We took a trip overseas for this week's 2 O'Clock Tasting (ok, not really, but bear with us) to none other than Birra del Borgo Brewery between the hilly regions of Lazio and Abruzzo in Borgorose, Italy (in the province of Rieti - it's just 70 kilometers from Rome). Birra del Borgo Brewery was founded in 2005 by Leonardo Di Vincenzo who, originally just experimenting, fell in love with brewing while studying biochemistry at university. By 2009, Birra del Borgo was thriving, and Leonardo opened a larger production facility to house his expanding brewery. Birra del Borgo has several year-round beers, seasonal selections and a series of experimental beers - and is a huge part of Italy’s growing craft beer movement.
We tried seven offerings from Birra del Borgo - read on for our tasting notes!
This saison, brewed with local spelt instead of barley, poured what we thought was a clear apple juice or candied lemon color, and had aromas of sweet, warm honey. Duchessa's flavors ranged from turbinado sugar to caramel and the beer had a lightly bitter bite on the end.
Part of the Le Bizarre series of experimental ales, Duchessic is Birra del Borgo's saison/lambic blend - it's 80% Duchessa and 20% one-year-old lambic from Brasserie Cantillon. Lots of head topped this hazy golden, fizzy lifter - it was much brighter than Duchessa. Sourness and citrus funk dominated the aroma while the taste was much drier, clean and refreshing.
With a base of Duchessa, Rubus - a saison brewed with 100 grams of raspberries - is part of the Le Stagionali series of seasonal beers. We loved the lush candied orange color, accented with ruby hues to look exactly like sparkling rosé. The aroma had a strong scent of partially fermented raspberries (naturally) and tasted quite sour, with notes of candied grapefruit and drinking vinegar - and it was delightfully light and refreshing.
This wheat saison, named for the now coveted ancient style of wheat it's brewed with, is a year-round offering from Birra del Borgo. With a clear brightness and a color that resembled clarified butter, Enkir had low carbonation and a surprisingly floral nose, with hints of honeysuckle, hibiscus and lavender. Herbal flavors were abound - we noted tea, chamomile and other medicinal qualities in the taste, which finished with a mild ginger kick.
The second of two Le Bizarre ales we tried from Birra del Borgo, this dark spiced ale is brewed with local gentian root. The aroma had a honey sweetness and reminded us of Ricola cough drops. Strong honey flavors also came through on the taste - Genziana would be perfect on a chilly day when you're in need of a warming elixir.
An American IPA offered year-round, Reale Extra is derived from the brewery's American pale ale, Reale. Pouring a burnt sienna, orange color, the beer's aroma was surprisingly piney and herbal, with notes of celery, dill and dank grapefruit. The mild taste had a delightful piney hoppiness that mingled with a small amount of sweetness.
Perle ai Porci, an oyster stout that's brewed with 15 kilos of Fin de Claire N2 oysters from Brittany, is a deep brown red, almost port-colored beer and had a short, tan head. A part of the Le Bizarre series of the experimental ales, it smelled of blueberry maple syrup, coffee and chocolate and had hardly any briney flavors often associated with oyster stouts. The mouthfeel was smooth and silky, and flavors mirrored the beer's aroma with lots of coffee and chocolate coming through. Even though this beer may be considered experimental, it was definitely a crowd favorite!