Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Beer Review: Birra Moretti Imported

13 December, 2008

AFTER moving to a cold, rodent infested flat. And after going without an Internet connection for weeks on end, I’m back. The bottle of beer with the monumental task of cheering me up is this little bottle of Birra Moretti Imported from Italy. Remembering how lacklustre Peroni, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Castello Premium were, I’m expecting it to be competent and not much more.

Imported Birra Moretti bottle

The bottle doesn’t look bad. But then style was never the weak link with Italian beer. This stumpy brown glass bottle has the “Moretti” logo embossed around the shoulder.

The front of the neck label says pretty much everything you need to know. That it’s imported. That quality and tradition feature somewhere within, assuming that’s what “Qualità e Tradizione” mean. I’m also guessing that “Dal 1859” means “Est.” or “Since” 1859. And that’s not bad at all. Castello Premium didn’t give a date at all.

Birra Moretti Imported front of neck label

In case you were in any doubt about the origins of Birra Moretti, the wrap-around neck-label gives you an answer.

Birra Moretti Imported rest of neck label

“Birra Italiana”. Even I can understand that. And I’ve never studied Italian.

The front of the front-label takes the approach of an illustration of a traditional countryman about to enjoy a big frothing glass of beer.

Imported Birra Moretti front of front label

No points for originality. Bottles of beer all over the world have illustrations of jolly men about to enjoy a big, frothy glass. The thing is, this man doesn’t look jolly at all. In fact, he looks jolly miserable. As we all know, everyone in Italy is either a Communist or member of the Mafia. Since this miserable man is wearing a smart suit and hat, that must mean he’s just finished a hard day collecting money from local shopkeepers for the entirely legitimate protection operation which in no way obliges participation.

The rest of the front-label roundel is a bigger version of what’s on the neck-label. It’s all very tasteful and informative. It doesn’t stop there, however. Instead, it wraps around very slightly at either side. Why they didn’t just make the back label bigger is beyond me. Nevertheless, here’s the left-side of the front-label.

Birra Moretti Imported left of front label

This side helpfully says, in English, “Imported from Italy”. Under that are lots of words I can’t understand. Therefore, I make plea to any Italians reading. If you can translate anything from the label, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

Not all the words are a mystery though. “Heiniken Italia” must mean that this comes from the Italian branch of the Heineken mega-brewer. “Milano, Italy” must mean that it comes from Italy’s spectacular Northern city of Milan.

Birra Moretti Imported right of front label

Over on the other side of the front label, and there are some more words that I can’t understand. What I can understand are this beer’s vital statistics. It has a perfectly respectable 4.6% volume, and it comes in the typical 33cl bottle size. It also has an Italian language list of ingredients. Some of which look familiar, others do not. Fortunately, the back label steps in to help.

Imported Birra Moretti back label

I doesn’t have much. There’s an impenetrable block of multi-lingual text and a repeat of many of the details from the front. But, it does have an English language list of ingredients. And that list includes “water, malted barley, corn, hops”.

But, what will it be like? Will it be better than other Italian beer? What will it taste like? It’s time to find out.

Imported Birra Moretti poured into a glass

Anyone hoping for a dark, frothing glass as in the front-label illustration will be disappointed. It’s just the most pale lager I’ve seen in a long time. And it’s lacking much in the way of froth. There’s a patchy layer of bubbles, but calling it a ‘head’ is a stretch.

Despite these drawbacks, it smells good. Not original. It has much the same smell as other good lagers. But that blend of malted barley and other ingredients in lager-ish proportions is just the right strength. Not so weak as to be almost invisible. And not too overpowering.

Of course, I’ve been here before. Smelling right is one thing. It’s how it tastes that matters. So let’s try this fridge cooled glass of Birra Moretti.

First couple of gulps, and first impressions are okay. It tastes the way most lager does. That is, it tastes of a blend of malted barley and other beer ingredients. No flavour. Then a smooth, gentle introduction of a mild lagery bitterness. Not so much a “bite”. More a nibble. A couple more sips confirms it. Birra Moretti is another competent, yet bland lager.

What is there to enjoy about Birra Moretti? If you like (or at least don’t mind) lager, then you’re in luck. There’s little to put you off it. There’s no unpleasant “bite” to the aftertaste. In fact, it’s one of the smoothest and gentlest out there. All of which make it easy to drink.

What of the downsides to Birra Moretti? Well, it is a lager. And that dooms you to flavour boredom. It doesn’t even attempt to push the boundaries within the confines of being a lager. And that doesn’t score it points of originality. It’s also on the gassy side.

Does it compare better than any other Italian bottled beers? No. They’re all okay.

How can I sum up this imported bottle of Birra Moretti? It’s a perfectly competent lager. When I visit Italy, I’ll happily drink this. But on a shop shelf next to considerably more interesting bottles, choose something better instead.

