Lady Alebagger and I recently had the great pleasure of spending eight days and nights in Rome. As we were not in a hotel, but in a rented apartment, we had to provide all our own food. So on our first afternoon in the Eternal City, our priority was to find a nearby supermarket for our needs. When we arrived at the apartment (in pouring rain) we were met by a lady who spoke no English, but went on to explain a great deal about the apartment, neatly ignoring our blank faces. Obviously, it would have been good if we could just have asked ‘Where’s the nearest supermarket?’, but ’twas not to be.
Off we set, then, slowly spiralling out from our apartment (about 100 yards from the Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon). We picked up a couple of essential items at little shops (milk etc.) but it took us some time to find the first real mini-supermarket. Of course there are no really big supermarkets in the centre of Rome, but we were delighted to find a Spar shop (or Despar, as it’s known in Italy) on the Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II, very close to the spot where Julius Caesar was murdered to death.
As Lady A went off to ferret around and hunt for essential food-type stuff, she left me to look after the wheely-basket thing we’d picked up at the door. She should have known better. She left me next to the beer shelf. There were quite a few familiar brands on the shelves, brands that I wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole, but I noticed three beers that were new to me, so I surreptitiously slipped them into the bottom of the wheely-basket.
The three beers, when I examined them more closely back at the apartment, turned out to be quite an international bunch: La Biere du Demon by Gayant in France, Ceres Stout from Royal Unibrew in Denmark, and Splugen from Poretti in Italy.
The first to be cracked open was the 4.7% Poretti Splügen. Don’t know what Splügen is, but it’s as good a description of this beer as I could come up with. It’s definitely Splügen. Uninteresting sweet lager with no actual flavour. Splügen.*
The Ceres Stout is described on the label as a ‘double malt brown beer’ and promises ‘Doppio malto scura, ricca e corposa. Intenso aroma tostato e sapore unico’ (Double malt dark beer, rich and full-bodied. Intense toasted aroma and unique flavour.’) It is quite strong at 7.7% and is a deep black colour. The mouthfeel is thick and sweet with lots of treacle. There’s some small trace af malt in the flavour, but it’s mostly lost in the sweetness. Nice – worth a crack, if you can find it.
The last of my Roman Spar shop beers was the pale orange Gayant La Biere du Demon (Demon’s beer), very strong at 12%, the bottle was disappointingly small at 25ml. The label says ‘La biere blonde la plus forte du monde. 12° de plaisir diabolique’ (The strongest blonde beer in the world. 12% of diabolical pleasure). I was looking forward to this. When I took my first taste it wasn’t quite what I expected, but it didn’t really disappoint. It’s sweet. The mouthfeel is slightly thick, but not as thick as you would expect from 12%. The beer holds a little fizz and there are hints of wheat in the taste. It’s not a complex flavour, but it’s pleasant enough. It really doesn’t taste like a 12% beer. Perhaps that’s a downfall. If I’m drinking a 12% beer I want to taste every one of those percentage points. This would have been fine for a 5% beer, but for 12% I expect a little more kick. Maybe if I’d had more than 25ml, I would have got it.
*OK, Splügen means a light coloured lager. Good word for it.
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