According to CIBA, a competition organised by beer tasting society Associazione Degustatori Birra, the best Italian beer of 2014 is a barley wine.

For the second time in a row, birrificio Retorto was the one to bag the prestigious award: the brewery won last year’s contest with its Belgian strong ale Black Lullaby, while during this 2014 edition the master beer makers were crowned winners thanks to the remarkable Malalingua.

The winning beer is similar to a British barley wine, as its unusual brewing process, which reminds of wine-making, sometimes causes the beverage to hit the 12 degree mark. It’s one of the only aging beers around, and most times it’s also ready-to-drink.

Beer expert Michael Jackson has declared that the first time barley wine was ever mentioned it was in 1903, in reference to a not-so-popular brewing process unlikely to be considered for mass production, which shares many similarities with other British brewing techniques such as the ones employed to produce pale ale andbitterAll three processes feature a similar base recipe involving mainly pale malt – from which it is possible to obtain a high amount of extract –  but in the case of barley wine, yeast is added many times throughout the brewing process, sometimes during the ‘dry hopping’ stage together with a variegated mix of hops .

The Retorto brewery has made this peculiar British tradition his own, through an exceptional beer destined to change if left to age in a bottle. Even the packaging does its bit to make it the ultimate collectable item: a product that certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the cellar next to some elegant bottles of fine wine.

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