Rating: 2.25

Have you tried Imported Birra Moretti? What did you think of it?

Can you translate anything on the labels?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the box below.

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Beer Review: Castello Premium

19 September, 2008

WHAT can you say about Italian beer? Peroni was a triumph of style over taste and Peroni Nastro Azzurro was boring. It’s difficult to raise expectations then, with this little green bottle of Castello Premium.

It has a neck label. But it says nothing about what the beer will be like. It looks nice enough, but you get the impression that they’re more concerned with brand building than anything else.

It’s much the same with the front label.

Castello Premium front label

To be fair, the colour scheme is good. The big shield and castle illustration give it a good South-European look. And the banner across the top saying “Birra Fruilana” is delightfully baffling. “Birra” must mean “beer”, but can someone translate the other word please? Sadly, the label says nothing about what this beer is actually like.

Being almost entirely in Italian, I couldn’t learn much more from the back label either. Italian translators, if you’ve got a bottle nearby, do please leave your translations in the comments at the end of the post.

Castello Premium back label

The only words I could make out from the Italian language description mentions quality ingredients. My guess would be that the rest of it was equally vague and marketing led.

Under that, in a dense, multi-lingual block of text, is the name of the brewer. Castello Premium is courtesy of Birra Castello S.P.A.. Not being familiar with Italian geography or addresses, I couldn’t make much sense of the address. So I did Googled the names it mentioned for some answers. Apparently, it comes from a street called Enrico Fermi (after the famous scientist), in the municipality of San Giorgio Di Nogaro in the province of Udine in the North-Eastern province of Fruili-Venezia Guilia. Is there any connection between that name as the “Fruilana” on the front of the bottle? And would the hot Italian girl called Guilia I met last year happen to come from the province of Fuili-Venezia Guilia? Answers at the bottom of the post please.

Next up is the list of ingredients. The ones this one mentions are water, barley malt, maize and hops. Few surprises there. Although maize doesn’t always get a mention. Do most beers and lagers have it but fail to mention it? Or is this one a tiny be special for having it as an ingredient? At times like this, I wish I knew more about beer. Shame I’m too lazy to look it up.

The next little detail is the web address. The one they have printed on the label is www.birracastello.it. You’ll probably want their English language website, which is at http://www.birracastello.com/. Parts of it feel rather unfinished and navigation is a pain. This goes into the list of not-so-great brewer websites. Which by now, is very long indeed.

Last two details on the back label are the most important. Which is why they’re also printed in the biggest typeface. The bottle is the ubiquitous 33 centilitre size. Whilst the alcoholic volume surprises no-one by being equally unimaginative at 5%. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be as average as the summer we just had.

What will it taste like? Will it be better than the two Peronis? Let’s find out.

Castello Premium is very easy to pour as it has almost no head. Then, after a moment, the tiny layer it does have almost completely vanishes. I’ve seen ciders with more head on them. The colour is respectable shade of amber. And there is a lot of fizz going on in there.

Does it have a smell? Yes, just about. It smells of a lagery blend of malted barley and the usual beer ingredients. It’s quite weak and smells much the same as the bland, big-name lagers.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and it tastes like any other competent lager. There is no flavour. That void is then filled by a light, bitter aftertaste. That lagery “bite” isn’t excessively rough. Nor does it roll it strongly or unpleasantly. It just gets on with its job of delivering a zingy “bite” in a light, mild way.

What is there to enjoy about Castello Premium? Again, it depends if you like lagers. If you do, you’ll appreciate the light and drinkable aftertaste. You’ll like the way that you don’t have to think about complex flavours. Even if you don’t particularly like lager, you might like how easy to drink that aftertaste is.

As you’ve probably guessed, Castello Premium won’t be for everyone. People who don’t like lager for instance. There’s no flavour. All you get is a run of the mill lagery bitter aftertaste. It might be a tolerable aftertaste, but you won’t be inspired to buy a case of the stuff. Even if you think it’s quite good, it’s not far removed from equally or cheaper priced and easier to buy rivals.

Castello Premium is a middle of the road lager. As average as you can get. It doesn’t offend. But it won’t inspire you. If I was visiting the region this came from, I’d be more than happy to drink Castello and its sister brews. Although it’s not exactly better than the two Peronis. If you don’t have a thing for Italian beers or European lagers, then look for something better.

Rating: 2.2

Have you tried Castello Premium? What did you think of it? Can you offer up any translations?

Leave your corrections, translations, opinions, thoughts, recommendations and requests here please.

