There’s been a short interlude in blog posts due to my recent adventures in Kenya, including beer-tasting aplenty of course. The national beer is a lovely refreshing lager called Tusker, but we were also able to try a few microbrewery beers from The Big Five and Sierra breweries, as well as Ethiopian Amber Beer.
Beer description: 5.1% pale lager
Italian word for beer: birra
Date joined the EU: Founding member
Have I visited? Yes
I have visited Italy several times and have certainly made the most of its food and drink culture. Although I’ve ticked off a number of the big cities, including Rome, Florence and Trieste, I think my favourite visit to Italy was a daytrip to the curious town of Gorizia. After an unforgettable journey on the Bohinj Railway in Slovenia, we arrived at a railway station with an international border running through its car park.
Following a post-war border dispute, the old town of Gorizia was incorporated into Italy in 1947, and in response, Yugoslavia proceeded to construct Nova Gorica (i.e. ‘new’ Gorizia) right next door. In stark contrast to the archetypally Italian piazzas and palazzos of Gorizia, Nova Gorica is a modernist, Le Corbusier-style conurbation.
Today, these two separate towns effectively form one urban area, particularly since Slovenia joined the borderless Schengen Area in 2007. It is fascinating to visit – in some places, you barely notice as you meander across the Italian-Slovenian border several times on one stretch of road. At the same time, the conspicuously different building styles in the two halves give the whole place an air of split personality. We of course ensured to sample beers on both sides of the border during our trip.
Thanks to the recent Italian EU Presidency (more specifically, the “parliamentary dimension” thereof), I have visited both houses of the Italian Parliament: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Both meet in incredibly grand palaces: the Palazzo Montecitorio and the Palazzo Madama respectively.
The impressive décor of the debating chambers aside, my personal favourite feature of both houses was the wonderfully old-fashioned espresso bars, serving delicious coffee to Members and staff at all hours of the day. I can’t find a photograph of either house’s espresso bar online, suggesting perhaps a desire to keep these caffeinated delights a state secret.
The beer given to me by my dear parliamentary colleagues was as classic Italian as you can get: Peroni. To be precise, Peroni’s premium lager Nastro Azzurro (‘blue ribbon’).
Joining Gareth and me for this tasting was my good friend Daniel, with whom I have drunk many a beer, including in Gorizia. We also decided to do this tasting a bit differently from previous ones by accompanying it with food. In this case, Italian antipasti.
This turned out to be a wise move, as we all quickly agreed that this was a good beer to go with food. In Gareth’s words, Peroni is “inoffensive enough” to accompany most foods, but still has a distinct enough flavour to be enjoyable in its own right. The taste is refreshing and crisp, with a good amount of carbonation and an agreeable aftertaste. It is a pleasant pale yellow colour with a light head, which quickly disappears.
As far as popular European lagers go, I would rate Peroni highly. Daniel is a big fan, describing it as his “go-to beer” and “a dinner lager at the top of its game”. Praise indeed. I probably wouldn’t go that far, but I did find Peroni an enjoyable accompaniment to my mortadella and mozzarella.
Although I’m a big fan of trying new craft beers, it was actually a lot of fun to do a tasting of a mainstream Euro-lager alongside some of the more niche beers I received. Benissimo!