DUCHESSIC ALE (Duchessic is pronounced “Duka-see-kuh”) from BIRRA DEL BORGO. It is indeed, a very special ale that we were graciously given a bottle of from Darren Cartledge of THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka, California, on our visit to Humboldt County back in September 2015 (You can read our PLACES REVIEW on The Local here.)
The Italian brewing scene has massively improved in the last decade or so. No longer is “Italian Beer” known from brands like Moretti or Peroni. New Italian craft breweries are producing excellent examples of English, German and Belgian-style beers and ales. Birra del Borgo is one of those breweries that has pushed the brewing envelope with their product portfolio, amid rave reviews from beer enthusiasts around the world.
Like Italian fashion designers such as Armani, Gucci, Fendi, Prada, (and the like) on how they produce stunning clothing, the “Italian way” of producing beers is highly creative and inventive, with brewers using unusual and untypical raw materials in their offerings, with spectacular results. Birra del Borgo is one such brewery.
ABOUT bIRRA DEL BORGO
Between the years of 1999 through 2004, Leonardo Di Vincenzo took to homebrewing as a way to pass time while studying Biochemistry in college. As his passion for beer brewing became stronger, Leonardo made the effort to travel to different countries to try the native beers.
His travels took him throughout Europe where he met with German and Belgian brewers. It was in his travels to the UK, where he sampled the “Real Ales” that fascinated his palate.
It was at this point that he decided to go all out and start a brewery of his own.
The great Birra del Borgo adventure starts in Borgorose – a small village in the Rieti province, at the border between Lazio and Abruzzo region – and their first production site still in use, is the Old Brewery in Colle Rosso. It is here that they created some of their most famous recipes: Reale, Duchessa and DucAle.
As Di Vencenzo states: “I started brewing for passion, and today, it is still the key element of the Birra del Borgo beers and brewing style. My products are influenced by the brewing cultures I like the best: Belgian and English.
But a lot has changed during the last years, both for us at Birra del Borgo and in the wider Italian craft beer scene. Thanks to the increasing interest in the Italian beer movement, an “Italian way” to produce craft beer was born: its main features are inventiveness and the use of unusual ingredients, which are often involved with local and regional tradition.
Perhaps now there is no proper “Italian Style” in which we make beer, but we can say for sure that the best Italian craft breweries are now able to establish their own philosophy. Yes, it may be quite far from the average traditional production, but here in Italy we still respect and incorporate the basic rules of brewing.
This is exactly what has been going on at Birra del Borgo in the last few years. In addition to our Classic beers, inspired by the traditional brewing styles yet always keeping an “Italian touch”, we enjoy experimenting with new recipes and we often collaborate with fellow Italian and foreigner brewers to create brand new products: that’s the way we like it!” (Source: Birra del Borgo)
MEGA COLLABORATION WITH ITALIAN FOOD EMPORIUM, EATALY
In February 2010, Di Vincenzo teamed up with Teo Musso, Brewmaster of Birrificio Le Baladan, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing to partner with Iron Chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (of Eataly in New York City) to create a stunning roof-top eatery with its own brewery.
The original name of the eatery in New York was Birreria (opened in 2011), but was most recently re-named to Baita Italian Alps Pop-Up Restaurant. Not long after, the second Birreria was opened in Chicago, which still keeps the Birreria name.
“Eataly Brewery will be a great fusion of the well-known Italian gastronomic culture and our rising beer culture with the taste and the creativity of the American craft beer movement. This may well be the craziest and amazing brewery in the world.” -– Leonardo Di Vincenzo
BEER STYLE AND COMMERICAL DESCRIPTION FROM BIRRA DEL BORGO
Style category: Saison
A sort of “collaboration brew” with the famous Belgian brewery Brasserie Cantillon: an interesting experiment about spontaneous fermentations. Our traditional Duchessa – spelt beer – has been cut with a 20% of one year old lambic from Brasserie Cantillon. The result is a unique beer that extraordinarily merges the lambic sharp and sour characteristics with the gentle notes of Duchessa. A real gem not to be missed, as the former version’s great success confirms.
