Category Archives: Birra Del Borgo

>The Good Stuff 2010 Review

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Ok, here’s my roundup of what floated my boat in 2010. Personally, I’ve had a pretty cool year. I got married, which was great fun and I can recommend to anyone thinking of popping the question, and I also decided to come out from behind the laptop and meet some of you. I’m glad I did; what a cracking bunch of chaps and chapesses you all turned out to be. You know who you are. Thanks for some great beers and banter.

Ok, here we go –
Overall Beer of the Year – a bottled one this year – BDB/DFH’s’s My Antonia. 2010 was the year I finally got to taste some Italian Craft Beers, and this was one hell of a jumping-off point. Aroma spilling out of the glass, thick with herbals and citrus, this Imperial Pilsner left some mark on my consciousness. Still, and I suspect will be for some time, my favourite BDB beer – albeit a collaboration.

Beers of The Year – Brewdog Edge/5Am Saint. I’ll whisper it; I’d fallen out of love a little with Brewdog in 2010. Too much high-abv, freeze-distilled antics for me; just personal taste. Then just when I’d wrote them off – BANG – Edge appears, being quite possibly tastiest pint for it’s abv I’d had. Masses of red fruit, plummy, malty, refreshing – but all with an abv of 3.8%. Then, my lazy ass picks up 5AM Saint, which must be one of the best aromas I’ve experienced for quite some time – strawberry and lychee all the way, sitting on top a very respectable, sweet Amber ale. Welcome back, BrewDog – I’ve missed ya.

SummerWine BreweryProject 6 IPA Series. If there’s one think I love in anything – be it writing, comics, music or indeed beer – it’s one-off’s. Exciting little diversions from core ranges, beers to actively seek out and savour. SWB’s P6 IPA’s have been pretty much the beer of my summer; waiting until the next one comes out, and trying hard to pick out the combo of hops in this particular edition. Simply excellent, fragrant, British IPA’s with a sense of adventure. I’d say check them out – but they’ve gone now; and therein lies my point.

Other memorable pints
Highland’s Orkney Blast – Strong Pale Ale par excellence – woody, earthy but sweet and aggressive English-hopped Strong Pale Ale.
Abbeydale Last Rites – A late entry, Last Rites slipped under the radar a little with its release this month. Super-easy drinking for its 11% abv, this richly golden Barleywine was smoother than Swiss Tony and satisfyingly rich, all without being cloying. Can we have some bottles of this, Abbeydale?
Wharfebank’s CamFell Flame – It’s not all about strong beers, and WB’s Camfell Flame is rightly the most lauded of their range. No-nonsense, it’s a rich, malty, warming pint with a lovely cinder-toffee profile.
Baladin Open – Wow. The stand-out beer of my honeymoon in Italy, and even the better for the fact that my bottle was given to me as a gift from a beer-loving barman in Garda. Again, aroma is what sets Open apart, loaded with Strawberry, Pineapple and Lychee.
Williams Bros Joker IPA – Williams continue to innovate and pleasantly surprise with a clean, refreshing, super-balanced IPA; restrained in hopping and yet all the better for it.
Marble Dobber – A great beer with that grapefruit led nose that I’ve come to expect from Pale Marble beers. This is one more about context; it was the first beer of the day on the Twissup and over it I finally met the likes of Baron Orm, the Hardknotts, Rakebar Glyn, Andy Mogg etc etc…
Ola Dubh 30 – on Cask at The Angel, Manchester, was not only one of the most pleasant surprises of the day (Twissup) but perfectly fit the mood of collaboration; a beer to be savoured and even shared – mouth-coatingly rich, loaded with chocolate and a whisper of whiskey heating everything up. Wow.
Thornbridge 2009 Halcyon. Green. Fresh. Refreshing. Moreish. Wonderful. Thanks, Stefano and the lads.
Crown Brooklyn Heights – IT constantly amazes me how much milage the Pale Ale style has, especially when this strong, sweet and floral Pale Ale hit my lips. Wonderfully hoppy, well-brewed, Pale Ale. Simple as that.

..And as ever with lists, there were so many more – but these are my ones, these are the pumpclips I want to see in my 2010 pub. Speaking of pubs, my pub of the year goes to The Grove in Huddersfield this year. I’d never actually been until 2010 and I rue that fact dearly. Pleasant, informative barstaff, great beer (and lots of it) all in a nice space. The Grove is one of the few pubs I would get on a train specifically for, so Thanks, Brian. Those that know me know I spend a lot of time hanging out with Dean in Foley’s – so I don’t want to over-egg the point for fear of being acused of nepotism – but Dean and crew at Foley’s deserve my thanks for really improving their beer range. In the past few months drinkers in Leeds have been spoiled with offerings from Summer Wine, Crown, Hardknott and Dark Star to name a few, as well as championing newer faces such as Revolutions. So I guess, a ‘Much Improved’ sort of award!


