TWO: ANNIVERSARY ALE OF THE BREWERY HOP SKIN


This article is also available in: Italian

Name: Two
Brewery: Hop Skin (Curno, BG)
Alcohol content: 7.0%
Size: 33 cl
Batch: 032/15

THE BEER

Paolo Algeri and Gioia Ravasia founded Hop Skin in 2013 and opened the microbrewery with the adjoining brewpub in Curno, in the province of Bergamo. The anniversary ale called Two was created to celebrate the company’s second birthday. It is an imperial oatmeal stout with barley malt, oat malt, Bourbon vanilla and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee provided by L’ArtCaffè Torrefazione from Bergamo. This beer is part of the classic English brewing tradition. At the end of the eighteen century there were flourishing trades of Burton ales (a type of dark, sweet and strong beer produced specifically for the foreign market by the brewers of Burton upon Trent) and alcoholic Porter (stout porter), which departed respectively from Hull and London and were exported to Riga, Gdansk and St. Petersburg. Here, it seems they were really appreciated by the nobles and the imperial court.
The situation drastically changed on March 31, 1822, when the tsarist government introduced a protectionist tax that closed the Russian market to all British goods, including alcohol, except for the porter which were not included among the products subject to an increase in the excise tax. The edict put an end to the trade of Burton ales, but the porter and the most alcoholic stout porter were still allowed and even required by the St. Petersburg court. The brewers of Burton devoted themselves to other styles and looked for new markets, while their London colleagues flooded the northern markets with their porter.
According to Martyn Cornell and Ronald Pattinson, the name imperial stout does not have any direct connection with the beer trades in Russia. It seems that it appeared only in the twenties of the nineteenth century in a few advertisements (first as an imperial porter and/or imperial brown porter). In 1830, after the Beerhouse Act, which deregulated the production of beer in England, the category imperial stout appeared for the first time in the lists of the largest manufacturers of porter to indicate their most powerful and alcoholic beer. So, the adjective “imperial” initially had no geographical link with Russia, but indicated the most alcoholic/strongest beer in the list (“biggest we do”), while the adjective “Russian” was hardly ever used by English contemporaries throughout the nineteenth century. Only in 1921/22 Barclay Perkins began selling one of his stout as a Russian stout, regardless of the fact that it was not produced for the Soviet market. The imperial stout style was almost abandoned in the homeland even at the time of World War I, but some Baltic producers, such as A. Le Coq Tartu, Estonia, maintained the tradition. It revived thanks to a contract between the importer Merchant du Vin (Seattle) and the brewery Samuel Smith (UK) in the early eighties of the last century, which gave way to the revival of this style in the American and British craft breweries. Imperial stout is one of the few types of beer that is aged in the bottle for a few years and is now produced around the world with many variations on the theme.

THE TASTING

The beer is black, with a small amount of hazel brown foam, well-formed and compact, of fine texture yet medium-low persistence. The aroma is intense and definitely features coffee and vanilla flavours, notes of milk chocolate and a malty base of caramel and biscuit in the background. Besides the roasted flavours, fruity aromas of medium-high intensity stand out: dried fruit (raisins, cherries and plums) and nuts (a component which is partially attributable to oat). A light neutral alcoholic touch is perceptible too. The opening is sweet and soft, but immediately a bitter taste emerges and remains in the finish. The persistence of the aftertaste is long and complex: empyreumatic hints, coffee, liquorice, cocoa bean and vanilla, with clear but never acres toasted flavours. Then, nuts and dried fruit again, milk chocolate and a spicy/peppery note barely perceptible, with biscuit and toffee in the background. Alcohol gives a very pleasant warming sensation and, together with a medium carbonation and the bitterness given by the hops and roasted malts, helps lighten the drink. The body is medium-high and oat contributes to a silky and soft feeling in the mouth. Two is a tasty beer, with a strong but gentle character, for lovers of intense roasted aromas, “coffee sensations” and sweet scents, featuring a great mix between its various components.

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