Italian food lovers have a lot of options when it comes to what kind of alcoholic drink to pair with their pasta or pizza. There’s obviously a slew of Italian red wines like Pinot Grigio and Barolo as well as aperitifs like Campari and Aperol — although those are usually consumed before a meal — not to mention cocktails like the iconic Negroni. However, if you want to a pair a beer with your bresaola, it can seem like your options are few and far between.
There’s Peroni, the standard bearer – Italy’s equivalent to our “king of beers.” And Birra Moretti, the slightly lesser known brand — which is no longer brewed in its homeland – if you’re lucky. However, Jason White, Beverage Director at Brooklyn’s Barano, wants you to know that there is far more than just those two Italian staples. He’s built an extensive, varied beer list, which gives guests options that are as considered as their wine offerings. Barano’s beer program pays homage to, among other things, the burgeoning Italian craft beer movement.
So, who better to give us advice on what we should be trying when we want a change of pace in our Italian brews? Here are five beers White recommends:
Birrificio Italiano’s Tipopils
As one of the beers that really set a new benchmark for Italian producers a few years back, this zesty and grassy German Pilsner continues to make a great stir throughout the modern beer community as one of the original cornerstones for the Nuovo Italiano movement in artisan beer production. This style pairs well with a great range of items — my favorite is with a true Italian pizza with the focus on a really well-made crust and fresh, bright toppings to balance the beautiful tart, earthy, and smoky flavors of a great crust.
Birrificio Del Ducato’s Beersel Mattina
One of my personal favorites. The story of how this beer came to be is almost as important as the impact it's slowly making. Based around New Morning, a farmhouse style Saison, it has refreshing qualities that will match any seasonal Spring or Summer dish; be it vegetable-driven, seafood, or any fun protein that is not red meat. This beer is floral, crisp, bright, and a great pairing with almost any earthy and acid-driven pasta, rich seafood dish, or non-red-meat dish.
This is where it gets really fun. A Wild Ale [editor's note: a wild ale is a kind of beer brewed using yeast or bacteria in addition to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the typical yeast usually used] fermented with yeast on Barbera grapes that is left to spontaneously ferment in oak vats. The blur or hybridization of genres is becoming more and more relevant beyond the movement of experimentation in beer and wine. And just like wine, we should heed the thought that, like a great Bordeaux or other great full-bodied red, this also needs time to develop more balanced character. We currently have a few bottles of the 2015 vintage and it's showing well, though still young. This is an awesome pairing for our Salt Meadow Lamb with Escarole, Pine Nuts, Raisins and Cannellini Puree.
Birrificio Torrechiara’s Panil Barriquée Riserva
This cognac-barrel-aged sour red was one of the first artisan products shown to the US market that was truly unique in the way that the native yeasts and barrel-aging give way to a very sour and complex beer. You could compare this to a full-bodied, tannic red wine, and even trade-in since the acid and tannin from this beer will actually help highlight the flavors of the sear and juicy flavor of a medium rare steak... especially over a wood fire!
Birrificio Le Baladin’s Xyauyù - Barrel 2010
A beer? A Tawny Port style fortified wine? Both?! Kind of! Well, maybe in certain flavor characteristics. Xyauyù (pronounced eck-see-eye-yoo), and it's different variations, are some of the most unique beers on the market. Internationally. Period. Founder and Master Brewer, Teo Musso, will go as far a singing to his Oxidized Barley Wine during the two and a half year minimum it takes to age and delicately oxidize using the Solera Method — the same method used to make Sherry. For the Barrel version, he ages the beer in Trinidadian rum barrels. This with chocolate, in general, is awesome. But this with our Torta Caprese chocolate tart filled with fine & raw dark chocolate in an almond tart shell on top of a Calabrian anglaise? Heaven.