Lusso – Italian Beer Tasting

baladin

Sunday night was spent in NYC at a wonderful new Italian restaurant called Lusso in SoHo.  They describe themselves as serving Italian comfort food, and that is a great description.  A bunch of great people running the restaurant too.  We were lucky enough to join a beer tasting with some of the folks who actually make the beer we were trying.  Doesn’t happen too often at a beer tasting, but this was a small, intimate affair.

So the idea of great Italian beers may seem like an oxymoron if you go by what most restaurants are serving these days.  Peroni, Moretti…stuff like that.  Decent enough beers, but nothing to write home about.  Well, I am going to tell you about some Italian beers that you must immediately write home about!  They are that good.  I’ll go course by course along with the beer pairing and give my rating for the beer after each item.

Pan-Seared Scallops

This dish was served over a truffle-artichoke puree with dried artichoke chips strewn on top.  I’m normally not a fan of either the flavor of truffle or the consistency of scallops, but this dish was superb.  The truffle flavor was very understated and the scallops were delicious.

Beer PairingBirra del Borgo Genziana (6.1% ABV) This was a great beer to start off with.  A Belgian-style Saison with a very flowery nose.  I thought it paired wonderfully with the scallops.  Nothing too similar in taste to the dish, but a nice complement.  I could see sitting down and enjoying a couple of these at a nice dinner.

My Rating – 8 out of 10

Branzino

I was told that Branzino would be similar to striped bass here in the States.  It’s a briny, delicious fish from the Mediterranean, and it was prepared with lemon, caper berries and olives.  A wonderfully salty, vibrant dish.  And the fish was cooked with a bit of a char so it had some of that smokiness to boot.  Easily my favorite dish of the night!

Beer PairingBaladin Wayan (5.8% ABV) This was a really cool beer to look at.  It looked…chewy.  That was because of all the yeast that was floating around in it.  They call it a Belgian-style Saison as well, but it was nothing like the first one we had.  I really liked this beer, and it complimented the Branzino perfectly.

My Rating – 9 out of 10

Sliced Pork

This tender sliced pork chop was prepared with a delicious pepper, onion and mushroom stew and green beans.  While it was delicious, it was also probably the most mundane dish on the menu.  It was solid, even if it didn’t blow our minds.

Beer Pairing Birra del Borgo Re Ale Extra (6.4% ABV) The style of this one is described more as an American Pale Ale, but I found it to be extremely unique in that arena.   A little more hoppy than the Saisons we began the tasting with, but it certainly held it’s own.  In fact, I would have guessed that it was a Saison as well.  All I know is that it was delicious.

My Rating – 9 out of 10

Lamb Chops

The lamb was prepared with some of the most wonderful cous-cous I have ever had along with some lemon and garlic.  There was a white foam served under the chops that I couldn’t place my finger on.  I asked the chef and he produced a root that looked like a piece of ginger.  Told me the foam was made from that.  I forget the name of it, but it was interesting.  A really lovely main dish.

Beer PairingBaladin Nora (6.8% ABV)  This one was more of a spiced beer than the earlier entries.  And it was the only one that I had tried before.  I tasted clove, ginger and orange peel, but there is so much more going on with this beer with every mouthful.  The brewers say it is inspired by Egyptian lore.  Kamut wheat, Ethiopian resin and myrrh are all used.  I couldn’t tell you what myrrh tastes like, but the beer tasted like another.  Too bad we had to move on.

My Rating – 9 out of 10

Cheese Plate

I was beginning to lose my interest in the meal after that last dish.  Very full and very satisfied.  But we still had a cheese plate to go along with the craziest beer I have tried in a very long time.  I won’t go into detail on the cheese, but we had a Parmegiano-Reggiano, a real pungent goat cheese and a Buffalo Bleu.  All were tasty and all were from Italy.  But the beer…oh, the beer!

Beer PairingBaladin Xyauyù (13.0% ABV) This was perhaps the most delicious dessert beer I have ever tried!  It poured, smelled and looked like a nice tawny Port wine.  The website describes it as a barley wine, but I have never had a barley wine like this.  It even had the sugary “legs” of a nice Porto when you twirled it in your glass.  Fruits, raisins and hazelnut were all on the scene in perfect balance with the sherry-like alcohol nose.  If you can find it (and you can afford it), this one is a keeper.

My Rating – 10 out of 10!

All in all I would highly recommend any of these premium Italian brews.  They don’t come cheap, but sometimes you need to splurge a little to live a little.

Advertisements

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

chocbock

A friend of mine brought over a couple of bottles of this to a party we hosted on Saturday.  I’m not a big fan of chocolate flavoured beers (I added the extra “u” to be pretentious) so I was a bit hesitant to try it.

