Craig LaBan's Italian beer-tasting notes

Bruton Bianca, similar to a Belgian wit, but creamier in texture, with finely woven coriander, orange peel, and white pepper.
Bruton Bianca, similar to a Belgian wit, but creamier in texture, with finely woven coriander, orange peel, and white pepper.
Posted: May 10, 2012

Here are tasting notes on some of my favorite Italian beers tasted recently in the Philadelphia area. Prices are retail, unless otherwise noted.

Bruton Bianca, 750 ml, $19 at Pizzeria Stella (Second and Lombard) — similar to a Belgian wit, but creamier in texture due to the use of Tuscan spelt, with finely woven coriander, orange peel, and white pepper.

Bruton 10, 750 ml, $28 at a.Kitchen (135 S. 18th St.) — a big barley wine with 10 percent alcohol, but stunning lack of burn, rich with licorice, tobacco, and caramel. A cigar beer.

Del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout, 11.2 ounces, $12 at Birra (1700 E Passyunk Ave.) — rich and chocolaty, but with a sparkle of Calabrian chiles to keep it drinkable. A surprisingly perfect pairing with the dark-sweet earthy spice of New Mexican carne adobada.

Del Ducato Nuova Mattina, 11.2 ounces, $18 at Alla Spina (1410 Mount Vernon St.) — a pretty saison-style that sparkles with a spring field’s worth of herbs, from chamomile to lemon balm and ginger, without any one being overwhelming.

Baladin Isaac, 8.4 ounces, $9.75 at the Foodery (837 N. Second St.) — light in color, even by wheat-beer standards, but swirling with finely woven spices and a refreshing lemony tartness that tastes like a shandy, with lingering sweetness of pineapple upside-down cake.

Baladin Wayan, 750 ml., $38 at Osteria (640 N. Broad St.) — saison-style ale as exotic as they come, with an almost patchouli-like nose tinged with grains of paradise and lavender. Despite the light color, there’s a richness to the mouthfeel, brightened with a tangerine-like citrus burst that dries out completely. Molto complex.

Baladin Xyauyu 2005, 25 ounces, $55 (the Foodery, 10th and Pine), 2004 vintage $15 by the two-ounce pour at Alla Spina, 2006 vintage “gold” $14 by the three-ounce pour at the Farmer’s Cabinet (1113 Walnut St.) — almost more Madeira-like in character than beer, Teo Musso deliberately oxidizes this heavy-duty barley wine (15% alcohol.) Perfect for after-dinner dessert sipping, there’s nuttiness, chocolate, sweet malt, and lingering acidity here. Try with Alla Spina’s zuppa inglese.

Piccolo Birrificio Seson, $12 on draft at Alla Spina; smaller-format Sesonette, $9.50 11.2 ounces (Local 44 Bottleshop, 4333 Spruce St.) — a saison from Liguria with a distinctly Italian angle, with the bitterness of chinotto peel, a common flavor in bitter cordials (think Campari or Cynar) that adds an almost vermouthy dark tang to this food-friendly brew.

Birrificio LoverBeer BeerBera, 12.7 ounces $17.99 at the Beer Store (488 Second Street Pike, Southampton) — spontaneously fermented like a Piedmontese lambic, this ale from LoverBeer is made with barbera grapes, then aged in oak barrels, a hybrid wine-beer-spirit process that’s becoming popular in vino-centric Italy. The wild yeast here was only mildly funky (still young), but the cola dark grapy flavors on the front, and the obvious tannins from the barrel, show good souring promise. The 2010 vintage needs another year to age.

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