It's called Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, and comes from a microbrewery in Castagno D'Andrea, at the base of Mount Falterona. It's a London Porter with enveloping aromas of coffee and extremely British accents. But they make it in the mountains, with no carbon footprint. And it's organic.
Before I go further I should say that as a rule I'm not a fan of micro or craft breweries. I don't like them because, without wanting to detract in the slightest from the many excellent brewers out there, the activity has become stylish. And those who know me know I keep my distance from anything trendy.
I say this so what follows will be even higher praise for a beer I recently tasted for the first time, almost by chance and certainly under conditions not favorable for tasting: At San Godenzo, during the appetizer-foods pause after the seriously draining "Dolomitic stage" of the recent Pellegrinaggio Artusiano (see here, here and here) that had led us, on foot of course, from Portico di Romagna, over the 900-meter high pass, and on down to San Godenzo. In other words, given the circumstances neither my palate nor my mind were at their best.
Even so, among the many enticing things we were offered under the town's portico, this beet struck me. Not just because of its name, which is demanding (Giovanni was a famous war chief), nor because of the exuberant personality of the young brewmaster, Simone Campigli (who, I assume from his surname, renamed himself and the brewery (Conte di Campiglia). But because I was immediately struck by the by the immediate, almost overwhelming impact of the London Porter (a dark beer much loved by London's longshoremen in the 1800s, and hence the name) I was offered: It was just a short step to retaste it calmly, when rested.
Chewy, dense, with a firm head almost like cappuccino foam, and a powerful, unmistakable coffee nose made more likely by the porter's dark color, a brown with inky reflections. Served at the proper temperature (about 10 C, 50 F) and properly, so as to bring out its reassuring creaminess, it releases yeasty aromas, wet underbrush, and licorice that mingle and blend on the palate, where Giovanni dalle Bande Nere reveals its power, firm backbone, the vigor of its greater-than-7% alcohol content, dryness, severity, smokiness, and a fullness that leaves the palate clean and eager for another sip.
An English-Style beer, in short, perfect for herring, whole wheat bread, and mutton stew. Or our own baccalà. Or to mediate with, by the fireplace (or better yet by an English pot-bellied stove).
The brewery is located in Castagno D'Andrea, 830 meters above sea level, at the base of Monte Falterona, and produces eight beers. All unfiltered, and unpasteurized, some made with certified organic ingredients and labeled organic. ICEA, the certifying organization, takes samples of both the ingredients and the beers several times per year. They follow the German raisenghebot rules, using only water, yeast, malt, and hops; the ingredients are strictly local and as natural as possible, also from an energy standpoint: the waters used to cool the brews are then stocked in insulated tanks and reused as tap water in the brewery, while the vapor given off by the brewing process is recovered and reused to save energy.
It is perhaps because of this that the Conte di Campiglia Brewery was awarded the Beer of the Year prize at Rimini's Pianeta Birra.
A last thing: The brewery also has a ristopub at Castagno that sounds very nice. As soon as I go I'll tell you about it.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.