Beer Review: Peroni Nastro Azzurro

9 June, 2008

SO far, my look at beers from the Latin world hasn’t exactly been a stunning success. Sol, Damm Estrella, Corona Extra and Peroni, the cousin of today’s beer, veered between average and frustratingly disappointing. Desperados was ok, but cheated by being a French parody of a Mexican Tequilla tinged beer. So it is with low expectations I move on to Peroni Nastro Azzurro.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro bottle

Exactly how different this one is to the Peroni I tried a couple of days ago, I’m looking forward to finding out. The look is utterly different. This mainstream looking green bottle is widely available from nearly every shop in the country. But green-ness and ubiquity is no guarantee of likeability. Eco-fundamentalist Tony Juniper for example.

A big wrap-around neck label is present again. But this one only has writing on the front. That’s because this bottle, unusually for a Mediterranean beer, has a back label.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro neck label

Like the Peroni of a couple of days ago, there’s nothing but Italian on the labels. This one has a neck label featuring a crest. The familiar year of 1846. And some writing saying something about this being the original beer of Italy and using natural ingredients. As is the way with non-English language labels, I need to the help of translators out there. If you can translate anything on this bottle, do please leave a message at the end of the post.

The main front label is again totally different to that other Peroni beer. The only familiar details are the 1846 year and Giovanni Peroni’s signature. Which is good to see, as it means we’re not dealing with some other company ripping-off the Peroni name. There are some banners around the top and bottom of this dull and mostly white coloured label. And those wavy banners have words such as “Tradizione”, “Naturalita” and “Superiore”. Nothing exciting there.

The back label doesn’t set the world alight either.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro front label

The main block of writing is in Italian. But that doesn’t matter. It’s good knowing that this beer is the “Itaniana numero uno”. The other words I’m not so sure about so, translators, you know what to do. My suspicion is that they say something about refreshment and Italian style. Even with my Officer Crabtree grasp of Italian, there’s little to impress.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro back label

It’s not all bad news though. The alcoholic volume in this 33cl bottle is 5.1%. That’s more than the other Peroni and more than most others from the Latin world. The ingredients are in English and they are “water, barley malt, corn and hop”. And it’s easier to see where this came from. And from whom. The brewer is S.p.A Birra Peroni. And they are from Roma. Somewhere also known as Rome. I don’t think it will catch on with the tourists.

Will Peroni Nastro Azzurro be any good? Will it be a lot like Peroni? Hopes are low, but we’ve come this far. Time to open the bottle.

The colour is a very pale yellow. And the head, which looks good at first, almost completely vanishes within a minute. Good thing I was brought up not to judge by appearances.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro poured into a glass

The smell does start to redeem it though. The blend of beer smells in the aroma is good. If generic.

And that carries over to the taste. The blend of tastes isn’t bad. It tastes of a blend of the ingredients that went into it. The malted barley, corn and hops come together to leave a taste of an indistinctive beer that has a light bitterness.

To its credit, there’s little about the taste that anyone can really complain about. It’s not very bitter at all and none of the flavours are strong enough to put anyone off. It’s also very light, refreshing and very easy to drink. It’s not at all gassy either. The quality of the ingredients is evident too.

But all that is faint praise. It’s hard to escape the fact that you feel as though you’re drinking water. The flavours are weak and unoriginal. There’s so little character, you’d be hard pressed to know if you were even drinking Peroni Nastro Azzuro if you weren’t drinking it from the bottle.

In conclusion then, Peroni Nastro Azzurro is well made, but indistinctive, weak and boring. If you end up drinking lots of this at a bar, you won’t mind much. Nor will your friends if you buy in a crate load for a party or a barbeque. But if it is taste and flavour you’re after, you’ll be disappointed.

Rating: 2.7

What can we conclude from my look at beers from the Latin world? That they are mostly bland and tasteless. Sure, they are mostly drinkable and refreshing. If you end up drinking them on a night out, you won’t complain too much. But if you’re buying for yourself, just don’t. There are so many better choices you could make. And they all originate from Northern Europe and Great Britain. Sorry North America, I haven’t tried enough of your beers to say anything yet. But I’m sure they’re not as bland as those I’ve tried over the last few days.

Recommendations? This one, Peroni Nastro Azzurro is one of the best. Damm Estrella was ok too. But that’s not saying much. Desperados was the joker in the pack, and, amazingly, the best of the bunch.

Where next? Yes, I know, there’s Brahma from Brazil and San Miguel from Spain. But I’ve tried each of those once before. They’re both lagers and they are both below average. If you want a review, simply read one of my other reviews of any below average lager. If you want a real review, leave a request in the comments and I’ll consider sacrificing an evening of my time to write one for you.

Have you tried Peroni Nastro Azzurro? Can you translate anything? What reputation does it have at home in Italy? And why when your wines are so fine do you make such rubbish beers?
If you can answer any of these questions, leave your opinions, translations, corrections, thoughts, ideas, recommendations and suggestions here.

