Saturday 20 April 2024

Sardinia delivers on all fronts, and there could be more to come

I’ve been having a bit of a clear out of my beer stash recently, and as reported in a previous pot unearthed a bottle of Sam Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo. I also uncovered another of Humphrey’s beers, in the form of a bottle of Winter Welcome which, despite being nearly six months past its BBE date, still drank exceptionally well.There will probably be a write-up later about this seasonal winter special, but for now I want to describe a couple of craft beers that I picked up on last autumn’s cruise, in Cagliari – capital of the large Mediterranean island of Sardinia.  

On a blisteringly hot day, and after leaving Mrs PBT’s in the relative coolness of the Queen Victoria, I departed from the port area, and headed up into Cagliari’s old town. You can read more about my brief visit to this bustling Sardinian port here, although if truth be known I was content to sit at a table outside one of the many cafés and bars, overlooking the old market square.I only made it so far though, as beyond the main square there is a much steeper ascent up into what must have been the original part of the town. An imposing, and impregnable looking fortress dominates this area, as does a majestic cathedral, but I was content to sit for a while, enjoying a light snack, plus a couple of refreshing beers at a table outside one of the many cafés and bars, overlooking the old market square. 

The beer was as slightly cloudy IPA, produced by a craft brewery based on the Italian mainland, called Birra del Borgo. Suitably refreshed, I decided to gradually make my way back to the ship, whilst taking in a bit more of Cagliari on the way. I hadn’t gone far before I chanced upon a shop specialising in local Sardinian produce.  

 Il Cuore dell’ Isola di Abbi, in the Piazza Yenne, just off the historic city centre, provided a welcome break from the heat, with its air-conditioned interior, so I was happy to stay inside and browse for a while. Not having taken any photo of the exterior, I couldn’t remember the name of the shop, but fortunately, and almost quite by accident, Google came to the rescue, and I was able to instantly recognise the place whilst searching for the name, and origin of the two artisanal beers I bought.  One was a blond lager, whilst the other was a red one. Both beers are sold under the Cuore dell’ Isola brand, and this applies to much of the produce as well. The shop also contained a small restaurant, although that seemed closed at the time of my visit.

So, some six months after purchasing the beers, I finally got round to drinking them. Both were unfiltered and unpasteurised, in other words they were “bottle conditioned”, and I have to ask the question, why? CAMRA used to claim that bottle conditioned ales (BCA’s), were the equivalent of “real ale in a bottle”, even though there’s no such thing, and increasingly over the years I’ve become increasingly wary of such beers, and with good reason. The red lager was alright, but the blond one fobbed all over the place. It’s a shame, as it was a pretty good beer, although that’s of little comfort when the bottle is behaving like Mount Vesuvius, and the contents are spreading their way all over my computer desk, quicker than I can mop them up! 

I thought I’d seen the last of fobbing bottles, but this one was certainly on the lively side, despite having been kept refrigerated for several hours. Coincidentally, I’m drinking another lively BCA at the moment, in the form of a bottle of Rakau Pils, from the London’s The Kernel Brewery. The bottle didn’t fob, but the beer was rather too well-conditioned, so much so that it was impossible to pour the entire 330ml contents into a pint glass, in one movement. Three different Kernel beers were included as “guests” in this month’s shipment from Braybrooke, which is why I am now drinking one of them. I’m a little bit peeved, if truth be known, as I signed up to receive Braybrooke beers, rather than brews from other breweries, however good their reputation.

Let’s move on now from fobbing BCA’s, and return to Sardinia, and I mean that quite literally because in a couple of months’ time Mrs PBT’s and I will be making a further visit to this attractive Mediterranean island, having booked another cruise. This time we will be sailing on Cunard’s newest cruise ship, the Queen Anne, and apart from two days in Italy, will mainly be visiting Spain. The second of our two days on Italian soil, will be spent in Alghero, which is in the north-west of Sardinia. As well as being a major resort, Alghero is described as one of Sardinia's most beautiful medieval cities. The town, with its historic centre, is within easy walking distance of the port, so there will be no need to book excursions, or queue for shuttle buses. This should mean that Mrs PBT’s will be able to spend some time ashore – something she is keen to do owing to her claimed Sardinian ancestry of 1%!

A few word of explanation. Seven or eight years ago, Eileen and I both submitted saliva samples to the online genealogical research/data-base company, Ancestry, and on the last update we received regarding our DNA, Mrs PBT’s came back showing 1% of her genetic makeup was Sardinian in origin. A relatively tiny amount, of course, but interesting because due to their isolated positions from mainland areas, island populations often tend to exhibit some very specific genetic markers, that are unique to that particular location.

Anyway, that set the lady of the house off on a train of thought, that sometime in the dim and distant past, someone with connections to Sardinia contributed a small amount of their DNA, to her genetic makeup. I suggested a sailor, as the most likely candidate, although at the end of the day, it’s just a bit of fun really, but still, something to tease her about, when I get the chance.

Finally, a few words about Sardinia’s smaller, but still quite sizable Mediterranean island neighbour, Corsica. One of my work colleagues has a Corsican wife, and so is a regular visitor to the island, along with the rest of the family. I’m sure he particularly enjoys spending Christmas in the relatively, but he also told me that Corsican's pay a lower rate of duty on both alcohol and tobacco. My colleague no longer smokes, although he still enjoys a drink, and showed me a few photos of locally produced, super-strength beers. Not my cup of tea, but my workmate is partial to the odd bottle of McEwan’s Champion, or even Fuller’s Golden Pride. I’m not sure why or how this differential duty rate for Corsica, came about and I can find little about it online, but seems like a suitable ending for this post, on nearby Sardinia.





Stafford Paul. said...

I suspect that Mrs PBT being 1% Sardinian is an approximation and she's really either 0.78125% or 1.5625% Sardinian.
I know I'm 6¼% Scottish.

Paul Bailey said...

I know what you are saying, Paul, but it's just a bit of fun, when all's said and done, especially as you can't change who your ancestors were.

Also, the make-up notified by Ancestry, does seem to change slightly, with each new update.

Margate Pineapples said...

Will you be posting blogs from The Queen Anne?

If so, We will be looking forward to them

Paul Bailey said...

I will be posting blogs on port days, when I can get a signal 🚦