The head foamed slightly fuchsia as Davio’s assistant general manager and wine director John Minks poured the LoverBeer BeerBera into a deep Bordeaux wine glass.
"It’s an interesting color, that purplish hue," he said, referring to the foam and also to the beer itself, a translucent, deep ruby color.
A wild ale, BeerBera is spontaneously fermented in wooden barrels and contains no added yeast. It gets its name from the the Italian grapes it is made with: Barbera. On the nose, these qualities come to the forefront: A tart, fruit smell is rounded out by oaky notes, much like a good red wine. Going down, the bright flavor doesn’t require a pucker, but BeerBera is definitely sour. The grapes and other fruity flavors are palpable, though it is crisp and dry, not sweet.
"The clarity [of a Barbera wine] is like this," Minks added.
BeerBera is one of a handful of Italian microbrews Davio’s locations throughout Massachusetts added to drink menus this month. The fine dining spot, headquartered in downtown Boston, has hundreds of wines available, but Minks said the restaurant had a niche to fill with craft beer.
The beers fill a hole in Minks' bar program with an Italian twist Davio's customers appreciate.
"We knew we wanted to tap the microbrew section. Our [beer] list is kinda mainstream," he said — Sam Adams, Harpoon. "We don’t necessarily have things that people don’t know about." So, Minks asked his Craft Brewers’ Guild Boston contact for a suggestion. The rep came back with "a tableful" of Italian microbrews for Minks to try. He loved it: The beers fill a hole in Minks’ bar program with an Italian twist Davio’s customers appreciate, and they also set the restaurant group apart from other Boston-area eateries.
The resulting bottle list includes four of those first samples and is poised to grow if Davio’s guests respond positively. Minks thinks they will. Italian brewers are "deep-rooted in tradition," like their winemaking compatriots. "Any one of these would be good sipping, or would pair well with a number of things on our menu. You know what this would go great with?" he asked, after taking a sip of the tart BeerBera. "Our pork chop. It comes with an onion chutney on top, almost like a sweet and sour. ...It would take a little of the sourness out [of the beer]."
The BeerBera joins two offerings from the brewery Baladin, Nora and Super Baladin, and an oyster stout from Birra Del Borgo called Perle ai Porci. The latter is Minks’ favorite. "I’m a big stout drinker, and I like this. When you drink a Guinness, the viscosity is such that it kind of coats your mouth. This drinks easier. It’s a clean finish," he said.
There is an immediate brininess in its taste, but it is not salty or fishy at all.
The stout pours dark with a creamy mocha head, and it smells roasty and toasty. There is an immediate brininess in its taste, but it is not salty or fishy at all. Minks noted that if a guest didn’t know it was called an oyster stout, she would probably not guess that 15 kilos of Fin de Clair oysters in their shells were added per 500 liters of wort. The briny flavor lingers and mingles with roasted, chocolate malts and subtle pine. It would pair well with Davio’s crispy chicken livers with port balsamic glaze, Minks said. "It’s a little on the sweeter side; there are raisins and pine nuts [in the sauce]. With the sourness of the liver, I think it would play nicely with this toasty flavor."
Baladin Nora, an ale brewed with spices, has been the most popular among customers in the first few weeks of Davio's Italian microbrew program, Minks said. A warm, orange-amber color, Nora’s bright ginger and citrus flavors match.
"It’s easily approachable," Minks said. "It would be nice with seafood. The tuna tartare: The soy would go well with the ginger and citrus. The clams pasta: That’s my favorite. It would be nice with this, too. There’s a spiciness in the pasta that I think would go well with this sweetness."
Super Baladin, the brewery’s other offering available at Davio’s, would also pair well with seafood, to Minks’ palate. Super Baladin is an earthy, sweet Belgian pale ale. The sharp, almost hoppy flavor would stand up to the saltiness of salmon, and it would mellow out with the buttery pan-seared scallops, Minks said.
While Minks is a wine specialist, he said he's not discriminatory when it comes to booze and enjoys a good beer. He also sees Davio's beer sales increase as the temperatures outside rise, so he's excited to see where the microbrew program goes this summer. Minks brought in four approachable styles because "you really have to start somewhere."