Review by Mark Chipperfield at Beer Airways
I once considered the French the most enigmatic, creative and poetic European race, but now believe that mantle should be transferred to the people of Italy. A few days ago a sample of LABI beers arrived on my doorstep and I have been completely mesmerized ever since – by the flamboyance the beers themselves and their mysterious origins. All I can tell you is that these distinctively robust and idiosyncratic beers – the range includes a fragrant lager (la Bionda), a Christmassy Belgian ale (la Rossa), an aromatic India Pale Ale (la Ambrata), a complex wheat beer (la Bianca) and a super sexy Imperial Stout (la Nera) – come from a little brewery in the Veneto region of northern of Italy. The company was apparently launched by three friends – Paolo, Stefano and (head brewer) Fabio – who wanted to create some distinctively Italian craft beers that could accompany some of their favourite regional dishes. The company website, although packed with romantic phrases about art, passion and destiny, is remarkably short on detail.
I’m still not sure when the brewery was launched or even what the name LABI stands for, but I can tell you that these excellent handcrafted beers are now available in Australia thanks to importer Torino Food Service. Its account manager Martin Nickson tells me that several Sydney restaurants including Pendolino, Lot. 1, Kipling’s Garage Bar (Turramurra) and La Fiamma Pizzeria (Ettalong Beach) are now serving these beautifully handcrafted beers. They are also being sold at a few independent retailers such as Amatos Liquor Mart in Leichhardt and Tom’s Cellars (West Pymble and North Turramurra). Prices for the handsome 750ml bottlers range from $16 to $18, but no one who tastes these beers will quibble about their cost.
I’d rather a single bottle of LABI than an entire case of Peroni. The sheer audacity of these beers is impressive. I’d venture to say that la Bionda has rewritten the textbook on lagers – a true Italian stallion, but complex, multi-layered and herbaceous. But in truth, it’s hard to find fault with any of these beers, although with Christmas on the horizon I’d suggest a couple of bottles of la Nera for the family dinner table. Wickedly rich, with hints of liquorice and coffee, this black beauty is the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas pud or mince pies. Italian craft beers have truly arrived – and in style.