Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birrificio 'terrifico'

One of the last functions I arranged when I worked for distributor Legends, Ltd., was a 'trade show' of Italian beers and wines at Baltimore taphouse Max's, in the summer of 2004. Even then, 'good' Italian beer still seemed an oxymoron.

Thus it was a distinct pleasure-- 2 years later -- to meet Lorenzo Dabove, Wednesday, 8 November 2006, at Baltimore's jewel of a brewpub, Brewer's Art.

Quite the character, Lorenzo Dabove is the self-appointed, to some extent, ambassador of a new generation of Italian microbreweries. Dabove, who goes by the nickname of Kuaska has been instrumental in helping US importer B. United 'discover' some of the more interesting Italian brewpubs/craft-breweries, most of which brew in an Italianate Belgian-style , and produce only in small amounts.

Megan Ryan was in attendance, a representative of Baltimore's Slow Food, the putative co-sponsor of the event. (Lorenzo is active in the Slow Food movement in Italy, which is in fact where, a few years back, Slow Food was founded.) Representing Baltimore's Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood was Ed James.

It was disconcerting to see only a few or so attendees there, but that's a minor complaint. To have these beers in the US and here in DC/Baltimore was very special indeed.

The beers ranged from good to 'terrifico', the presentation by Lorenzo was entertaining (in his excellent, if heavily accented English). He was quite honest in his assessment of Italian craft beer - not as accepted as is craft beer in the US - but he was sanguine in his prediction for its future - adventuresome brewers are becoming better businessmen!

In the center of the elegant wood-paneled back room, Chef Tip Carter arrayed a sumptuous spread of appetizers. Around the perimeter, Brewer's Art's brewers, and co-proprietors Tom Creegan and Volker Stewart, arranged tables at which they poured different beers from each of the featured Italian breweries. These were:

from Birrificio Italiano: La Fleurette & Cassissona
from Birrificio Le Baladin: Le Baladin Noel & Nora
from Birrificio Troll: Shangrila
from Birrificio Montegioco: Demon Hunter, Draco, Quarta Runa

Cellarmaster Ron Fischer from importer B. United had been placed in charge of driving Lorenzo for his East Coast tour. Showing true dedication (and grit), Ron arrived with Lorenzo despite having suffered a car accident on the drive down from New Jersey. The car was severely damaged, but Ron and Lorenzo, fortunately, were fine.

The beers will be added to Brewer's Art's beer list hence forward, pending availability ... minus Lorenzo!

I've always liked the Nora, a fascinating concoction, distantly akin to a Belgian wit beer but spiced with myrrh. The Shrangila was, well, interesting, with its infusion of a curry-blend of spices. I went back for seconds of the Draco, an 11% abv beer brewed with blueberries. I couldn't necessarily pick out the fruit, but I thought of the beer as, let's say, an Imperial Berry Dark Wit: lemon zest, coriander, low-toned fruit, with a soft underlay of caramel. Big but not cloying.

More photos.

[update: comments from Volker, including a recount of a humorous comment from Lorenzo.]

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