleading for me. But I was in fact intrigued. It was supposedly an English Style Stout. "Ok, so we'll see about that..." I thought. I cracked it open and took the first whiff. Wow. That was my first reaction, seriously. Incredible. Could this really be Italian-made? An Italian-made English Style Stout? There will be many skeptics out there I'm sure. But let me tell you, I did have a bit of a heads up before I arrived to Italy. I did my research. Would I travel to a foreign country without first researching the state of their beer industry? I think not. We've all seen the Italian beer in the supermarkets and Italian restaurants back in the states...yeahhh, you know...the watery, fizzy, pale, skunky Peroni or Birra Moretti. And we've all heard about the high quality wines coming out of Italy for ages, but good beer? A good high quality beer from Italy? Yeah right, I know some of you are thinking right now. Some of you are probably snickering even or maybe you had no knowledge at all that beer was produced and enjoyed in Italy. Whatever the reason, I am here to set the record straight.

Aside from the fact that Italy is the 2nd largest importer (and I mean consumer) of foreign beer in Europe, Italian beer is on the rise. And not just any beer, but good beer from Italy is on the rise. This I knew before coming here, but my research led me to believe the microbrew movement was centralized in Milan (a city hundreds of kilometers to the north of where I would be staying). There would be bottle shops, brewpubs, and microbreweries galore in Milan, but what about me? What about Umbria, and central Italy where I would be staying? That was the question I set out to answer. There is good beer to be found in Milan, but elsewhere in Italy? I have now just answered that question. As I work my way through this 750 mL bottle of Italian produced English Style Stout, I smile to myself and pour another 4 ounces into my tasting glass. Before I tell you my final thoughts (this is to come later in The Verdict portion of my tasting notes) let us go and read those tasting notes and see what I found when I sampled my first ever higher quality Italian brew. Would it live up to the hype I've been hearing about? Or would it fall flat on its face? Let's have a look...oh and also, the brewer is L'Olmaia (but let's save the brewery description for a later post)...

Brewer: Birrificio L'Olmaia
Name: BK
Category/Style: English Stout
ABV: 6.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 750 mL (capped)
Location Purchased: Enoteca Lo Sfizio, Citta di Castello, Umbria, Italy

The Pour: Dark brown, slight crimson hue, head is nice and creamy and cream colored; minimal retention, but nice lacing.

The Nose: The nose, wow, it really threw me for a loop. Was not expecting it at all. I get a bit of piney and grassy hops, loads of milk chocolate and roasted malt. Sweet and chocolatey. Dark roasted coffee there as well. Is that smoke coming through? My god this smells amazing. An Italian brewed English Style Stout? It smells spot on and then some! Let's see if they can hold onto it with the taste. Onward!

The Taste: Ok so initial taste...low to medium carb, slightly watery slightly creamy mouthfeel. Loads of smoke. Actually quite bitter. Quite crisp despite, and nice dry finish. It's actually kind of refreshing in a way. The coffee and dark roasted notes shine through and the long, smokey, dry finish is delicious. I've a feeling most of the bitterness is a result of the dark roasted malt but it really is awesome. Cocoa powder, toasted grains and hops...the bitterness lingers for a long time.....

The Verdict: Wow, well for my first real Italian beer I am quite satisfied. This is really great stuff. And not only is it a good example of the style, but I would say it puts a nice twist on it with the coffee, smoke, chocolate and definite hop presence. This is a really good beer. Given the chance I will likely buy another bottle (or two). So there you have it, my first exposure to the up and coming beer scene in Italy. It holds up. It's true. Italy is coming into its' own for beer. Cheers! Now let me pour myself another glass :]

Thanks for reading!



HopZine Rob said...

Wow! I am honoured. Only one of the two non-brewery website you endorse. I spotted your blog via an in-coming link to HopZine.

I've been reading loads about Italian beer recently as I've got a holiday to Rome booked for July.

By chance my other beery outing this year is to the Boreft Beer Festival at De Molen Brewery in September. Are you going?



Zach Hoyopatubbi said...

Lol well, endorse is a bit heavy I think. It's not like I'm some major resource for beer. I'm getting quite a few hits lately, but nothing in the way of comments. I'd really love to know what the people that do read my blog are thinking...is my material any good? Are the beers I select varied enough? Is the information detailed and interesting without being too serious? Is it easy for the average Joe to understand? Maybe I'll post an entry and see If I can attract a few comments. Anyhow thanks for stopping by! Nice choice with the Pumpernickel Porter, I love that beer! And unfortunately I probably won't be in Europe in September, but anything is possible. We'll see....thanks again! Cheers!