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.

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Are there any good Italian Beers?

Birra Roma and Pizza with Spent grain base.

Italian beer does not have the best of reputations. Sure Peroni was briefly the beer of choice by the deep V neck tight t-shirt crew, before some other tasteless, overpriced Euro swill with shiny packaging caught their eye. And cool dude with a hat and moustache aside, many years ago we worked out the Birra Moretti was a shit brew.

Since then we have stayed away from the brews of the motherland (Well technically fatherland, or rather grand-father land. That’s right the Sammartino in my name does indeed suggest that there is some Italian blood in there somewhere, meaning I’m very well qualified to speak of Italian beers).

But I’m here to tell you I’ve been too harsh in writing off the nation of Italy, which seems surprising as I often find that making sweeping generalisations about entire races of people on limited facts generally works out pretty well.

Nope there are some good Italian brews out there.

First up is actually a beer from Peroni – it’s the Peroni Gran Reserva, which importantly does have a dude with a moustache on the bottle, and probably more importantly is not aimed at the ‘Sunday Sesh at the Vineyard’ crowd and thus actually tastes like beer. It is a lovely light amber colour which suggests a hint of malt and a body which is there in the taste as well, perhaps a little too sweet for some with caramel and honey tones, but all still refreshing at the same time. Hell there is even some fruity hop bitterness and a lingering (albeit briefly) aftertaste. Not enough to keep the beard wearing beer geeks interested for long, but enough to scare off the (chest and face) hairless crew. Pint.

Our second beer comes from the ridgey didge Italian craft brewers, it’s Birradamare’s Birra Roma, which is a Marzen style brew.

This review of the beer here suggests that I would be impressed by the packaging, and I was, the oval style medicine bottle look, the shiny gold label, the very very cool love heart bottle cap (it would appear that Birradamare means Beer to Love). The packaging alone is reason enough to buy this beer, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Inside it’s a very good beer, none of the piss yellow Euro swill look here, rather it’s an orangey, slightly hazy beer with a solid creamy head. It smells of sweet malt and has a great body, caramel tastes from the malt shine through, along with stewed sweet apricot tones, one assumes from the hops. All in all a beer with great style and substance – Pint.

Six Degrees of Norm: where we prove that all beers can be linked back to Norm from Cheers in 6 easy steps.

1. These brews were Italian.

2. As was the job in ‘The Italian Job’

3. The new version of which starred Donald Sutherland

4. Who is starring in the new ‘I can’t believe it’s not Twilight’ teenage movie phenomenon Hunger Games with Woody Harrelson

5. Who of course played Woody Boyd in Cheers

6. And served cold brewskies to one Mr Hillary Norman ‘Norm’ Peterson