Two European oddities were brought my way a few months ago (thanks Richard!) and it's about time they made the leap from my notebook and camera onto this here blog.
First up a smoked stout from Birrificio Lambrate in Milan. It's called Ghisa and is a mere 4.6%. However, that figure hides some very low attentuation and the brewery warns us that the wort started out at a relatively hefty 12.5° Plato. By my calculations that means it must have finished out at a gravity around 1.016. So what do all these figures mean for the drinker? Well, it means you get a beer that's much more full-bodied than, say, an Irish stout of 4.6% ABV would normally be. And this is apparent right from the aroma stage -- smoke and sticky phenolic notes twist provocatively out of the glass. The texture and indeed taste are all treacle or molasses with quite a tangy bitterness, finishing on a coffee-like dryness with lingering beery-ashtray smoke. Unsurprisingly it got a bit sickly before long, even when sharing the bottle.
From Lombardy to the Baltic and the Saku brewery, Carlsberg-owned and largest in the country. But it's not all yellow fizz, they also have a red ale called The Taste of Manchester "following the finest traditions of English brewmasters". Mmm-hmm?
The aroma here is pure Irn Bru: sugary and artificial fruit sweetness. Tastewise it's quite clean, however: only lightly fruity. It's easy to scoff, but in lagerland this is the sort of thing one might very well be glad of, for a change. The website blurb really is worth a look for teh lolz, though: "In England this beer is called ale and every respectable traditional English pub has this type of mild red beer at the top of their beer menu." I was laughing until I read this.