Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amarcord in Le Marche: 2nd stop

   Le Marche is the region just east of Umbria and Tuscany, across the Appenines and on the Adriatic coast. We went there for a farm-stay vacation for several days, at La Tavola Marche.  This place is run by Ashley and Jason, a young couple who met at Seattle Pacific U. and who have lots of Wash. ties.  The last day there was the eve of white truffle season, quite a big deal in those parts.  The truffle hunters and their highly trained dogs (the pigs have been retired) were all set to go on the first day of October.  A town a few kilometers from the farm, Apecchio, was putting on a truffle festival all weekend and we drove over to check it out.
   Well, when we got there, a town from the 1400s with a couple thousand people, we discovered that truffles weren't the only big deal that weekend.  A banner by the town hall proclaimed Apecchio's other claim to fame.
 Yes, little Apecchio was calling itself La Citta' della Birra because it had two craft brewing operations, Collesi and Amarcord.  We weren't able to learn much about Collesi, but Amarcord was quite a story. We met Gianni Pierini, a brewmaster at the works just outside the town, and sat down with him for some brews and beer chat.
    Gianni knew something of the American craft beer scene, as Amarcord has an arrangement with Brooklyn Brewing which enables the company to export its bottles to the U.S.  They stick with the four styles on the poster and the website, a blonde ale, a red ale, a double malt, and the Tabachera, a 9% powerhouse of uncertain style (it was not on tap this first night of the festival).  Gianni was thinking about seasonal ales such as the pumpkin ales so many brewers make this time of year here. He quizzed Mark, a homebrewer from Michigan, who had made a few pumpkin ales, on his methods.
(L-R: yrs truly in the WABL t-shirt, Gianni, and Mark).  Mark got to tour the brewery the next morning, but we had to return the rented Fiat to Bologna by noon and missed the tour.
(Visited 9/30/11)

Birrificio Lambrate in Milan: 1st Italian stop

   I began a trip to Italy by flying to Milan and spending first weekend there.  Navigated their metro system with daughter Tennyson and her guy Gregg to a non-touristy part of the city where craft brewing is practiced at Birrificio Lambrate .  Let's begin by noting a few differences in beer drinking in Italy.  First, there is no minimum age for consumption.  I still have a fondness for Peroni, my first legal beer fifty years ago when I was a callow 20 in Florence. Second, although the wines are justly famous and often fabulous, Italians do like beer and often order it rather than wine with pizza.  However, what is ordered is often mass-produced lager.  In Milan and the north, that is usually the local Moretti, with its pale  lager, or Peroni's  Nastro Azzurro from Rome, also a pale lager.  Nastro Azzurro means Blue Ribbon in Italian but this is not an homage to Pabst.  However, you can get more interesting brews here and there, and the Lambrate folks had drawn quite a crowd as we approached the pub on a Sunday night.
Yes!  People are drinking beer out in the street and society is not crumbling!  Well, not because of this, anyway.  It was just pretty crowded, inside.

We viewed a selection of about six taps; five of the eight they list as year-around brews and one special, called K-Beer (more on that later).  I tried the Porporra, a nice pale ale, which went well with some tasty antipasto.  There was no mention of selling bottled product, although we had seen a bottle of their Lambrate in a nearby shop earlier, and a shelf under the mug collection displayed bottles and glassware that may have been for sale.

We learned that they do have kegs and taps in a few ristoranti and bars.  Their web site has some nice features, like recommended glassware and food pairings.
     About the K-Beer: it was a dark ale with a sort of licorice taste, more like anisette or the Greek ouzo.  I left a note asking what was in it, and Alessandro Brocca, one of the partners, emailed me that they put some perilla, imported from Korea, in with the hops at the end.  Perilla is a member of the mint family that is in fact used in anisette and similar liqueurs. Odd taste but so are the local ales made with lavender.  I wonder if the Strange Brewfest in Port Townsend ever gets a perilla-flavored ale?
(Visited 9/25/11)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elliott Bay's Burien pub

   Staying in a SeaTac motel the night before flying off to Italy, I decoded the Seattle Metro bus schedules and rode up to Big Al's and then Elliott Bay, in their Burien location (they started out in West Seattle and are still there, too).  Here's a pic of their equipment and the suburban scene out the window.
They were running over a dozen taps of their own products, about half being their certified-organic line.  I sort of recall (notes lost in travel) trying a pint of Wit von Boorien with a Mexican appetizer.  This is one of the non-organic series, named for Peter von Boorien, who emigrated from the Netherlands and started this town during the Klondike gold rush boom in the 1890s.
     They have a couple of elegant looking shuffleboard tables in the back, and evidently some organized competition takes place there.
The service was good and the atmosphere convivial.  As for the organic thing, this is more about making a statement than producing a better taste.  For vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, yes, it often tastes better.  But malted barley after an hour or more of boiling...who could tell?
(Visited 9/22/11)