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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week:" Le Baladin Nora

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 24, 2010 8:00PM


We stopped by Drinks Over Dearborn Sunday to walk the talk and sign up for the "500 Benjamins or Bust" campaign. Owner Kyle McHugh was out of town on business but we were informed that DoD was a little over halfway toward their goal in the four days since the campaign received press. While there, we had to browse the shelves and found that sweet brew pictured.

Now, when it comes to Italian beers the brands that come to mind are Peroni and Moretti, two beers that Guidos on the South and Northwest sides avoid in favor of the major brands that dominate the market. And with good reason - Peroni and Moretti aren't that good. Italy does have its share of solid craft brewhouses. It's nice to add Birra Baladin to the list. Baladin owner Teo Musso is one of those perpetual adolescents with a curiosity that the best brewers always seem to possess; British beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones calls Musso "the Jim Morrison of Beer," which we consider an insult... to Musso.

At Le Baladin Musso serves as a brewer, archaeologist, beer historian and alchemist. One brew, Xyauyu, is a high gravity black ale that sits exposed to the open air for 18 months and allowed to oxidize, resulting in a still beer with a 13.5 percent ABV content. DoD had in stock La Baladin Nora, a spiced Egyptian-style ale Musso named after his wife, a Frenchwoman with North African roots. The Egyptians were some of the first brewers who employed hops in tiny amounts solely for their preservative qualities. Nora is brewed using unmalted kamut grain in the mash. Kamut is a very versatile grain (you can brush up on its nutritional properties in one of Megan's early trial posts) that imparts a sweet, nutty flavor. In lieu of hops, Nora is spiced with ginger, myrrh, and orange peel, all common spicing agents of the ancient brewers. Opening this beer we were confronted with a quick burst of floral aromas on the nose and a fast forming head whose cap quickly dissipated. the orange peel come to the fore upon pouring. Flavors on the palate included the effervescent spice of ginger, more orange, and surprising hints of balsamic. Nora finishes with a subtle dryness.

This is a beer that would work well with dishes such as any "Asian" cuisine, or ambitious organ meat preparations. That'll be a good segue as any, since the Bristol currently lists Nora on its beer menu for $29. Drinks Over Dearborn retails Nora for $17.99.