Ben and Jie Yu Neidhart of B. United International, Inc. recently held a session at The Birch where they described their Connecticut operation—from international shipping, distribution, and specifically the budding craft beer scene in Italy. Their distribution company imports from all over the world and that night at The Birch was a celebration of Italian beers. Listed below are the breweries and the beers on tap for Italia Night:
Nora - Ginger Herb/Spice Ale and Al-Iksir – Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Chocarrubica – Carob Oatmeal Stout and Strada San Felice – Chestnut Ale
Rubus Lamponi – Raspberry Wild Ale
Verdi Zymatore – Granache Sour Chili Stout and My Blueberry Nightmare – Scotch Sour Blueberry Stout
TipoPils – German Style Pilsner and Nigredo – Hoppy Black Lager
Ben and Jie Yu handed out information on the breweries which included a little history, the stories brewer bios, and how the Italian breweries operate. It might be surprising to hear that the land known for millennia of wine making tradition has a very young craft beer scene. From what I've read from other sources it didn't start taking off till the 1990's. Today there are approximately 500 craft breweries in the old country.
It was nice going through the information Ben and Jie Yu passed around. Reading the stories behind each Italian brewery, the training/educational background of the brewers, and the passion behind why they dived into craft beer. Ben described the difference between cultured and wild yeasts used in beers and how introducing selected bacteria causes the sought after sour notes.
After the session ended Ben joined Jie Yu and Malia in sampling some of the beers The Birch had on tap. They invited me to sit with them and sample the line-up. I tried out the Verdi Zymatore Granache Sour Chili Stout and My Blueberry Nightmare, both are made with the same award winning Verdi Imperial Stout. Though they might have come from the same base, both beers had extremely different flavor profiles.
The Granache Chili was aged in Granache casks that were also used to age a chili mead. The imperial stout became a complex blend of lightly sweet and spicy tones that didn't overwhelm me, but I felt the chili in the back of my throat for sure. It had some weight, was sour and dark.
Even though it was made from the same stout base, the Blueberry Nightmare was very different from Granache Chili. Just as rich and darker, the intense fruit really came through with the tart.
I mentioned to them I was still trying to warm up to sours; I talked a little bit about the Duchesse De Bourgogne Shelby had ordered elsewhere. Jie Yu and Malia rattled off a few to see if I knew them and then we sampled some. I need some work on this but I'm getting there. We also talked about B. United and I found out Ben's father runs the distributor. They take their beer seriously and the effort that goes into moving this stuff from the far corners of the earth is respectable.
I enjoyed getting a little sampling of all the Italians (and a few extras) in addition to the one I bought. I stuck around to chat a little more, said my goodbyes, then I headed home.
Hit The Birch to and try some of this stuff before it's gone. Check out all the photos from the event here.
To read more about Italian craft beers try these links: