Tag Archives: American Pale Ale

Turan Neos APA with suppli

suppli and Neos on windowsill 2

Sunday evening, our chum Cameron made a delicious tomato risotto. She made what’s known in the vernacular as a “shit ton” of the stuff, but that’s good. We’re in Rome. And in Rome, when you’ve got leftover risotto you make suppli. So on Monday we did. I’ve mentioned the Roman love of fried goodies before. Suppli have got to be the best though. Deepfried risotto croquettes with a heart of melty mozzarella. What’s not to like?

You can use plain risotto, or a fancy flavoured risotto, depending on what leftovers you have, but generally it’s risotto rice with tomato, at least round these ’ere parts. Said leftover risotto is made into a ball, a piece of mozzarella is stuffed in the middle, then the whole lot is rolled in flour, then dipped in beaten egg, then rolled in breadcrumbs or pangrattato (toasted/dried crumbs). Then deepfried – long enough to melt the mozzarella so that when you eat it, it forms a string. Apparently this recalls the curly telephone cable of yore, before wireless handsets and mobile phones and all that newfangled stuff and the full name is suppli al telefono.

Me and Cameron learned to make them while working in the kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. They can be a bit fiddly, as it can be a bit messy making sticky balls and dipping them in egg. Frankly, I’ve no idea how one keeps one’s hands clean making them, despite how much I was shouted at by Academy chefs. At the Academy, we used an icecream scoop to make the balls, but even then you had to do all that dipping. There was a video (featuring Mr Bonci), but the link’s dead now. There, they made a point of wetting their hands first. They even made a pastella – a batter – to roll the balls in, combing egg, flour and water. Might try that next time, though even they’re getting messy. In this video (Italian, but subtitled in English), he just uses flour then egg, and does manage to keep the whole thing nice and tidy. Practice I guess.

Still, having said all that about messiness, our suppli were the best I’ve had. A delicious risotto, with plenty of garlic and a subtle chili heat, and some lovely breadcrumbs from my own bread, all fried until golden brown in hot sunflower oil and then eaten with Neos American pale ale (APA) from Turan brewery in Lazio (in Montefiascone, north of Viterbo to be exact). Yum. I’d bought the Neos for a ridiculous price at the slightly ridiculous middle-class food emporium that is Eataly and been waiting for a special occasion to crack it open. Cameron had recently revealed she’d OD’d on APAs, coming from their heartlands of California, but I’m still loving them, or at least the Italian take on APA. Over here, one connoisseur writing in English and certainly more knowledgeable than me is quite sniffy about a Neos he had, draft, at Baladin bar, calling it “kind of boring,” but the bottled one we had was delicious.

Fougass, Neos and suppli (unfried)

It’s a dark amber ale, with a medium head that dissipates fairly quickly (thankfully, given that I’m often rushing and pouring badly trying to get the right photo…). Me and Fran enjoy malty beers (indeed, she’s a stout and porter kinda girl generally), so the fact that this is a fairly malted beer with strong flavour of caramellised, or even slightly burnt, sugar is good. Any sweetness is balanced by a subtle hoppiness and a medium-light body, making it a decent ale to accompany food. Fried food. Deepfried, cheesy food. Perhaps the bottled version differs to the version the guy had at Baladin.

Talking of Baladin, and boring beers, we also had a few slightly disappointing beers at Open Baladin bar on Saturday. I’d been looking forward to some golden ale (with fond memories of things like Fuller’s Honey Dew – my gateway beer on the path to enjoying real beer) so was happy to see Baladin had a few listed in their menu. I tried Cortigiana (4.6%) from Birra del Borgo in Lazio, then Gold One (5.2%), from Baladin’s own brewery in Piedmonte and found both slightly weak and watery, more than like a lager or pils than a more full-bodied summer ale. They were fine, just a little underwhelming.

Baladin golden ales

Similarly underwhelming was FluviAle’s Golden Ale, at Porto Fluviale bar in Ostiense a few days previously. Though I don’t think I’ll be returning to Porto Fluvial for a while as the beer they served my friend Rachel, a Terminal, was terrible. It was very flat but worse it just tasted musty. When we complained the waitress said it was because it was hand-pumped. Hand-pumping might explain a lack of effevesence, sure, but not the mustiness. When my wife had another drink that also tasted musty, it put me off the place completely. Guys – there’s something mouldering in your system. Clean your pipes!

So yes, the best beer experience I’ve had the past week-ish, was definitely the one involving a  bottle of Neos and home-made suppli, served with a tasty tomato chutney.