UPDATE
SINCE posting this back in June 2008, it has gone on to become the most popular post on my blog! To celebrate, I’ve come back, in August 2009, to upgrade the photos and take another look. There must be something about Peroni Nastro-Azzurro that makes it so much more popular than the rest.

So what did I think of Peroni Nastro-Azzurro second time around? Maybe I was a tiny bit harsh first time. It is exceptionally easy to drink, especially when cold. There’s almost nothing about the taste to put you off. And it’s clean, crisp, quite refreshing and well made. That said, it’s still watery and taste is hard to find.

My new conclusion? I think it would be an outstanding curry beer, and I’ll happily enjoy a bottle or four at a trendy bar. There. If you feel slighted that someone on the Interwebs has a different opinion to your own, do please leave an impassioned comment below, highlighting the superiority of your opinion over mine.

Beer Review: Peroni

7 June, 2008

NEXT stop on my tour of beers from the Latin world is Peroni from Italy. Not to be confused with Peroni Nastro Azzurro which is much more widely available and the subject of my next review. So check back for that one. But first, we turn out attention to this, and totally Italian language bottle.

Peroni bottle

First impressions are that it looks high-quality and classy. And that is looks mysterious. Not just because the dark brown glass means that we can’t see what lurks within. But because everything, on every label is in Italian.

How hard can it be to make sense of what it says? I’ll have a go, but anyone who can offer up any translations, do please leave a message at the end of the post.

This bottle goes for having a big wrap-around neck label, a front label and no back label. So up here is where we start.

Peroni front of neck label

The front of the neck label goes with the heritage angle. There’s a picture of what could be a brewery. It almost looks too beautiful to be a brewery. But then it is in Italy.

There’s a date too. 1846 appears to be as far as Peroni goes back. Not fantastic by North European standards. But in a climate where grapes and wine make sense, they can easily be forgiven for not bothering with beer for so many centuries.

The signature of the founder is there too, to add to the sense of heritage. And around the bottom of the neck label, a red bar proudly displays its “Italiana” origins.

Turning the bottle around to the back, and the neck label gives up this beers vital statistics.

Peroni right of neck label

This little bottle is the predictable 33cl. And it has a volume of 4.7%. Lower than lots of North European beers. But about average for the top-end of those from the Latin world. Interesting trend that.

The “Ingredienti” are “acqua”, “malto d’ orzo”, “granturco” and “luppolo”. Of those, I understood water and what is probably malted barley. Any help with the rest please?

Around to the front label now, and there is not much to say about it.

Peroni front label

It’s a simple circle with a banner through the middle featuring the “Peroni” name. The top of it has an illustration of Mr. Pironi. I assume it is him. Who else could it be?

The signature and the date are all there. Around the bottom of the label are words which I think translate to “Tradition and Quality”. Is that right?

Unbelievably, that is it. None of these beers are laden with small novels on the back label. There’s no stories about how it was created, how it got its name or the way it’s brewed. Just the basics. I do like a something to read on a bottle of ale, but with these, it’s great not to have to set aside an entire evening just to write one of these reviews.

All of which means that we’re down to the point where we answer some important questions. Such as will Peroni be any good? What is it like? And is it better than the likes of Sol, Damm Estrella and Corona Extra? With Desperados being one a kind, we’ll be hard pressed to ever find anything to compare it against. Which means it’s up against fairly lousy competition.

Peroni poured into a glass

Once poured, the head you thought you had vanishes quickly. After a few moments, you end up with some patches of bubbles clinging to the rim of the glass for dear life. The colour is a deep shade of amber. A refreshing sight after so many pale yellows. The smell is… hard to describe. Mainly because it’s so weak. There is a teeny tiny hint of the blend of beer ingredients, but you’ll struggle to smell it. Even after a few hard sniffs. Not what I expected.

The taste is equally unexpected. There is hardly any. About the only taste you’ll notice is, an admittedly smooth, malty bitterness. Not much. And it doesn’t linger for long. Apart from that, you’ll be struck by the utter absence of taste, flavour and body. The upside to this watery drink is that it is immensely easy to drink. Served cold on a hot Italian summer’s day, I’d happily quench my thirst on a big bottle of this. It’s not too gassy either, so you can maintain your composure among the beautiful people of the country.

Maybe it’s my hurried, anxious, Northern European mentality that leaves me feeling empty from this bottle. The lack of any meaningful taste and flavour are big disappointments. While I could say that this gives it character and distinctiveness, it wouldn’t be for the right reasons.

I truly wanted to be impressed and surprised by Peroni. What surprised me was that this was little more than mildly flavoured, alcoholic water. Refreshing and drinkable, but nothing to get your teeth into. About average compared to it’s competitors.

Rating: 1.95
Have you tried Peroni? Or any other Italian beer? What did you think of it?
Leave your translations, corrections, additions, opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here please and remember to check back again soon.


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