After four posts centred on CAMRA, it's high time for a break from those who spend their time "campaigning" for a certain type of beer, and get back to the real world. So moving on to a beer which is probably as far away as it's possible to be from the world of cask conditioned ale and hand-pumped beer, we take a look at a well-known international lager brand, and its attempt to create a more artisan image for itself.
The beer brand I am talking about is Birra Moretti; originally a family-owned Italian brewery, but now part of the multi-national Heineken group. Birra Moretti is an instantly recognisable brand, thanks to the image of the moustached man in the hat, enjoying a tankard of the company's beer.
Until very recently, Italy was not known as a beer drinking nation, mainly because the country produces some excellent wines, which Italians tend to prefer to beer. Prior to the advent of the now flourishing “craft beer” scene, Italian beer was almost exclusively of the light lager type.
During the last decade, brands such as "Peroni" and "Nastro Azzuro" have established a growing foothold in the UK beer market, and they have now been joined on the bar by Moretti, which seems to be the "go to" beer for the younger generation. I have two technicians working for me; both are in their early 30's, and both swear by the beer. It’s expensive on draught, selling in some outlets at over £5 a pint. Bottles are much cheaper of course, and as well as the usual 330ml size, the beer is available in a 660ml, “quaffing" bottles. I don't mind the occasional glass myself, although my lager of choice is the world-classic, Pilsner Urquell.
The company was founded in 1859 by Luigi Moretti in the north-eastern Italian city of Udine, as the "Beer and Ice Factory", with the first bottles going on sale in 1860. The brewery was initially producing around 2,500 hectoliters of beer per year, enough to meet the provincial market, but this was soon exceeded.
The company remained in the hands of the Moretti family until 1989, before being acquired by a number of different beer companies. In 1996 the group, and its famous trademark, was bought by Heineken. The original brewery in Udine was closed in 1992, and production transferred to the nearby town of San Giorgio di Nogaro.
As mentioned above, the main Birra Moretti brand has been available in Britain for some time, but recently a couple of beers inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy’s many regions have found their way into the UK market. I managed to pick them up in my local Waitrose, a couple of weeks ago, and here is what I thought of them.
This combined with the rich honey colour of the beer, makes it the perfect accompaniment to dishes such as pasta or, just a very pleasant beer to drink on its own. I would certainly agree with that description, as the beer is very enjoyable; albeit a little unusual.
into the taste of the beer.
Birra Moretti – Alla Siciliana 5.8%. No prizes for guessing that this beer is inspired by Sicily, and incorporates Zagara orange blossom in its make up. This Sicilian flower gives the beer a rich, soft and full flavour with an orange aroma. The beer is described as a great accompaniment to fish dishes, but is also good enough to be enjoyed on its own.
I didn’t think this beer was anywhere near as good as its Tuscan counterpart, (I’ve tried similar orange-flavoured beers, and they just don’t work for me), but it’s still good to see a large brewing group indulging in a spot of experimentation.
So what about the main beer Birra Moretti – L’Autentica 4.6%. Birra Moretti is still brewed to the recipe that was created by Luigi Moretti. It is a smooth, full bodied beer, brewed with a blend of high quality hops, to create a satisfying beer with a full malt base, balanced by some delicate citrus notes.
In short, it is a “quaffing beer”, and one which I am not at all averse to enjoying from time to time.
Moretti, also import their La Rossa beer into the UK, although apart from in specialised beer shops, I haven’t seen it on sale in the nation’s supermarkets. La Rossa is a 7.5% “Bock-style” beer, although Moretti refer to it as a “double malt” beer. As its name might suggest, it is a reddish-amber colour, which comes about from the use of roasted malts.
Before ending, it’s worth noting that Moretti, also produce four other “regional” beers. Like the two described above, these four are influenced by some of Italy’s other provinces. Like the others as well, the beers incorporate ingredients which are associated with the regions they are named after. The beers are as follows:
Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
Birra Moretti alla Piemontese 5.5%. A pale, amber-coloured lager beer, with blueberries, from the Piedmont region.
Birra Moretti alla Pugliese 5.6%. A golden yellow coloured lager beer, containing roasted wheat and, somewhat unusually, prickly pear. From the Puglia region of southern Italy.
It’s worth remembering that with no real tradition of beer brewing, particularly in southern Italy, these “regional” Moretti beers are all contrived, but are nevertheless an attempt to move away from the easy-drinking, light-lager style normally associated with the country.