The queen of Italian Craft Beers. Info, details, BJCP definition, a recipe for homebrewers: read here everything about Italian Grape Ale beer.
Talking about Italian Craft Beer means that we must talk about something that will make you melt. Something that connects the traditional Italian beverage with the one that this blog talks about: the Italian Grape Ale. Is there anything more interesting for the people involved in the Italian beverage market? Maybe not.
In 2015 the BJCP ( www.bjcp.org) decided to dedicate a specific Beer Style that includes those beers created by brewers that use grape in the recipe: the perfect communion between the ancient and iconic Italian drink and its adolescent and rip-roaring nephew.
Many Italian craft breweries have produced IGA in the last ten years being encouraged by the success of their craft beer and the ageless passion for the wine. But what defines an IGA? Italian Grape Ales are characterised by the variety of grape (fresh must or fresh grapes) used during the brewing process. This special ingredient creates something extraordinary: you have to recollect that it (to be picky the grape skin) brings not only aroma and colour but also its own, peculiar, natural bloom’s yeast… That’s why you cannot call it simply “Beer”. And that’s why this beer style is an exciting challenge for a brewer.
Ok, but which characteristics have an IGA?
The colour can be dissimilar: pale, golden, copper, pink or dark brown; It depends on the malt but also on the vinification. The appearance can be crystalline to opalescent. The IGA foam can be white to reddish, generally with medium retention.
Obviously aromatic characteristics of the grape that has been used need to be noticeable, but at the same time balanced with all the other aromas. Malt character is usually restrained, hop aroma can range from medium-low to absent, while others hints (goaty, earthy,…) typical of the Lambic style should not be intense.
The grape used (or the must, sometimes extensively boiled before the use) and its volume influence deeply the flavour that will taste more winey or fruity (stone/ tropical/ red/ …). Fruity characters from the primary fermentation are also common. Different kind of special malts can be used but should be supportive and balanced (in fact roast flavours are inappropriate), likewise for the hops and bitterness.
IGA has medium-high carbonation, a low to medium body. Usually, the Italian Grape Ale acidity is pleasant and intensify the dry sensation.
There are a lot of different types of Italian Grape Ale, that show different aromatic profile and taste.
BJCP (page 79)-Italian Styles
X3. Italian Grape Ale
Suggested style placement: Category 29 (Fruit Beer)
Overall Impression: A sometimes refreshing, sometimes more complex Italian ale characterized by different varieties of grapes.
Aroma: Aromatic characteristics of a particular grape have to be noticeable but do should not overpower the other aromas. The grape/wine character should be pleasant and should not have defects such as oxidation. Malt character is usually restrained while hop aroma can range from medium-low to absent. Some examples can have a low to moderately low wild character described as barnyard, earthy, goaty but should no
be as intense as in a lambic/fruit lambic. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Color can range from gold to dark brown. Reddish/ruby color is usually due to the use of red grape varieties. White to reddish head with generally a medium low
retention. Clarity is generally good but can be affected by the use of grape.
Flavor: Many interpretations are possible. As with aroma, grape character (must or winey like) must be present but may range from subtle to medium intensity. Varieties of grape can contribute differently on the flavor profile: in general stone/tropical fruit flavors (peach, apricot, pineapple) can come from white grapes and red fruit flavors (e.g., cherry, strawberry) from red grape varieties. Further fruity character of fermentative origin is also common. Different kinds of special malts can be used but should be supportive and balanced, not so prominent as to overshadow the base beer. Roasted and/or strong chocolate character is inappropriate. Some sour notes are common and may help to improve the drinkability but should not be prominent as in Flemish ale/Lambic. Oak flavors, along with some barnyard, earthy, goaty notes, coming from aging in barrels can be present but should not be predominant. Bitterness and hop flavors are generally low. Diacetyl from very low to none.
Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation improves the perception of aroma. Body is generally from low to medium and some acidity can contribute to increased perception of dryness. Strong examples can show some warming but without being hot or solventy.
History: Produced by many Italian craft breweries during the last years, it represents a communion between beer and wine promoted to the large local availability of different varieties of grapes across the country. They can be an expression of territory, biodiversity and creativity of the brewer. Normally seen as speciality beer in the range of products of the brewery.
Ingredients: Pils or pale base malt with some adjuncts (if any) or special malts. Grape content can represent up 40% of whole grist. Grape or grape must (sometimes extensively boiled before use) can be used at different stages: boil, primary/secondary fermentation, or ageing. Ale or wine yeast can show a neutral character (more common) or a fruity profile (English and Belgian strains). A wide range of hop varieties can be used in low quantities in order not to excessively characterize the beer.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.043 – 1.090
IBUs: 10 – 30 FG: 1.007 – 1.015
SRM: 5 – 30 ABV: 4.8 – 10%
If you are interested, in this blog you will find a lot of IGA beer tasting, just search for “IGA”!
Some examples of Italian Grape Ale brewed in Italy:
|Û Baccabianca||Cà del Brado||Grechetto Gentile||
(HERE the beer tasting)
|Jadis||Toccalmatto||Fortana cooked must|
|BB10||Barley||Cannonau cooked must|
|Tuscan Pool Party||Olmaia||Sangiovese+ Merlot|
*some fantastic Italian IGA beer tasting*
- I’ve finally drunk LIMES ROSA by Bruton Brewery! 2500 bottles (33cl) produced, created with Sangiovese vinified in white. This Italian Grape Ale has a pinkish colour, white thin head and incredible bouquet: wild strawberry, unripe red fruit, a gentle touch of green lime, white bread crust, sweet and tart aroma… READ MORE about the beer I’ve drunk at Vinitaly)
- Û Baccabianca – Cà del Brado is another Italian Grape Ale tasted. This “speciality” beers can be considered as an expression of the biodiversity, creativity, connection with the local history and traditions where the brewery dug its roots, exactly as the vine does.
- First Organic IGA by Mezzopasso Brewery: BIGA
- Selva– Birra dell’Eremo
- Tèra– PLB Podere La Berta
- West Coast IGA – Lambrate
- Le Bucce Riserva Rosso – Siemàn
- Madra – Birra dell’Eremo (Best IGA 2020)
- BeerBera (Vintage 2017) – LoverBeer
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