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Peroni V Menabrea

Peroni has developed a huge name for itself worldwide with its Nastro Azzuro lager, launched back in 1963 being instantly recognisable in a wide range of pubs, clubs and more.
With a brand so recognisable, its easy to forget that other premium beers exist and are able to offer a similarly enjoyable beverage, if not better.

With that in mind, I’m going to compare Peroni’s Nastro Azzuro with another premium Italian lager in the form of Menabrea.

Peroni started from humble beginnings back in 1846 in the small town of Vigevano. The area was located close to mountains and offered the perfect conditions for brewing lager with its fresh glacial water and ice cold temperatures.
The company later moved to Rome in 1864 where into the 19th century, things really started to pick up.
Nastro Azzuro was launched in 1963 as their premium brand and as described as :-

Brewed from the finest spring planted barley malts, has a unique balanced taste with a delicate aroma arising from the hops of the most exclusive varieties. Young, balanced and sparkling, Nastro Azzurro is the beer for the knowledgeable and demanding consumer.

Coincidentally, Menabrea also kicked things off in 1846 in the town of Biella near the Italian Alps. The idea was to use a nearby underground cave system with its clean, pure water and its cold fresh air to allow the traditional process of lagering to take place.

Menabrea has always been one of their staples since inception and has won a number gold awards dating back to 1925 which include a World Beer Award.
Its described as being a better quality of beer than its competition and isn’t marketed as heavily as Peroni. The following notes are offered about their beer :-

Menabrea is matured gently in the perfect temperature of our cave cellars for a taste of superior clarity. This 4.8% ABV pale lager is well balanced between citrus, bitter tones and floral, fruity undertones giving a consistent and refined flavour. It has a complicated malty, hoppy taste with an exceptional head retention due to the quality of our ingredients and maturation process.

Onto the Beer Tasting

Rather than simply pouring and sampling, I thought it might be a good idea to arrange a blind taste test of both and see if it was possible to differentiate between the two lagers.
With a little help from my wife, we proceeded to set things up.

We ensured that both beers would be treated to the same conditions to ensure a fair tasting. This meant cooling both to the same temperature, using the same glasses for pouring in both cases and finally, wrapping my eyes in some black silken cloth.

Within seconds of trying both beers, I surprised myself and my wife by instantly matching the glass against the bottle. It was only after restoring my vision I was able to see just how similar the beers looked in terms of colour and style.

Peroni Nastro azzura – 5.1% ABV

On pouring, Peroni formed the quite the head at the top of the glass which also held itself well. The beer itself was a golden\light straw colour and showed very little in the way of bubbles within the glass.
Ingredients in Peroni include Water, barley and brewers maize. The hops are somewhat of a mystery but there is word online that suggest it could be a mixture of Hallertauer and Saaz. With others saying that it could be just Saaz.
Peroni is light and crisp offering very subtle flavours through its hop aromatics and pale malts. It doesn’t fit in the with the strength of other sessionable beers but goes down with absolute ease!

Menabrea – 4.7% ABV

Menabrea on the other hand formed a smaller head which very quickly dissipated leaving a warmer golden coloured beer in its wake. Although the head wasn’t as prominent as Peroni, Meabrea had a more carbonated look and feel to it.
C&C group are really open to providing details on the ingredients which include water, barley, yeast, brewers maize and Hallertauer hops.
The Hallertauer hops offer slightly spiced aromas and help in the bittering. The hops are balanced well with the light yet sweet caramel of the grains to give a well balanced, smooth and a damn refreshing lager.

Its worth noting that neither beers are unpleasant. Both offer the typical elements that people have come to love about a lager.
They were both light, crisp and refreshing and could be substituted for each other quite easily.
Despite the similarities, there were particularly subtle differences that edged Menabrea into the lead for me.

Menabrea has a fuller and more balanced flavour which does really well to linger around for longer than the Peroni. This allows for a touch more enjoyment from the beer and bang for your buck.
I enjoyed both of the beers in bottle form. Menabrea came in the traditional brown bottle form whilst Peroni comes in its choice of a green bottle. One of the issues with green bottles is its inability to stop light from affecting the bitter qualities of the beer and as a result causing something called ‘Skunking’.
It was this aroma that made it easy to differentiate between the two back in the beer tasting and what would lean me towards Menabrea if both were available together.

Let me know your thoughts be tweeting #biertaster

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