Seeking a great west-coast IPA? Go west … I mean, go east. I mean, get on a plane, cross the Atlantic and head for the middle of the Mediterranean. I know … it’s counter intuitive. I know … I’m from Western Canada. I should know which direction is west.
So you’ve read in the past how well my spontaneity severed me at The Beer Store: Paddock “606 India Pale Ale” remains one of the worst beers I’ve reviewed and best example of why you don’t just buy shiny things. You’d think I’d learn to pause, then, before jumping. You’d think ….
So last month, then, when I was in the LCBO I spotted an Italian IPA. You’d think I’d go, “Wait, Dale. This can’t be a good idea.”
Well, if you have learned anything about me from 10 months of blogging, it is that I’m a curious man and the weirder it sounds, the more likely I’m to go all-in.
In this case, I really am glad I did … wow!
I was at once at smiling with them and their little play on words “Bia” which is not only a play on “beer” but stands for “Birra Italiana Artigianale” = Italian craft beer. Okay, is it just me, or did you get goosebumps when you read artigianale aloud too?
I don’t know who brewed this or what inspiration or training they got, but this is most definitely a beer and an IPA that is brewed in the style of the American west-coast India pale ale tradition … and I think they just raised the bar. It’s no wonder, then, that it is on the shelf of this giant alcohol importer.
The colour is a near perfect apricot, a kind of beautiful rusty yellow. It’s unfiltered without a noticeable precipitate but weird almost jelly-like opaqueness that seems to defy gravity and beg you to poke it … but it’s the sort of thing that appears but isn’t really there. The aroma is a captivating floral veil embroidered with hints of pine and citrus and which at times reminds me of the gorgeous aromas of À l’abri de la Tempête’s “Belle Saison.” The carbonation is tight and very very miniature … pour hard and you’ll get a decent head, but it won’t last long and on the tongue it is like stroking the chin of a friendly kitten: soft and pleasant.
Do I have you yet? Take that first taste and discover absolute heaven. It’s big in the mouth from the start, layered with flavour and it just pulls you in like a belly-dancer in soft-lit restaurant … but likewise, it’s not aggressive, not harsh, not in your face. It’s big, yes, but a bit like a gentle James Gandolfini or a loveable John Candy. The mid-tastes of this beer are among the best I’ve experienced. Incredible malts round out the mouth and make the beer taste bigger and stronger than even the 6.5% alcohol should suggest. More pine, grapefruit, lemon, grass, lavender and probably some peach near the end … I don’t know that I’ve tasted a beer with more flavours in the structure. And then there is that incredibly satisfying end … wow. You slide off those creamy diacetyls in the middle right into some huge bitters. I don’t know where this on the IBU scale, but I’d say it’s pushing well past 70. It’s big and with only the slightest hint of astringency at the end. You almost have to go looking for it, but it’s there and it’s about the only thing that I think stops this beer from being perfect. I really mean that … it’s that incredibly good … and it’s proof positive that every time you jump, you might not make the perfect splash, but if you never jump, you’ll never find gems like this either.
I don’t care where you live, this is a beer you must find and must buy and must taste. If you love IPAs, this will turn your head and even if you’re an average beer drinker, this big beer is so soft and gentle, so incredibly smooth on the palette that’s it sure to make IPA lovers where you’d least expect them.
Stats: IPA. 6.5% ABV. Roncole Verdi Di Busseto, Italy.
Colour: Dark golden with hint of amber.
Mouth Feel: Low carbonation with incredible buttery end and refreshing bitters.
Pairings: Brie or any rich creamy cheese with a bit of an edge.