If there’s one people on Earth whose identity is bottled in its wine, it’s the Italians. Their wine is proud, resilient, and intense. You can taste the soil of Montalcino in its sangiovese, or the salty Tyrrhenian Sea in a good verdicchio. It’s no surprise, then, that their beer culture is a little behind the times.
But look past the waterlogged Peroni and the indifferent husk of Birra Moretti: You’ll find that Italian craft beer is gaining momentum. And a few of these brews have found their way to Terzo Vino Bar. Besides an astonishingly comprehensive list of Italian wine, Charlie Broder (above) is curating a nice selection of local beer — Pryes, Fair State, and Tin Whiskers among them. On your next visit, though, make sure to taste his new-age crafts from the old country.
“Wine is my deal,” Charlie admits. “So, I’ve been focusing on beer that’s clean and balanced, and what fits as a style for us. But I want a broad spectrum of things.” The three Italian beers he had on recently were distinctly flavored and memorable introductions to that country’s crafts.
La Luna Rossa
Birrificio del Ducato
Wild ale, 8 percent ABV
La Luna Rossa ferments for two years with acetic and lactic bacteria along with Brettanomyces yeast. A portion of the brew ages on cherries for at least six months before being blended with younger beers and conditioned for another year. The result lands somewhere between a kriek lambic and a gueuze. Salty, yeasty and lactic flavors tug your tastebuds before fruit and malt lift the sip back into balance.
“We’ll always have a sour on now; it’s something I’ve wanted to do since we opened,” Charlie says. “La Luna Rossa is seriously sour, but when your palate acclimatizes to it, it’s amazing. It’s great with salty meats and hard cheeses.”
This stuff is wine masquerading as beer. A deep burgundy color pools in the center of the glass, fading to brown and clear on the rim like the shades of an old Barolo. It’s nuanced, delicate and unexpected, an Italian beer with a Belgian persuasion. The flavor recalls a nice Flanders red ale and is priced accordingly ($12), around what you’d expect to pay for a pour of Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge or Rodenbach Grand Cru. And since the beer is made just northwest of Parma, it’s no wonder how well it pairs with a plate of prosciutto.
Birra del Borgo
Pale ale, 6.2 percent ABV
ReALE EXTRA is an ultra-hopped pale ale. A bunch of late-addition hops give it a floral explosion over sweet, mellow flavors of biscuits and caramel from the malt. It’s from Lazio, Rome’s province, a region not exactly renowned for its beverages. “It’s so bizarre and so great,” Charlie says. “It’s like an Italian expression of American beer. But what they have access to in malts and hops is different than what we have. It’s European in style, but it’s big and structured.” We happened to kill the last of a keg during our visit. But Charlie has more in reserve, along with a keg of My Antonia, a collaboration between Birra del Borgo and Dogfish Head.
Amber ale, 7 percent ABV
Amber Shock is not much of a shock; it’s soft and toasty with a pleasant hazelnut aroma. Pair with a salumi plate and the lamb meatballs.