Strolling the exhibits at the recent New York Bar Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, amid the rows of booths where wines, whiskeys and bar gadgets were offered, a table full of jet back beer bottles caught my eye. The 500ml bottles with their bold, stylish labels drew me closer in.
The sign above the booth read Birradamare Brewers. Who? I needed a closer look — and a taste.
Beers from a country better known for Chianti, Barolo and other wines?
Well, yes. Italian brewers, with little history of their own with the exception of such mass marketers as Peroni and Moretti, it seems have taken a page from their American cousins and brewing the classic European beer styles and, in some cases, given them a unique spin.
Until now, the only other Italian craft beers I was familiar with were those from Birra del Borgo and Birreria Le Baladin, both lines inspired by Belgium, and, unfortunately priced above mainstream brew ($20-$25 for a 750ml bottle at my neighborhood beer merchant, who says they are difficult to sell). Borgo is partners in the beer garden at New York City’s Italian food Mecca, Eataly.
The Birradamare beers were Italian-made, but their producer’s inspiration came from far afield. Turns out these craft brews, from a microbrewery outside Rome, were Czech, German and American in style.
But the line up of bottle-conditioned beers of Birradamare, whose name translates as “beer to love,” include a hoppy (75 IBUs), copper colored, grapefruity American-style IPA called Kausapa; a straw-colored, grass flavored Czech-style pilsner with soft spice notes called “Na Biretta Chiara; a malty sweet bock beer called ‘Na Biretta Rossa; an opaque, roasty, coffeeish German-style shwartz beer dubbed ‘Na Biretta Nere, and Birra Roma, a toasty, amber Märzen, and ‘Na Biretta di Castagne, a brew made with chestnut flour that I did not sample. The brews are made with Durst and Weyerman malts and Saaz and Pearl hops.
Distribution in New York is just getting underway, I was advised by Mike Burmil, operations manager at S.K.I. Beer Corp., the beer’s wholesaler in New York.
In the context of the American craft-brewing scene, the beers of Birradamare may not seem that exciting. Nevertheless, it was interesting to sample an Italian take on craft brewing and beers that offer an alternative to the Italian mass market brews for those who don’t want to drink vino with their pizza or pasta.