Last, but certainly not least. I have always loved Italy. Sunny, cultured, relaxed and above all home of good food and wine. I've enjoyed many trips to Italy, and savoured the fruits of their sun-kissed climes in many forms. But I've never had a truly great beer there. Some decent lagers admittedly (like Baffo Doro by Birra Moretti) but nothing close to a great real ale.
How happy was I then, to be confront by the image (left) of Allessio Leone with his offering from the Italian Brewers at the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2011. Allessio is a great writer and arbiter of good taste when it comes to beer. I was particularly pleased with the offerings he brought from Toccalmatto brewery. My favourite being the "Surfing hop" pictured below.
A dark chestunut coloured double IPA, heavily dry hopped with Amarillo, it pretty much combines two of my favourite styles - the rich fruity alcohol of the dubbel or barley wine style, with overriding hop notes of a grassy IPA floating along on top. So I was in absolute heaven, and very happy to make off with an extra sample at the end of the night. (Thanks Alessio).
Other notable brews included:
And so ends my whistlestop tour of Europe (without actually leaving London). I hope your tastebuds are whetted, and when next on the continent you'll scour the bars and shelves for a flash of the rare, a hint of the interesting. They're clearly hard to find, but like most of the best things when travelling, well worth the effort.