Brewery: Birra Flea (Italy)
Style: Red Ale – Imperial/Double
6.9% ABV / N/A IBU
In a Venn diagram representing the target audience for a red ale, once circle would be “people at a Flogging Molly concert” and the other would be “people in Boston Red Sox gear,” and both those circles would be directly overlapping each other. So, like, no thanks. Given the prevalence of the red ale style, it’s curious that more brewers aren’t experimenting with imperial reds. In this case, it is possible to take something that’s kinda lousy, double-down and actually make something out of it. How many opportunities do you really have to sample an imperial red?
The exemplar of the imperial red ale is probably Nugget Nectar by Troegs – that’s a good first pass at a very reasonable price. Founders also has an imperial red on shelves right now called Dankwood, but it’s barrel-aged within an inch of its original formulation as a red, and its ABV is alarmingly high. An imperial/double red ale should be mid-range ABV, enough to get you pleasantly buzzed but not sloppy. Birra Flea’s Bastola clocks in at 6.9% and is a very nice counterpoint to Nugget Nectar.
Bastola pours a really hazy, opaque amber – the bottle is awkwardly shaped, you’ll likely want to pour it into a wide-mouthed glass. It’s lightly hopped, slightly malty, slightly fruity and slightly floral. None of these flavors dominates, which makes something like this the perfect accompaniment to Indian or Pan-Asian food. The one thing that’s a little hard to get over is the lack of carbonation, which makes it resemble a pub ale or something on cask. Also, red ales of any stripe, like revenge, are things that are best served cold, so there’s no point in letting this one sit.