Sunday, August 22, 2010

Almond '22 Torbata

When one thinks of beer in Italy, the usual suspects are two ... Peroni and Moretti.  No one would usually associate Italy with the craft beer movement, but there is are quite a few craft brewers there and they produce some really unique beers.  A couple of years ago, Clare and I went to a beer tasting at the National Geographic Museum.  The beer tasting focused on Italian craft beers.  We were introduced to beers from breweries such as Birra Baladin and Birrificio del Ducato.  The one thing that tied all these beers together is the realization that the Italians will brew beer with almost anything.

After that beer tasting, I kept an eye out for any Italian craft that  beers I could find.  One such brewer is Birra Almond '22, a brewery in Abruzzo, Italy.  The brewery takes its name from the fact that it is housed in a building that was used to shell almonds back in the early twentieth century.

The beer is brewed in the style of an English barleywine as opposed to an American barleywine (yes, there are two styles of barleywines).  An English barleywine is a very strong beer, with a malty flavor that may also carry tones of caramel, coffee, molasses, etc.  This style also has a hoppy flavor, from the use of only English hops (such as East Kent Goldings or Fuggles).  English barleywines generally use less hops than American barleywines.

Almond '22 brews this beer with chestnut honey and orange zest.  The brewer uses barley malt, about 5% of which is peat smoked, as well as raw cane sugar that is fair trade, and East Kent Goldings hops.  The beer pours a dark brown, with a frothy carbonation.  The beer has a very smokey taste, one that is different from the flavors of other smoked ales, such as rauchbiers.  The smokey taste overwhelms everything else, like the hops, honey and orange peel.  It takes some getting use to and was good at first, but the beer became a little more difficult to drink after a while. 

Although definitely worth a try, I would suggest this beer to people who are very big fans of smoked ales.  This beer is fairly expensive, at about $20.00 per bottle.  It is also difficult to find.  I found a bottle at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland.

ENJOY!

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