06 December 2017

Bonza Monza

Early on a dark and dismal Saturday morning in October, Dr John and I made our way through northern Milan to Porta Garibaldi station. The venue for the second day of the autumn EBCU meeting was Monza, a small city around 20 minutes north of the metropolis.

Our host for the day was the Carrobiolo bar, brewery and restaurant. Not the largest space to spend a nine-hour day in, but it did at least allow for a very thorough investigation of what they brew there. Pleasingly it's only house beers too: I always grant extra kudos to a brewpub that doesn't admit guest beers.

You know what came first, of course: Carrobiolo Pils. No mere placeholder for the Peroni-bibbers this, it's smooth and creamy; bitter and grassy; with a generous dollop of candy malt for good measure. A wiser man might have stuck drinking this all day. It's certainly built for it.

The next lager for me was Carrobiolo Keller, another clear, smooth and clean one. In fact it resembles the Pils quite closely, just missing the big hops, showing a very mild waft of meadow flowers instead, as well as a touch of astringency in the finish. It's very unexciting, and I guess that's why the brewery has used it as a base for some of the more out-there experimental recipes, of which more anon.

The brewery's gluten-free American Pale Ale is less hop-forward than either of the lagers, weirdly. It's very dry and quite dusty tasting, the clear amber colour making it look a lot more full-flavoured than it transpired to be. What hop character there is is a muted caraway seed thing. I had to wonder what sort of pale ales the brewer had been drinking that he thought they were supposed to be like this.

There's also something off about the double IPA, Amanipa Phalloide, too. It's one of those thick and funky US-style ones, going all out for dankness. In doing so, however, it misses any fresh qualities in the hop profile: it's dark and serious, unlit by tropical sunshine or invigorating forest pine. There isn't even a proper bitterness to the resins. I get the feeling that US styles are really not the brewery's area of expertise. Moving on...

Estiva summer ale brings us back to the light. This one is hazy and definitely doesn't taste as clean as the lagers, having a touch of yeast bite and a slightly gummy New England IPA vanilla flavour. Beyond that, however, there are plenty of bright fresh hops, with the zing of grapefruit pith and and heavier oiliness as well. This is the beer to go to if you're after a pale ale, even though it isn't badged as such.

A trilogy of novelties follows next, beginning with Monza Mule. Not for the first time, I found myself the only person in the room enjoying a beer that everyone else was passing around while grimacing. It's brewed with ginger and cucumber, and tastes massively of both: a green salad foretaste starts things and is followed by a rasping ginger burn. Interestingly, the cucumber doesn't go in until the end of the production process, pretty much as a dry-hop equivalent. It certainly ends up tasting fresh and real. Yes it's a very silly beer but it works, even if the light pale base doesn't really stand up to the additions.