Recently I was invited along to a tasting event by Menabrea, an Italian beer brand.
It's a family business managed by Franco Thedy, a fifth generation member of the Menabrea family, but it's working with C&C group to launch itself into the UK market.
I was greeted at the event in the best possible way, with a pint of the beer itself. Apparently they had only installed the casks on Tuesday and since I was the first to arrive, I was the first person to drink a pint of draught Menabrea in the UK! Franco was a lovely guy who was clearly very passionate about his beer and began the evening by giving us a talk about Menabrea and its history.
It's been on the go for around 160 years and is based in a small town called Biella, at the bottom of the Italian Alps. In 1997 it was a tiny company no one had really heard of outside Italy (and probably even in Italy too) but it decided to enter the Chicago World Beer Championships. Its lager (now called Bionda) caused an uproar by winning the event which began to get the brewery noticed. It then won the competition again in 1998 and Franco said this is really what started the growth of the small family business.
In Italy, Menabrea is often paired with an appertivo and this is something Franco is keen to bring to the UK market. I'm a big fan of pairing beer with food so it's something I hope we see a lot more of in the UK going forward. The event was hosted at Massimo Italian restaurant in Glasgow, and they put on a fantastic spread of olives, cured Italian meats and little bruschettas to have alongside the beers.
Menabrea has two flagship products that it's bringing to the UK: its Bionda lager and Ambrata, an amber beer. Bionda is a light lager with a nice, foamy head. Franco said that they were worried about how the head would react after being brought to the UK in casks rather than bottles so they did a test pint before we arrived which kept its head for 25 minutes. Bionda had more flavour than your run of the mill lager types and was light, fruity and very drinkable. It was also a lot sweeter than most lagers which went very well with the saltiness of the appertivos we had with it. It has an ABV of 4.8% so was on the higher end of the lager spectrum. However, Ambrata was my preferred choice. Packed with caramel and malty flavours, this was again really quite sweet. Franco had also brought along a cheese called Sbirro which is made using the Ambrata and the two went perfectly together!
Beer is probably my first love in life, but cheese comes in as a close second so the idea of a beer cheese made my little heart skip a beat! The cheese is dunked in vats of Ambrata during the cheese making process and then spelt grains from the brewhouse are added to the cheese. It was rather pungent, but truly delicious and you could really taste the sweet, malty taste provided from the Ambrata.
Menebrea are very new to the UK at the moment and will be focussing on Italian restaurants so next time you're having a look at the wine list of your favourite pizza place, have a look for Menabrea instead and give it a try!