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Casa Veccia’s Formenton and Dazio at Oasi della Birra, Testaccio, Rome

Formento

Haven’t been to Oasi della Birra in Testaccio for what seems like an age. It had become something of a regular haunt, but then something in the aperitivo buffet wasn’t quite right, then other life-things got busy, and well, months went by. But last night I found myself back there, enjoying the evening sun – after a faltering spring, the Roman summer has arrived – and wondering what had become of my chum Cameron. (Never did get those texts.)

On a previous visit, we’d tried a called Molo, a stout made with port from a confusingly named brewery that’s either called Casa Veccia or Ivan Borsato Casa Veccia or Casa Veccia Ivan Borsato Birraio. I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of Ivan Borsato before,  but I like your beers, Ivan, and I like their branding… even if the bottles neglect to actually include such salient information as what type of beer is contained therein.

So this time round, I asked one of the guys from the Oasi what Formenton was, clearly having forgotten what I wrote on my own blog in March. He said it was made with farro (I didn’t get into the issue of what specific farro). As I like my ancient wheat varieties, and it was a warm evening, that seemed like a good place to start. Like many wheat beers, it’s a beautiful bright golden yellow, especially when suffused with the Roman evening sun. I should probably mention the head, as Italian beer reviews always talk about the quality of the schiuma, but what can I say? It’s frothy. But not as frothy as the second beer (see below).

The taste is typically fruity. Cameron  and my wife Fran thankfully arrived before I got too sozzled drinking alone. They both talked about the banana notes (typical to weissbier), but I reckon it had a whole macedonia – that’s Italian for fruit salad – in there, with melon, grapefruit, orange zest, and apple flavours, and even a bit of ginger. At 5.5% it’s not exactly weak, but it’s refreshing and very drinkable, with negligible hoppiness.

Oh, and if you’re really serious about your wheat and white beers, and understand the difference, and can read Italian, there’s a spiel on the brewery’s site about how Formenton “was created from the union of two beers that marked the history of beer: weissbier [wheat beer] and blanchebier [white beer].” Now, I never really had a strong sense of the difference between these beers, as both exist under the wheat beer aegis. But according to the Borsato spiel, and a quick spin around online, the former are more German in origin, cleaner, simpler, with minimal hoppiness and, most of all, are defined by the proportion of wheat in place of some of the (malted) barley. The latter are more Belgian (and Dutch), and may have been made without hops – using herbs instead in something called a gruit. Modern gruit may involve herbs, but also citrus and hops. Both are top-fermented. And, frankly, in this era of innovative craft beers, the dividing line between them is blurred. Formenton, for example, made a point of it. That’s something that’s so good about Italian craft brewing; as the country doesn’t have laboriously rigid brewing heritage and tradition, it’s unafraid to mix things up. Yay. I imagine the two Matt Groening style cartoon chaps on the bottle saying an Italian “yay” at their success with Formenton.

Dazio with OTT head

The second Casa Veccia we tried, and is here featured in a terrible out of focus photo (crappy new phone), showing how I’d rushed to pour it and creating and ridiculous head, was the 6.2% ABV Dazio. The guy in Oasi said it was an ambrata (amber) ale but the Casa Veccia site specifies it’s an APA. As I was talking about yesterday, APA seem to be a very popular style in the Italian birra artigianale scene. And very nice they can be too. And again, unlike in other brewing traditions where beardy specialists might dogmatically insist there’s a distinction between an APA and an amber ale, in Italy it seems an APA can be ambrata.

Dazio was also delicious but very different. Arguably, it’s not as obvious a summer drink, with hints of toffee apple and such autumnal things , along with cinnamon and ginger, but it did the job very nicely thanks last night. Oh, and flavour-wise, Fran said “Turkish delight”, while the Casa Veccia site itself talks about this beer – “in an English style with American hops” – having Profumi terziari come pepe, cuoio, chiodi di garofano, liquirizia: “Tertiary aromas of black pepper, leather, cloves, liquorice.” I didn’t get all that myself, but fair enough. I like the idea of a leather-scented ale. The site also talks about its hoppiness and bitter flavour, but I felt it was pretty mild and mellow. The site also provides a nice bit of history about how the APA evolved from the IPA and the IPA evolved out necessity, with British soldiers in India craving beer, but the long voyage souring the milder ales of home. The solution was more hops, to better preserve the ale. Thanks Ivan and everyone in the Vetch House. Quite why the Dazio label features a cartoon astronaut I don’t know.

