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Italian Beer, Long Derided, Gets Spotlight at Pfiff! Beer Dinner

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a remarkable meal put on by Des and Rob Denunzio, authors of the excellent Bay Area beer blog, Pfiff. The theme was “The Italian Modernists.” Now, I know little about beer and even less about Italian beer, but I do know that the wonderful southern European country has a great reputation for, well, wine. So the idea of an Italian beer tasting was intriguing, made even moreso by the fact that we would try 9 interesting and esoteric Italian beers, each matched with a different course.

The menu was ridiculous (check it out here). I knew that beer pairs well with food, but this was a great demonstration of that concept. Courses included chickpea and kamut flour fritters alongside homemade herbed butter (yes, they made the butter!) and chocolate infused eggplant caponata. Also a revelation was the fact that the Italians are doing some pretty innovative and interesting things with their beer, which is not surprising, as Rob pointed out, since brewing is such a large part of the Slow Food movement. But what was fascinating was the fact that most of these small, Italian microbreweries are all attached to cafés and thus their beers are specifically crafted to go with their foods. Hence such wonderful and evocative brews like “La Fleurette” from Birrificio Italiano, which was infused with roses and violets, citrus blossom honey, elderberries and black pepper. Or a brew like “Chiostro” which featured a wormwood infusion as well as hops.

I was fortunate enough to sit next to Dave Hauslein, beer manager for Healthy Spirits, which is where many of these beers were sourced and which is SF’s largest selection of beer and the go-to outlet for lots of these esoteric and beautiful brews. He helped to educate me on these miraculous and surprising beers as they flowed by. Follow Healthy Spirits' blog and follow Phiff! so that you too might attend the next amazing beer dinner.