But it actually surprised me.  I was expecting an almost overwhelming chocolate taste or something on the coffee side.  I don’t know why.  But the chocolate in this bock is nicely understated.  It’s very malty and meaty…not something you normally hear about a beer.  But meaty was the first thing that came to mind.  Maybe the slightest hint of hazelnut?  I dunno.  I’m pretty terrible at identifying shit like that.  I really liked that it wasn’t bitter like so many chocolate beers I have had.  In fact, I would say this is my second-favorite chocolate beer after Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.  That’s a good beer, my friends.

As understated as it is, I still consider it to be a dessert beer.  Certainly not a session beer.  Maybe some fruit or some cheesecake to go along with it.  Yeah…I could see that.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly

oakipa

That’s a mouthful, eh?

Sometimes I just dive into a beer without really thinking about it.  We watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall tonight (very good, by the way) and I opened a large bottle of this brew to enjoy while watching the flick.  I should have paid a bit more attention to the bottle, because this was definitely one to savor.

It’s an Imperial IPA, and Imperial generally means big alcohol.  This didn’t disappoint.  It comes in at a hefty 11.0% ABV and it packs a punch. But at the same time it is also very drinkable.  I love a good contradiction.

The kids at Southern Tier really get it when it comes to specialty brews.  This one excites, enhances, and any other “e” word you can think of.  It’s THAT good.  Big hoppy first bite that mellows (must be the oak) as the beer warms up.  One of the reasons that I wish I had read the bottle before starting it is that they recommend drinking the beer at a slightly warmer temperature.  That’s when it excels.  Ohhh…another “e” word.  Excellent!

Like the picture above suggests, I would imagine that it would go great with cheese.  I wasn’t eating anything as I already had a belly full of BBQ from a local joint.  Deep fried pickled jalepeno slices, waffle fries and a great jerked chicken sammy.  So this IPA was more of a dessert for me.  That’s how I roll.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Guinness

Today, there is only one beer.  Enjoy!

guinness

Elysian Avatar

Man, I love this beer.

The kooky kids over at Elysian took a normal IPA and jasmined it up (yeah, I went there).   Pretty bottle, too.  This is an extremely floral IPA that tastes like a bowl full of flowers.  In a good way.  A drinkable brew with an ABV of around 5.60%, this big-flavored IPA is only sold in, well, big bottles.  Good for sharing, I always say.

Had a couple of these on Saturday night to go along with a bunch of these so it was a fairly drunken night.  But that didn’t stop me from appreciating the wonderful flavor of this brew.

We have a few left over from the night and I am going to cherish them over the next few weeks.  Yum!

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Magic Hat hI.P.A.

I’ve never really been a big fan of the beers out of Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington, Vermont.  Their #9 is a seminal brew carried by just about any bar, pub or restaurant that you can find on the East Coast.  It’s an apricot-tinged pale ale.  OK…nothing great.  But some folks absolutely adore it.  Circus Boy is a decent hefeweizen.  Again, nothing spectacular.  Jinx, Rocky Rolles, Fat Angel, Lucky Kat…all decent.  Just nothing that I would faun over.

However, I really do love their hI.P.A. after trying it for the first time this past weekend.

hipa

As the cutesy name suggest, hI.P.A. is a seasonal Spring IPA from Magic Hat.  The “hI” is also short for “highly hopped” as the hops on this one come on strong early and often.  Very floral nose full of fruit becomes a medium-bodied rich looking brew in the glass.  What was nice about this IPA, as compared with some of the other hi-hopped brews out there, is that it wasn’t overly bitter in any way.  The bitter was there at the end, but it was balanced very nicely.

Oh and the ABV is 6.80%, so it isn’t too strong.  Not that you can’t handle strong beers.  I’m just sayin’.  Definitely one of my favorite IPAs on the market right now.  Check it out.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Lagunitas Sirius

sirius

I know.  It’s been a while.  But I’ve been going through a whiskey phase and I haven’t been tasting very many new beers.  It’s something that I mean to remedy, and I started last night.  Purchased a couple of new six packs for an Oscar viewing party.  OK…it was more like Gia and I drinking a few beers and having snacks while I live-blogged the Oscars.  Anywho.

Sirius is a Spring Release Ale from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma California.  A Cream Ale with an ABV of 7.60%, so it is on the strong side when it comes to drinkability.

It poured an almost bright orange color (ok…copper) with a distinctive pine hops aroma.  I was actually confused by that because I wasn’t sure what the distinction of a “cream ale” was going to be.  Malt or hops?

Turned out to be a delicious combination of both.  A smooth mouth feel with a bitter hop taste (not too strong) on the finish.  It definitely had a creamy flavor as it sat on the tongue.  That sounds a bit disgusting, doesn’t it?

I had it with some stuffed cherry peppers (prosciutto and provolone) and horseradish hummus.  Sounds good, right?  So I would suggest pairing it with those items, and only because I am too lazy to figure out what else it would taste good with.  Or you know what?  Just drink it on it’s own.  It’s damn fine either way.

My Rating: 8 out of 10