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Beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce

aerial photo

This post perhaps takes the blog on a slight tangent, but what the heck. It involves beer. And the project was an excuse to buy a selection of beers from a new shop on Viale Quattro Venti in Rome (number 265; it’s a branch of the small chain Gradi Plato). It’s one of a crop of shops that’s been springing up in the time we’ve lived in Rome that specialise in selling international and craft beers.

This guy had a global selection, so I asked him for something Italian, and light and golden, as I wanted to use it to make batter… and drink. We discussed various things, and although he didn’t really seem to understand the term “golden ale” (though I have seen it on other beer menus here), we bought a pils (that is a Pilsner lager), an APA and a wheat beer.

lineup9 md

Now if only I could remember the name and address of the shop. I can’t. But it’s here on streetview, the righthand closed shutter.

Anyway. As strangers in a strange land, we occasionally crave the foods of home. In this case, we’re Brits, and I’ve been craving fish and chips. You could say that the Roman filetto di baccalà when served with patatine fritte is basically the same thing, but… well, no. Just no. Filetto di baccalà is made with salt cod, and while it is battered, it can be made too far in advance meaning the batter can be flaccid, the fish mushy. Plus, I just need my condiments and sauces. It always bemuses us that while Romans have such a passion for deep-fried goodies – fritti – they tend to eat them dry and unaccompanied. A plate of fritti like suppli (rice balls with mozz in the centre, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried), fiori di zucca (zucchini/courgette flowers stuffed with mozz and anchovy, deep-fried in batter), and various fried animal bits like animelle (sweetbreads) really ought to be eaten with a nice tangy sauce, something involving tomatoes and peppers, like a tangy chili jam. Even ketchup would be nice. But no.

This craving for fish and chips means I’ve been experimenting with making it at home. I’d only tried this a few times when we lived in the UK as, frankly, why bother in a land of chippies and gastropubs selling fish and chips?

I read around for good recipes and then broadly went with Felicity Cloake’s advice from her “How to cook the perfect…” column in the Guardian. Though her recipe makes too much batter for my needs. And I forgot to chill the flour. Apparently having all the ingredients as cold as possible makes for a lighter batter, but mine sufficed just with cold beer. Of the three beers I bought, I used the pils, reasoning that it was more effervescent, and would help keep the batter light. Plus, I don’t actually much like pils to drink so was more keen on drinking the other two.

I used a Madonna Pils from Free Lions in Tuscania, near Viterbo, Lazio, a brewery founded by Andreas Fralleoni after a career in the banking industry. Leaving behind the evils of banking to make craft beers? Well done that man. (They only have a holding page online at the moment, but it features their funny little logo.) So while I found this pils a bit acrid and hoppy to drink, it made an excellent batter ingredient.

whisking batter

Beer batter recipe

This makes enough for about 4 medium sized fillets.

200g plain / all-purpose / 0 or 00 flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
280g cold beer – preferably something light with a good sparkle

1 Preheat the cooking oil. I used sunflower oil. The fat you fry in is a whole other argument. A true fish and chip aficionado would say it has to be beef fat/dripping, but, well, sod that. Sunflower oil is fine and doesn’t conflict with the flavour of fish.
2 Sieve together the flour and baking powder and add the salt.
3 Whisk in the beer to achieve a thick, creamy consistency.
4 Batter the fish and deep-fry straight away.

deepfrying

The last time we experimented with this, Fran was in charge of buying the fish. As the names of the fish on our local market stall remain such a challenge (she clearly didn’t refer to my handy list of fish names in Italian, English and Latin), when she explained what she wanted the fillets for they persuaded her to buy palombo. Which was unfortunate as this may well be small, potentially endangered species of hound shark.

This time round, I was in charge. Buying “sustainable” fish is always a tricky proposition, and frankly something that’s subject to a lot of greenwash and disinformation. My loose rule of thumb is to avoid tuna species, avoid monkfish species, avoid cod, and generally stick with things like anchovies and mackerel, ideally caught by small, local fishing boats.

In this case, I ended up buying some fish the vendors referred to as “local”: musdea, aka mostella, which I believe is a type of forkbeard, a relative of cod, Phycis  phycis or Phycis blennioides. Although neither are on the IUCN red list (they’ve not be assessed yet), the latter species is listed as one to avoid on the UK’s Marine Conservation Society site. Hopefully it’s not been so overfished in the Med, but I know that’s a vain hope. The only consolation is that we don’t do this too often. Sustainability is of course about making the right choices, but for a society like ours, predicated on over-consumption, realistically it’s also about doing the wrong things less frequently.