Finally, I just want to mention a couple of blogs. HopZine I love; clean, clever design and – more importantly – ratings I trust. That’s the key. Rob and Matt know their beer and bring the more esoteric beers to my attention, so for that, HopZine go as my blog of the year. They are both bloody nice blokes, too, which helps! I’d also like to throw some kudos out to Beer.Birra.Beer. Mark’s style appeals to me, it’s knowledgeable and, more importantly, balanced. Again, another blogger I trust. Keep up the good work, Lads.

>JDW’s Autumn Beerfest Round-Up

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Ok, now that the latest seasonal beer festival has finished, it’s time for me to look through my notes and reflect on Wetherspoon’s latest efforts. All in all – and I know from chatter that a lot of beer bloggers did the rounds – the usual sounds were being made. Range decent, Quality variable. Still, Wetherspoon’s festivals do provide decent diversion, especially in the form of their festival specials.

Take for instance Birra Del Borgo’s Castagnale (4.4%). Given my new love for Italian craft beer, this was the first on the list and, for the first time ever, was the first beer I got my hands on. Taste? Well, I was a little let down if truth be told – not because Castagnale was a bad beer (despite being served incredibly cold) – I just think that the bar has been set so high with the bottled likes of My Antonia and ReAle that Castangnale just ended up being a solid, nutty, sweet beer that I could happily drink about ten of.

Lion Stout (5.0abv) ended up being much more satisfying; creamy in a way that the bottled version just lacks – there was a perceptible milky smoothness underscoring all the coffee and chocolate on top. A good beer, and an unusual one to boot. Titanic’s Wheat Porter (4.2abv) was an odd one though – ruby in colour, with a woody, resinous nose that held some promise – however there was a strange floral, parma violet note in it’s drying finish that I just didn’t get.
Young’s Ram Rod (6%) hit the mark for these colder nights – full, rounded fruitiness in the body with a pleasant cereal base, finishing off with a fruity sweetness. As for Brewdog’s Edge – well, I think I’ve said all I can about it here – it never disappoints and I’m seeing more and more of it in Leeds recently which is a great thing.

Wadworth’s Pixley Blackcurrant Stout was a revelation; sweet, full-bodied and loaded with fruit-cake and plummy flavours, this beer finished my session one night and it’s fair to say tipped me that one toke over the line. Dangerously drinkable and stealthy at 6.0abv, I hope I get to drink a while lot more of this before long. Ditto the other surprise of the festival –

Woodforde’s Once Bittern (4.1abv) – in small packages come big flavour. This pint was spot-on; clean, fresh and balanced, with a wonderful juicy-fruit aroma that lasted all the way down to the bottom of the glass. Sure, maybe I got a really fresh pint, but of all breweries, Woodforde’s really surprised me with this one. Will be seeking this out again, for sure.

So, these are the beers I chose to comment on. Rest assured, there were a number of beers inbetween these that were just ‘ok’. But that’s the nature of a festival isn’t it. I’m a little gutted I didn’t catch the Sam Adams Blonde Ambition, the Nelson-hopped Palm, and Adnam’s Ghost Ship, and I heard excellent things about TSA’s Double Espresso. Oh well, Maybe next time.

>Birra Del Borgo/Dogfish Head – My Antonia

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I’ve been looking forward to My Antonia for a while – not only because I’ve never tried an ‘Imperial Pilsner’ before, but it’s also my first Italian Craft Beer. For some reason, ales from Italy have passed me by of late.
Birra Del Borgo and Dogfish Head are the fathers (Awww ain’t it cute, Sam!) of this wonderful beer, and given that I have no reference point, I’d go as far as to say it has one of the most unique aromas I’ve ever had the pleasure of smelling; floral, bright, sweet and with a vibrant, green hop character. I expected a bit of citrus in there, but no; the profile is almost herbal, all wildflowers and spice.
Gold in colour and sporting a thick, billowy head, the mouthfeel is thick, and the masses of juicy malt lay down a sweet-enough foundation for that late, long bitterness, which make My Antonia a supremely refreshing beer, despite having an abv of 7.5% and a lot of flavour. There’s a liquorice note in there too, which is surprising but works; and in summary I’d say that of the whole package – the label, the bottle, the flavour – all works. IPA fans will ave something to latch onto, Golden Ale and Belgian Blonde fans will have something to latch onto. This is new beer, from a brewery that is growing within a scene that is growing. I loved this, and I’ll be getting whatever else I can get my hands on from BDB.

This leads nicely to the fact that I’m taking a little time off – and this will be my last post until October. I’m getting married at the weekend, and then spending a much-anticipated honeymoon in the Italian Lakes, where I’m hoping I can try some more luscious Italian Craft Beers – here’s hoping. I’ll still be tweeting and all that jazz until next week – but as for blogging – I’ll speak to you all in a month’s time.
Cheers!
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