Here are tasting notes on some of my favorite Italian beers tasted recently in the Philadelphia area. Prices are retail, unless otherwise noted.
Bruton Bianca, 750 ml, $19 at Pizzeria Stella (Second and Lombard) — similar to a Belgian wit, but creamier in texture due to the use of Tuscan spelt, with finely woven coriander, orange peel, and white pepper.
Bruton 10, 750 ml, $28 at a.Kitchen (135 S. 18th St.) — a big barley wine with 10 percent alcohol, but stunning lack of burn, rich with licorice, tobacco, and caramel. A cigar beer.
Del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout, 11.2 ounces, $12 at Birra (1700 E Passyunk Ave.) — rich and chocolaty, but with a sparkle of Calabrian chiles to keep it drinkable. A surprisingly perfect pairing with the dark-sweet earthy spice of New Mexican carne adobada.
Del Ducato Nuova Mattina, 11.2 ounces, $18 at Alla Spina (1410 Mount Vernon St.) — a pretty saison-style that sparkles with a spring field's worth of herbs, from chamomile to lemon balm and ginger, without any one being overwhelming.
Baladin Isaac, 8.4 ounces, $9.75 at the Foodery (837 N. Second St.) — light in color, even by wheat-beer standards, but swirling with finely woven spices and a refreshing lemony tartness that tastes like a shandy, with lingering sweetness of pineapple upside-down cake.
Baladin Wayan, 750 ml., $38 at Osteria (640 N. Broad St.) — saison-style ale as exotic as they come, with an almost patchouli-like nose tinged with grains of paradise and lavender. Despite the light color, there's a richness to the mouthfeel, brightened with a tangerine-like citrus burst that dries out completely. Molto complex.
Baladin Xyauyu 2005, 25 ounces, $55 (the Foodery, 10th and Pine), 2004 vintage $15 by the two-ounce pour at Alla Spina, 2006 vintage "gold" $14 by the three-ounce pour at the Farmer's Cabinet (1113 Walnut St.) — almost more Madeira-like in character than beer, Teo Musso deliberately oxidizes this heavy-duty barley wine (15% alcohol.) Perfect for after-dinner dessert sipping, there's nuttiness, chocolate, sweet malt, and lingering acidity here. Try with Alla Spina's zuppa inglese.
Piccolo Birrificio Seson, $12 on draft at Alla Spina; smaller-format Sesonette, $9.50 11.2 ounces (Local 44 Bottleshop, 4333 Spruce St.) — a saison from Liguria with a distinctly Italian angle, with the bitterness of chinotto peel, a common flavor in bitter cordials (think Campari or Cynar) that adds an almost vermouthy dark tang to this food-friendly brew.