08 December 2014

Littlest Italy

A rapid sequel to my post a few months back about how the Wallace group of authentic Italian eateries have finally warmed to quality Italian beers. While I was still getting my head around them being there at all, the chain organised an Italian craft beer festival, Quartiere In Fermento, in mid-November. It takes an authentic Mediterranean attitude to organise an outdoor beer festival in Dublin this time of year.

On the day, an alcove on the Millennium Walkway was designated as the venue and a makeshift bar set up with five breweries exhibiting: Almond 22, Foglie d'Erba, Montegioco, LoverBeer and Barley. I didn't try everything on offer and I'll say straight away that the best beer available was LoverBeer's Papessa, one I know of old. From the other selection, I had:

Garbagnina. Not the most attractive of names by Montegioco. This is a cloudy pink cherry beer at 5.3% ABV, the flavour an odd mix of sweet red fruit (though not necessarily cherry) and strong winter herbs -- eucalyptus and sage. The two elements mesh along well together and make for an odd but simple and enjoyable beer. There's an actual sage variant, clary, in Montegioco's Rex Grue but I wasn't able to taste it. It's a 5.6% ABV pale ale with lots of lovely juicy jaffa orange notes.

Much as I like the style, it's rare that a tripel really impresses me, but Barley's Toccadibò was one such. It's typically pale and cloudy, but with a clean flavour profile more reminiscent of a strong Belgian blonde ale than tripel. What makes it stand out is the hopping: mango and pineapple notes, given added warmth by 8.4% ABV, which I guess is fairly modest for the style. Almond 22, meanwhile, had a peppercorn beer called Pink IPA which promised big on the hops -- Saphir and Nelson Sauvin -- but didn't quite deliver. The pepper imparts an enjoyable dry bite but that's really all that happens. It's not even pink, more a hazy IPA orange.

Two from Foglie d'Erba to finish. Babél at 4.8% ABV is the lightest beer I drank but also one of the most intensely complex. It arrived from the keg a perfect clear gold and I lost track of the hops used after writing down Simcoe, Citra and Tettnanger. They create a massive perfumed golden syrup effect: floral and fruity but without being sweet. A solid kick of old-world bitterness brings it down to earth and balances it. Top new discovery of the event for me, and several other attendees, was Hot Night at the Village, the same brewery's porter. It's 5.5% ABV and is wonderfully simple and drinkable with just the right amount of cocoa again avoiding being sweet but actually quite refreshing, the way good porter should be, even on a cold winter's evening on the north bank of the Liffey.

Congratulations to the organisers for running such a daring and fun event. It is customary on such occasions to write that I hope it returns bigger and better, but really I'd be very happy with exactly the same again.