Bottled Up: Thornbridge Italia

I rarely drink just one pint of lager. A bottle straight from the fridge after mowing the summer lawns is followed by another straight after. A half-time pint sinks quickly; a second can then be sneaked in. Club lunches, punctuated by burgers and big-screen sports, have several pints of Samlesbury's finest as their narrative.

So I don't just look for drinkability in a lager. I look - nay, demand - sessionability. It still has to be something crisp, something refreshing, something just the right side of not-too-gassy. But is has to be something I can carry on supping.

When I heard that Thornbridge were brewing a lager, I was intrigued and concerned in equal measure. Intrigued because Maurizio Folli of Birrificio Italiano was collaborating and the beer would be a variant of their Extra Hop Pilsner. Concerned because the Thornbridgers may give into temptation and pack the pils too full of hops.

The result? Uncertainty. Emerging from its long lagering period, Thornbridge Italia is a conundrum in a bottle. Looks great; pale lemon with a pillowy billowing head. Then that aroma - herb garden. Bouquet garni. Almost overpowering. Which carries through into the flavour - some soft lemony biscuit that's crushed underfoot by herbal size-nines.

Let's be clear here. Italia is a well-crafted, flavoursome beer. I'd happily enjoy a pint and then move on. But I don't think I could manage another, nevermind a session.

Should a lager have too much obvious, up-front flavour? Am I about to declare that, in a pils, I'm actually looking for 'less is more'?

There's my uncertainty. I think I may need to chew over that one. Perhaps I need to find Italia on draught and see how a session develops...

Thanks to Thornbridge for the bottle.


  1. I've only had one and certainly remember wishing I had severel more to go at.

  2. I nearly bought a bottle of this in the Bottle Stop off-licence in Bramhall this lunchtime. But at £2.89 - no way, when there's excellent German stuff for £2.20.

  3. Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  4. Well, this time round I did fork out £2.89 for a bottle, and very good it is too. It's not aggressively hoppy, but I agree it does have a pronounced upfront flavour that could be a deterrent to necking several. It also has a full, malty finish that is unusual for lagers. However, if you're just having the one, it would be hard to beat.

    A bottle of this should be presented to any remaining CAMRA neanderthals who insist that "lager is crap".