Italiano Spectapular

My Antonia and the awesome tablecloth

Spectapular is now a word that is in the vocabulary of even those who have only just dipped their toes in the frothy water of the craft beer pond. The Spectapular that they are familiar with was the giant four day long festival held at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne.

This weekend it was Spectapular time again, but instead of the giant beast it was back to the roots of these events with the Local Taphouse in Melbourne which was decked out in checked tablecloths and the kegs filled with special Italian brews.

Now Italy is not generally a country associated with craft beer, but I’m told by many people that there is actually quite a few (somewhere around 300) microbreweries in Italy, some of them are pumping out some pretty good beer, and more importantly a lot of it is now being imported into  Australia.

The Spectapular offered a chance to try 20 beers that I’d never experienced before (and in fact 19 had never been tapped in Australia before) so it was with some excitement that myself, Jord, Cat and Andre made our way through the door and settled in for the afternoon.

We utilised a slightly different strategy than normal. We got a taster of every beer and then assigned them to each person, for instance I had beers 1,5,9,13 and 17. From our selections you had to pick your stand-out beer(s) which everyone would then get full glasses of.  Between us we ended up with five standouts they were;

My Antonia which is an imperial pilsener and a collaboration brew betwixt the Italians Birra Del Borgo and Americans Dogfish Head. It is an orangey colour with a little bit of haze, as you work through it is laces very well. It has a great hop character, but this is balanced nicely with a good solid malt backbone. Big in all senses but could have drank it all day – Jug.

There were no small beers in our best of line-up and the San Paolo Birrificio Buxus was no different. It claimed to be a Maibock (German Lager) but it drank more like a Belgain Tripel to me. There was a touch of funk in the aroma, good solid head, an orange colour and big malty backbone, leading to a brew that really was very sweet, a good solid beer – Pint.

The beautiful blackness of the KeTo reporter

I love the name Brewfist for a brewery, I mean it’s completely illogical, oddly rude, but awesome none the less. I was very happy that one of their brews made it onto the shortlist. That beer? Fear, which is a milk chocolate porter. Now I know that sounds super sweet, but this beer actually wasn’t, there were more roasty dark malts and a certain nuttiness coming through. And chocolate was the dark, slightly bitter kind, good stuff though – Pint.

Next up was rare style of Tobacco Porter, called KeTo Reporter by Birra Del Borgo it is a porter brewed with tobacco leaves added in.  This is a nice brew, it pours a fabulous black colour with a nice dense creamy tan coloured head. The beer was exciting in taster size, but was a little bit of a let-down in full glass size. Burnt malts dominate, tobacco is hinted at, but only just and it all ends up a touch on the thin side – Schooner.  

We ended our session with a Barley Wine from Birraficio Troll (Birraficio means brewery in Italian if you haven’t guessed yet, actually technically it means Beer Office) called Shangrila which was sweet, very sweet. There was a strong candied banana smell in the nose and big stewed fruit tastes in the body. It was a great way to finish the afternoon – Pint

As a final note I have to say that the Local Taphouse does these events really well, the various rooms and levels of the venue were fully decked out in Italian decorations, the staff were in fancy dress (although someone should explain that Snooki is not Italian, she’s Chilean) and the Italian food was both very good and well matched to the beers.

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