OUR BREWVIEW OF BIRRA DEL BORGO – DUCHESSIC ALE
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
5.9 % ABV. Poured into a tulip-shaped glass, and served at 45°F. Pours a pale gold color, with a SRM value around a 4. The slightly off-white colored head pours an easy 3-finger height, and has a rocky, cotton ball density with small and large bubbles. As the head collapses, the Brussels lacing it leaves behind is even sheeted and coats the glass very nicely (we did ensure that this was a “Beer Clean” glass).
The meniscus is medium rising, there is a gentle haze to it in the initial pour, and there was a large amount of yeast to be collected from the bottom of the bottle- so of course, we did as we consumed it! The rim color variation is a straw color, slightly lighter than the body of the beer.
As acidic as the beer is, the head retention in Duchessic is excellent. 6-7 minutes after pouring, it held a 1/2″ dense head. Up to 15 minutes later, it still held a 1/4″ slightly less dense head… amazing.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
This is an excellent marriage of Saison aromas with Lambic aromas, but with some gentle notes of young peach, apricot. There is a nice level of funk (horseblanket, hay) in the mix, but it is not overly dominant. The classic Saison aromas (grassiness, herbal, wildflower) are right behind.
Tart, crisp, very slight hop bitterness, definitive Lambic funk and sourness, but again, not dominant, it is more of a flavor enhancer. There is almost a grapefruit taste as you continue to enjoy this ale as it warms up a bit.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
The acidity of the beer is not at a point where it will shock and awe. Upon your first sip, it instantly hits the tip of the tongue, and then fills the whole mouth with its acidity and tartness. Fantastic balance- the finish is akin to a Lambic, but leans more to its base style of a Saison. Grassy, dry, herbal aftertaste, but then if you breathe in after your sip, the funk plays well off of the Saison flavors.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
APPETIZERS: A wide variety of rich, washed rind cheeses, or blue veined cheeses would pair well. We paired it with fig encrusted goat cheese and Vieux Chimay. Maple bacon wrapped shrimp or Boterhammen / Tartines would be excellent.
ENTRÈES: Moules en frite (of course!) Cornish game hen with garlic and rosemary, apricot and currant chicken, Crab Louie, Asparagus Frittata. How excellent would old-world Italian pizza pie be with this? Bada bing, bada boom.. “Forget about it!”
DESSERTS: Pilditas Vafeles, Lemon Meringue pie, honey crisp apple cake, blueberry-lemon crumb bars, straight cheesecake.
A very easy drinking ale, we consider it sessionable, due to the fact that it is not super acidic or super sour.
This is a fantastic collaboration- we were super excited to finally try this beer. Being fans of Brasserie Cantillon Lambics, we could darn near guarantee that the first-time drinking experience of Duchessic was going to wow us, and it did for sure!
The Italians have always been a creative lot, and it’s good to see that the craft brewing scene in Italy so vibrant, with a bright future.
We’d love to get our hand on the other Birra del Borgo beers, specifically the Duchessa, the original base beer of Duchessic. World class for sure, seek this one out!
Mega thanks (once again) to Darren Cartledge of THE LOCAL BEER BAR for his generosity in giving us this sample of Duchessic to BrewView. If you’re ever in Eureka, California, stop in and say hello! You’ll want to enjoy this Duchessic in the cozy atmosphere there. But where ever you find yourself enjoying a great beer, find this one- your taste buds will thank you… Salute!
DECEMBER 5, 2016: THE LOCAL BEER BAR ANNOUNCES ITS FINAL FAREWELL
Darren & Michelle Cartledge announced today that they will be closing THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka to concentrate on their other booming businesses, THE LOCAL CIDER BAR, and HUMBOLDT CIDER COMPANY. However, beer fans, don’t despair! They are going to incorporate a 2nd taproom to serve all the world class beers that the patrons of The Local Beer Bar have come to enjoy at the Humboldt Cider Company location!
Click here to read the official announcement, and to attend their FINAL FAREWELL PARTY on December 31, 2016…
Piana di Spedino snc
02021 Borgorose (RI)
Tel. +39 06 95222314