Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Italian Beer Series: Splugen (Varese)

Before I came to Italy, I didn't have much of a taste for alcohol. I was not a complete teetotaler, but I just didn't have the appreciation for the bitter taste of alcohol. After tasting the wine of Italy and the beer of Germany and Belgium, I realized my aversion may not be to alcohol in general, but bad alcohol--which sadly, is very common in the states. However, instead of developing the taste for wine as expected of somebody living in Italy (I like white wine, which is a point of ridicule for some of my vinophile friends who think only red wine is real wine), I developed the taste for beer. I find the unpretentious taste of beer makes it more enjoyable and easier to appreciate with food and friends.

As much as this is true however, I still carried the false notion with me that Germany and Belgium made beer and the French and Italians made wine--no exceptions. Italian beer, true to its secondary role next to the wine in everyday Italian wine, is bland and only useful for cheap Friday nights of trying to get wasted. But then I decided to explore the budding world of the Italian craft beer, and was mildly surprised. Transporting the same attention to detail that they usually put into making wine, Italians are more than adept at making beers themselves. Maybe not as adept as the Belgians, but they produce good beers with complex tastes and aromas.

With this in mind, I decided to start a series on Italian beers to highlight the numerous types of beers that are produced in Italy, and to dispel the notion that Italy does not make decent beer. I will be highlighting a lot of bottled and canned beers, but I aim to focus on the smaller local breweries to fully illustrate the diversity of Italian beer production. (Note: I'm an amateur beer lover. Unlike other sites that utilize technical language akin to wine criticism, I'm going to be more humble in my choice of words until I become more adept at tasting the nuances of beer. So bear with me.)

With that aside, first up: Splugen from Varese (Lombardy). A beer with Austrian roots from northern Lombardy that has been in production since the turn of the century. Originally brewed by Birrificio Angelo Poretti, it is now part of the large Carlsberg beer conglomerate. I wanted to try Pedavena from the Dolomiti Mountains near Feltre, but this one was on sale, and nothing is better than things on sale. Splugen is clear and golden in color, and after pouring its foam does not last. Smell is slightly of hops, but generally balanced. The taste is really light and smooth and carbonation is weak, but there is a bit of a bitter aftertaste. To be honest, it's almost like a light beer in how fast it comes and goes. Definitely not recommended for those who like their beer with even a modicum of body, but it was refreshing with a plate of bigoli in a sauce of tomatoes and tastasale (a Veronese sausage made with pork, garlic, and rosemary).


  1. This is the only Italian beer I have tried since moving to Rome! Though, from the name, I would not have guessed it was local. I agree that it is incredibly light. There is an all you can eat pizza/ all you can drink beer place in my neighborhood, and Splugen is your one choice if you're going for all you can drink!

  2. Apparently, it has Austrian roots, which really goes for many of the beers produced here in the northern parts. For 75 cents, it is definitely an all-you-can-drink beer! (Although, I tried a couple of other beers...cheaper and less taste, which means more-you-can-drink!)