Thursday, May 26, 2011

Italians at the leading edge

Recently, I was approached by a friendly gentleman in Italy if I was willing to try a new range of beers from that country. "Sure", I said, with my usual disclaimer of independence & impartiality etc. etc.

The beers in question are from the 32 Via dei birrai brewery. I checked the website out; no expense spared in its design, and the message is strong: We are modern, we are innovative, and we are environmentally conscious.  It also suggested "we are expensive".

A handy carry-case
32 Via dei Birrai represents a new language in the boundless scenario of the brewery sector. It resets and redeļ¬nes the usual. It takes the habitual concept of “beer” into another dimension. It becomes design in the form of a bottle.

This is beer we're talking about, yeah ?

Anyway, a package of 6 beers arrived yesterday. Oh, as a note to any budding beer bloggers, be on your guard when overseas breweries send you some samples. I got slugged $35 AU import duty, just for DHL to get them through customs. 6 x 750mL of beer. Crikey, the stuff better be good.

Cardboard in technicolour
I am absolutely gob-smacked at the packaging and promotional material. I received a flattened box with colour-printed inserts, some circular pieces of cardboard, a hard-covered folding brochure, and a handy cardboard carry case.
What the company is encouraging is reuse & recycle. The box has pre-cut circles in its sides, which can be punched out and used as drink-coasters. Further, those of us who have nothing to say to each other can remain entertained by linking said drink-coasters together (see my hard efforts below).

Safe-sex corks
The bottle itself has three barriers to pass before one gets anywhere near the beer. A plastic wrap, aluminium bottle top, and a very, very fancy cork, or Guala seal, to be more precise. As suggested in another blog, it looks like the corks come with their own prophylactic devices. The brewery suggests that these corks be kept, collected, and even turned into key rings or somesuch. Nice idea; it would be a shame to throw them out.

As for the beer ? I received 6 bottles, 2 each of the Curmi (wheat ale, 5.8%), Audace (Belgian strong ale, 8.4%), and Oppale (Belgian style hopped beer, 5.5%).  There are 4 others in the range, a Scottish red, brown ale, amber ale, and honey beer. No bland Euro lagers here.

Drink-coaster creativity
Although I will review these more formally at a later date, my initial impressions were fairly positive. There is a nod to the original style, but with a modern twist. For instance the Oppale has Belgian yeastiness, but a hop assertiveness that is more American than Belgian. And the Audace gives all the indication of a Tripel, but warms into the maltiness of a German strong lager. Interesting, to say the least.

Thanks to Leopoldo for the samples. I'd be interested to learn how much they will cost in Australia, because there is no expense spared in the packaging and promotion of these beers.

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