Posted by: musinganorak | July 29, 2010

Genoa…?

Holiday Musings – Day 2

I’ll let you insert your own obvious punchline.

Today we travelled from France into Italy. The drive was quite long and, being mostly motorway, quite tedious. The scenery, however, was superb. It soon strikes you how big France is, and how sparsely populated. There are vast tracts of countryside and farmland with very little in the way of population. Some of the fields of sunflowers had to be seen to be believed.

Our destination for the night was the port city of Genoa, a city about which I knew little, other than there were 3 brewpubs in town! Our hotel was situated a little way out of the centre in a not too attractive part of town, but you could see the sea from our window, albeit beyond several busy roads. After checking in and sorting ourselves out we headed towards the city centre, after a short walk we hopped on to the Metro and travelled in to the heart of the old town.

As you might expect from a city that played a large part in the 13th Century Crusades there are plenty of very old buildings. The old town is a maze of narrow alleys and is quite reminiscent of Venice. I’m sure you could quite happily lose yourself for days of exploration. We, though, only had the one evening so we contented ourselves with a gentle amble around. We did make a point of checking out the cathedral which is an impressive giant humbug of a building, and by that I mean it is black and white stripes. Unfortunately, like a lot of cathedrals in Italy, it is in a very small square and is closely hemmed in on all sides which means getting a decent picture is nigh on impossible.

A few streets from the cathedral was the first of our beer destinations, a pub called Exultate, the home of Birrificio Genovese. We found it quite easily in a small side square. We seated ourselves at one of the outside tables, ordered a pizza and got stuck into the 4 available beers. Giamba Weiss, 4.5%, was a very refreshing wheat beer with typical fruity flavours coming through. Giamba Chiara, 5.0%, was their blonde beer that had a nice amount of bitterness in the aftertaste. Their rossa, called Giamba Red at 7.0% was a fairly good example of the style with a nice amount of maltiness and sweetness in the aftertaste. Last up was Giamba Super, 8.0%, which may possibly be supposed to be a doppio malto style beer, but if it was then it wasn’t a particularly good example of the style.

After finishing here we headed across to the old port part of town which has been redeveloped in recent years and is now very much the heart of city at night. Our target was Bicu, a brewpub occupying one of the units in the old cotton warehouse. I started with the tasting selection of their 4 regular beers; Joanna, 4.5%, Hellen, 5.0%, Chris 6.0% and Mathias, 7.0%. None of them were particularly inspiring and they all came across as rather tired, mass produced examples of their particular styles. As usual they were a wheat beer, a blonde beer, a red beer and a doppio malto which seems to be the formula that a lot of Italian breweries work to. The best beer, by a long way, was their spring/summer seasonal beer Akiropita at 4.0%. This is a blonde beer flavoured with basil and it was superb. The basil content was nicely balanced to provide an interesting flavour note to a very refreshing beer.

Finally we headed off around the harbour to Ambasciata di Recco, home of Lion Fabbrica della Birra. This was far and away the most disappointing of the three. All though the bar had pump climps showing for three beers only one of them was available, Malit at 4.0%, which was, I think, supposed to be a Chiara, or blonde, beer. There was also another beer available that didn’t have a pump clip which we were told was a rosso, or red, beer of 6.0% abv. Most of this information was obtained from the elderly lady sat opposite the bar who we think may have been one of the owners relatives. Perhaps. Suffice to say that neither of the beers was particularly good.

From here we headed back to our hotel which proved to be not that far away. I, however, had one last thing that I wanted to check. In researching the beer options of Genoa I had read of a pub called Il Cantinone that was rumoured to serve Italian craft beers. Gazza Prescott mentioned that it was situated a bit out of town so he hadn’t been able to check it out. After consulting with the hotel staff I ascertained that it was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. It would have been rude not to check it out. As it turned out it was a complete waste of time, they had no draught Italian beers and the three bottled options were very easily obtained beers from the big brewers. I settled for a Pietra, 6.0%, from the Corsican brewery of the same name. A new beer but the eagerly hoped for new Italian craft beer. At least I hadn’t gone miles out of my way for it.

So that was Genoa. Three new Italian breweries sampled with a mixture of the good, the bad and the indifferent. The big plus was the good beer, Akiropita was a really good beer and is a prime example of why the Italian beer scene is so exciting. Italians don’t have a long history of brewing in the way that we do in the UK, or they do in Belgium and Germany. As a consequence they are coming to fresh and are prepared to try anything. It doesn’t always work, but when it does the results can be amazing.


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