Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Italian Beer Series: Christmas Brews!

As the "beer renaissance" continues in Italy, special Christmas brews are increasingly becoming common. Here are two I have tasted, one from a macrobrewer and another from a local brewpub, both decent and worthy of a try. Enjoy!

Forst Christmas Brew - Someone told me before that Forst is better in and around Bolzano, where the beer does not travel more than a few miles to table. I thought it wasn't true, but having recently tasted their Christmas Brew in Bolzano I realized that there may be some truth to it. The Forst I have tried before ranged from drinkable to awful, but their Christmas Brew is a notch above, actually pleasant. The aroma and taste are still subdued to the point of irrelevance, but the hops were apparent and delicious without leaving such a metallic bitterness. Perfect for warming up and taking a break from the Christmas markets if you don't fancy a glass of vin brule.

Birrificio Birracrua Birra Natale - This beer is good and spicy and goes down quite nicely. The beer is cloudy and dark orange and produces a nice tall head that lasts for a while. The aroma is of grains and overripe oranges (not nasty guts outpouring overripe, but ripened to the point when sugar and flavor are concentrated). The taste is of strong hops, nutmeg and something like lychees, with a nice bitter finish. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and crisp, aided by the sting of strong carbonation. Another good fruity beer from the brewpub.

Also, a nice defense of "regular" beer in Appelation Beer. Although Italy veers more towards American-style of beer production (take classic styles from elsewhere and crank it up in flavor, ABV, etc.), some of the better brews I've had in Italy were unadultered brews that don't go crazy on the bitterness or alcohol--just nice brews made to be enjoyed with others rather than just by its own proud self. But even in Italy, the scene has its own Calagione in the form of Baladin's Teo Musso, an advocate for innovative brews, exotic ingredients, and fancy bottles--and an advocate whom people happen to listen. But really, these guys make their money on being "off-centered." They're not about to speak highly of boring, traditional beers, especially when "traditional beers" are to them just styles and do not have any meaning beyond how they taste. Ultimately, as the author said, what they do is one way of doing things, and "regular beers" is another...they are all worth mention as long as they are good. "There can’t be too many good ones."


  1. Appreciated that nytimes link very much. We went for pizza and beer last night at our favorite hangout - Abbazia di Sherwood - and of course they had a whole slew of very potent xmas brews. I'll make it a point to remember Forst's xmas seasonal offering as we hope to be around the area next week, road conditions permitting!

  2. If you're in Bolzano, go to Hopfen where they serve Bozner Bier. Forst is alright, but Bozner is way, waay better. Have fun in the mountains!