Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Putting an Italian accent on beer

BY JIM BEAUREGARD February 19. 2013 4:57PM

Italians, you know, have a deep-rooted horror of one-syllable words, their language being as mellifluous as it is. When we went down to visit my Italian relatives near Worcester, Mass., my uncles Secundo (a twin, the second one born), Felice and Alberto would be at work with the animals in the "barna," having long since retired from their work in a brick yard in Cambridge.

So it is with beer. Birra, that's the Italian word. Now that you know the word, though, it's time to learn about the beer. Peroni, perhaps the best known Italian beer, is pretty much everywhere. But recently coming to market hereabouts is 'na Biretta, a Roman craft brewery, which I discovered at Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett.

As there are five 'na Birettas in need of tasting, let's get right down to business:

'na Biretta Chiara, Italy, $4.74, 4.9 abv. We are moving from light toward dark in today's tasting. The word Chiara means light, and gives us the name chiaroscuro, the art technique of using light and shadow in a painting. The makers describe this beer as inspired by German Pilsner, so we should expect light and flavorful. The color and nose fit the bill. White head over yellow gold cloudy beer, appearing unfiltered. The nose is hops. It has a little more weight than a German Pilsner, with a dry palate, lots of hops bitterness, good acidity, medium well-integrated alcohol, medium body, medium texture and a long hops finish. This is a summer beer for sure - but I wouldn't hesitate to go out and buy some now either.

'na Biretta Birra Roma, Italy, $4.75, 5.5% abv. Patterned on German Oktoberfest beers. Amber beer under an light tan head, and a nose of grain, cereal, and bread. Dry, good bitterness, good acidity, this one definitely has more heft in the flavor department, with balanced alcohol and a follow up that reflects the palate, grain, hints of caramel, and a rich smokiness reminiscent of Rauch beers. A night-by-the-fire beer. Very good.

'na Biretta Kuasapa, Italy, $4.95, 6.3% abv. Now we move into the pale ale ballpark. Gold, cloudy, off-white frothy head. Bread and some sweet hints on the nose, a palate that is both dry and sharp, with pine, herbal, spice notes, hops citrus. Insistent and lasting, with good acidity, and a long intense finish. Pair with strong and spicy foods.

'na Biretta Rossa, $4.95, 6.3% abv. They say it's inspired by Bock. Amber-red in the glass, tan head, rich malt nose, loads of grain come forth. Lighter than I would have expected, with a dry palate of grain, caramel, cereal notes, some toast. Lower acidity, which works, medium body, medium texture, balanced components, shorter finish. They recommend pairing with hearty soups and cold meats. I see a trip to Angela's Pasta and Cheese Shop in me near future.

'na Biretta Nera, Italy, $4.95, 5.5% abv. Nera is the Italian word for "black," so we have left the world of chiara and entered the world of oscuro. "It looks a lot like shoe polish," Wendy said as I poured. If it were, I'd drink it anyway. Tan frothy head over brown-black beer, rich, dark malt nose, no hops immediately noticeable. Big palate of dry malt, bread, grain, chocolate, coffee, some roasted kernel-type notes. Medium bitterness, balanced and well-integrated alcohol, creamy texture, high flavor intensity, long, rich finish. Pair with anything grilled.

Our best-in-show this week? Wendy went with the Chiara, Pilsner style, I drank the Nera "shoe polish" - and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Italian beers have arrived.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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