Sorrento lemons are, perhaps, the world’s greatest lemons. Only lemons grown in the Italian town of Sorrento are allowed to be given the name and they’re the traditional flavouring for the world’s greatest lemony booze: limoncello.*
But now there’s a new Sorrento lemon kid on the boozy block. The Cornish brewing aces at St Austell Brewery have prized some Sorrento lemons from under the nasi of the Italians and chucked them into a steaming wort of beer. So we had to get hold of some. We’ve already reviewed St Austell’s ‘Proper Job‘, one of my favourite English IPAs, and their good taste has been proved further by their recent acquisition of one of our local breweries, the excellent Bath Ales.**
I’ve had a few lemon infused beers before and they’ve largely been unimpressive. Citrus fruits work well in beer but they need to be handled with care: their acidity can easily dominate and upset the beer’s balance. An intriguing first lemony swig can soon become overwhelming, making the beer hard to finish and wrecking the palette for subsequent beers. I was hoping for better from St Austell. They didn’t let me down.
The beer pours with a deep golden honey colour and has a proper whiff of beer to it: malty and yeasty in equally good measure with a welcoming hint of fruity hop. The initial clean taste is soon engulfed by a refreshing bitter bite. Strong hops with an extra tang. With every other mouthful I detected some of that lemon essence, but it wasn’t obvious. Carrying on through the glass and, as some of the other strong flavours began to recede, a definite lemony bitterness lacquered the mouth. By the end of the bottle it was quite obvious a fair amount of lemon had passed my lips.
This is exactly the kind of beer I like: a fully flavoured ale which has artfully used another ingredient to shift it into new territory and, for the first time with a lemon beer, left me wanting more.
Brewery: St Austell Brewery, Cornwall
Beer name: Italian Job
Hops used: Mount Hood, Waimea, Dr Rudi, Pacific Jade
We were invited to sample this on draft at a St Austell party. Unfortunately we were unable to attend so drank the bottled version instead. We have it on good authority that the draft Italian Job is EVEN BETTER.
*We’ve got a recipe for limoncello in our book, Brew it Yourself. We don’t mind what lemons you use…
**We’ll give one of theirs a Beer of the Week soon – we’ve drank enough of them
Just a few days after writing this I sampled some Italian Job in draught form at Frocester Beer Festival. Si, è meglio!
(Apologies to any Italian speaking readers if google translate has made a balls up of that one…)