A Gondola of Beer

Italian Beer

Beachwood BBQ Italian Beer Fest Menu


I made the trek down to Seal Beach with my main beer traveler, Richard, to sample some craft beers from Italy. Gabe Gordon and his staff at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach pulled together a fascinating list of Italian beers rarely seen in California. Festivals can be hard to organize with local beer so sourcing beers from Italy was quite a feat of logistics.

Tomm Carroll, beer writer for the Celebrator beer magazine, added his knowledge of the current Italian beer scene to make this a truly authentic event. Carroll’s articles about his sojourn in Italy are required reading for those planning a trip to the burgeoning beer country once all the volcanic ash stops hovering over Europe.

I tasted two of the lighter offerings and then compared them to the latest collaboration between Stone Brewing/Victory Brewing/Dogfish Head (which is also your beer choice for the week) Saison du BUFF. All of the beers had excellent descriptions to help you find your way to a beer you would enjoy which was really helpful. You could learn about Italian beer before even picking up a glass. By necessity, some items needed smaller pours but that is perfect because it allows you to pick a few to try and not just one.

I began with a transatlantic collaboration from Dogfish Head and Birra del Borgo in Borgorose. The beer is named My Antonia and it’s an Imperial Pilsner. Atypical for U.S. or Italian markets. It pours light yellow in color. The foamy head recedes but lacing really sticks to the glass. There is a medium hop bite that fades gracefully into traditional pilsner taste. A little tininess and some fruit notes are the predominant flavor notes at the end.

Second was a beer that I still haven’t made up my mind about yet. Piccolo Birrifico Seson. A barrel-aged saison from Apricale. A really strange beer that pours a golden orange. The first taste I get is nutty followed by some citrus bitterness. It was spiced with juniper and coriander but the primary flavor that shines through is chinotto peel, a bitter citrus fruit native to a few regions in Italy.

My beer buddy Richard started with Super Baladin a Belgian style Triple from Birreria Le Baladin. The description noted that it finishes with citrus and marzipan but the overwhelming taste was of rose. Banana keeps it mellow along with a subtle taste of pear.

He then moved on to a darker offering Pausa Cafe Tosta that was redolent of nuts with some caramel tones on the back end. This beer is from Turin and brewed with cacao from Costa Rica.

Lastly was another Le Baladin concoction, Belgian Strong ale called Al-Iksir. Richard got a definite almond flavor but it was a mellow smooth taste. This beer used whiskey yeasts from the island of Islay in the primary fermentation according to the notes.

We barely scratched the surface. Missed were a beer made with the bitter plant, gentian. An imperial Russian stout with hot peppers and a chestnut ale! Obviously, these are not beers bound tightly to a specific style. Italian beers are as inventive and locally sourced as some American beers!

The beer of the week is the already mentioned collaboration between one west coast brewer and two from the east coast. Saison du BUFF is a Saison that is brewed with a garden of herbs. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I tasted ginger and mint when I sampled it. This is not a subtle beer by any stretch of the imagination. Stone released what it’s batch now and the Victory Brewing allotment hits in July followed by Dogfish Head’s version in August.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Saison de Buff is a great, herbal beer. Best on tap.

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