Not Just for Chugging Anymore

My first visit to Italy was far too brief. I guess I should've known that four days wouldn't be nearly enough time to explore Lombardy, let alone the rest of the country. But without the luxury of European vacation benefits, I booked my flight to Milan's Malpensa airport anyway, resolving to cram as much sightseeing as I possibly could into a mere 96 hours abroad.

I stayed with my friend Alessandro in Como, and fortunately, he was more than happy to play tour guide for the weekend. He showed me the view over the lake from Brunate, introduced me to the dance scene at Tartaruga, and then, on my last night there, took me to an excellent brewpub, or birrificio.

Liking what I tasted there, I wanted to track down other Italian craft beers once I got back to New York. Although in 2003 I wasn't going to have much luck finding anything beyond Peroni and Birra Moretti. Things have changed in the years since. Earlier this summer I discovered that my favorite local purveyor of malty beverages stocks styles from several smaller producers. As you can imagine, this was a rather joyous occasion. Putting together a tasting of distinctive Italian brews can now be accomplished with a single trip to Bierkraft. Unfortunately, it will also leave a dent in your drinking budget—perhaps no more than a similar quantity of good wine would set you back however.

Of the beers that I've tried so far, Birra del Borgo's Re Ale Extra ($11.95 for a 12.7 oz. bottle) is one I'd describe as perfetto. Pouring a bright, coppery-orange, this super-saison smells sweet and fruity and leaves traces of its three hop varieties on your tongue. For the Italophile, resistance is futile. In fact, I can think of only one better way to revisit to a place that, six years ago, whetted my appetite so thoroughly: going back.

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