Italian Grape Ale (with cooked must)
A style name clearly designed to underline the geographical location which where the type originated from, but which in no way precludes the beer’s production protocol from being used outside its place of origin. IGA can be made everywhere in the world using home-grown grapes but the name identifies this type of beer as an Italian invention.
Characteristics (visual, scent, flavour): The ‘specifications’ of IGA feature a very vast network of production requirements. Essentially it is a matter of adding (in the measure of maximum 40%) a grape must to the cereals or unadulterated grapes. This can take place during various phases: boiling, fermentation – with yeasts of various origins including from winemaking – or the various ageing phases. There is plenty of room for manoeuvre and this explains the great variety of types available. In this context, let's focus on the cooked must versions which feature greater power, body and sugars. In these, the colour ranges from intense gold to intense brown and even ebony with highlights and foam (of varying proportions, weaves, densities and persistence) in variable colours depending on the colour of the beer itself. The variety of aromas is wide, with those deriving from hops trailing behind the malt and grape must related types, although all three generate reciprocal effects when combined, conjuring up baked cakes, candied fruit (pear, banana, citrus) and dried fruit (date, apricot, fig, prune and raisins). Furthermore, a powerful alcoholic base conjures up liquor type hints echoing those of port and sherry. These aromas are present in the flavour, too, and generate a solid, robust tasting profile. Medium-strong body, lively carbonation, extremely rounded thanks also to the amalgamating and silky effect generated by the alcoholic warmth of some of these beers. The residual sugars are tangible, producing an overall softness tending to sweetness balanced by a mild acidity and delicately bitter finish. The finish is lean but maintains an element of sweetness and is generally very long lasting.
- Storage: as a fermentation style which generally does not use low but high fermentation yeasts (sometimes in synergy with its wine origins) it does not need to be kept stored under refrigeration. It is, however, important that temperatures are kept at 18-20°C° as beyond this threshold refermentation in the bottle can occur, with undesirable sensory effects.
- Serving temperature: From 10 to 16°C, in a wide glass such as a goblet or at least a tulip: standard, flared or ( in the case of beers with a less marked range of aromas) even slender. Initially the glass must be tilted 45° and then straightened up to favour the formation of a good head of foam. We recommend checking the bottom of the bottle carefully: versions that are not fully filtered may contain greater quantities of lees, given the presence of yeasts.
- Alcohol by volume: 4.8-10% Vol.
The full body and powerful taste of this style (in the version mentioned here) is well suited to pairings with Grana Padano PDO Riserva aged over 20 months. Specifically the alcohol content (the higher this is, the more this is the case), acidity and carbonation of the ale act in synergy on the cheese’s fatty component and its softness works to balance its savouriness. Its concentrated aromas, from dehydration, are the finishing touch (almost a garnish) to the cheese's aromatic qualities. An intensely harmonious pairing.
Curious factsThe huge variety of solutions to which it lends itself (in both ingredients and process) make this an extremely elastic type of ale. It has generated such diverse outcomes that, some observers, who point to geographical origin as the source of these differences, have suggested changing its name to Grape Ale. So far all attempts to do this have been unsuccessful, based on common sense. Whatever the raw materials used, the beer’s name must reflect the cultural environment in which this original and innovative wine-beer crossover took shape. And the terrain in question is Italy.