Anyway. After I’d fought the fillets to remove the bones, this forkbeard fried up really well. I don’t have an oil thermometer (though I would like one of those fancy IR guns, available from a corporate tax-dodger not very near you), so I just played it by ear. I did three batches, with the second two pretty much perfect. Apparently you want 185C or thereabouts for deep-frying fish in batter.

Fish & chips and ale

It went down very well with the other beers I’d purchased: La 68 from Math brewery in Florence, Tuscany, and Runner Ale from Pontino brewery, which seems to be part of All Grain SRL in Latina, southern Lazio.

Math don’t have a proper site up yet, and I don’t know anything about them, but I love their style already. The design is cool and La 68’s label includes a funny little fellow with a speech bubble with this beguiling epigram: Il disordine é l’ordine meno il potere, “Disorder is order without the power/means/ability” The beer itself was a fresh summer beverage: a 5% wheat beer whose ingredients also include spezie, “spices”. I’m not sure which, but it had a nice limey flavour and subtle hoppiness.

La 68

Like La 68, Runner Ale isn’t in my Italian craft beers guide, but it’s similarly very drinkable: notably because, unlike many of the Italian craft beers I encounter, it’s not overly strong, at only 4.5% ABV. It’s an (Italian) American Pale Ale. APA style beers seem very popular in the Italian microbrewery scene and, despite me being British, it’s a style I’m really enjoying at the moment. Italian APAs are often light yet full-bodied, tasty without being aggressively bitter or hoppy. And as with the La 68, the Runner Ale’s bottle also comes with a quirky quote, in this case Come tuo avvocato ti consiglio di andare a tavoletta. It’s attributed to Dr Gonzo, Hunter S Thompson’s creation, and I think it means “As your lawyer, I advise you to go to the bar.”

runner ale

Sides and condiments

As you can see, I went the whole hog here and did chips, tartar sauce and mushy peas. I’ll admit the chips were not proper chips. As I don’t have a proper deep-fat fryer or even a pan with a frying basket, I couldn’t be bothered. I’d read up Cloake and discussed proper chips with friends (the knowledgeable Oli Monday saying they were best when “oil-blanched”, frozen, then deep-fried a second time) for my last experiment, but this time I just cut chip shapes and roasted them, without any pre-cooking, with plenty of sunflower oil and salt. They tasted good even if they weren’t proper chips.

nice spread

As for the tartar sauce. I just had to. As I said above, fried food needs condiments. One of things that drives me made about British pubs is getting tartar sauce in those tiny sachets. I need about 10 per meal. So here I made a decent bowlful for the three of us.

Tartar sauce ingredients
1 egg yolk
1 cup / 240g oil (half-half sunflower oil and extra virgin olive oil)
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
A good handful of cornichons or gherkins, roughly chopped
A good handful of capers, rinsed, soaked, drained, squeezed out and roughly chopped
A good handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Some water, lemon juice and salt and pepper

1 Put the yolk in a bowl and whisk it a little with the Dijon.
2 Start adding the oil, whisking constantly, starting with just a few drops.
3 When the oil and yolk starts to emulsify, you can pour in the oil, whisking continuously.
4 When the mayo starts to thicken, thin it down with lemon juice and water, to taste.
5 Add the cornichons, capers, parsley and taste – your capers could be quite salty still, so you might not need to add more salt.
6 Add more lemon juice to taste.

And last but not least: mushy peas

Years ago, there was a great ad campaign in Britain that called some industrial brand of mushy peas “Yorkshire caviar”. Funny, if not entirely true. The industrial stuff, made with dried marrowfat peas (that is, big old starchy peas, Pisum sativum) rehydrated and dyed green, can be pretty nasty. Homemade mushy peas, however, are delicious.

To serve 3-4

1 About four good handfuls of peas. I used half-half frozen and freshly podded. (It’s the end of peas season here; if it’s not pea season, just use frozen peas.)
(Yes yes, I’m not being very accurate here but I didn’t bother to weigh any of these things. Say about 350-400g)
2 Place the peas in a pan with a good knob of butter, say 30g.
3 Add a handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped.
4 Add enough water to cover then bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the peas are tender.
5 Drain (keeping the cooking water) then puree with a zizzer (er, hand-blender), food processor, or just mash with a work to the desired consistency, adding more of the cooking water as necessary.
6 Add a bit more butter if you fancy it and season to taste with salt. You could add black pepper, but frankly with something so lovely and pea-y and minty, I don’t think it’s needed.

Serve it all together, warm and lovely. With good quality craft beers – chosen according to your taste and the season, naturally.

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