by James Beeson
More than we would care to admit, beer geeks are suckers for a good bit of branding. I have a theory that part of the reason exports from the continent tend to fly under the radar over in the UK is down to the fact that the majority of beers that find their way over here are in bottled format. They lack the gravitas and visual appeal of their shiny canned UK and US counterparts, and consequently get overlooked in bottleshops and in bars.
Hence, when a selection of beautifully designed cans from CR/AK brewery in Padova, Italy landed on my doorstep last week, I’ll admit my interest was piqued. This small brewery in Northern Italy has already generated something of a name for itself over in the UK since its inception in 2015, collaborating with the likes of Cigar City, Fyne Ales and Magic Rock. The question is, do its beers live up to the hype?
First out of the box is Mundaka, a 4.6% session IPA kitted out in a nautically themed can that instantly conjures up imagery of summer. Simoce and Citra hops produce an aroma that is floral, citrusy and a touch grassy, drawing me in like a bee to honey. Several large gulps later, and Mundaka is no more. Despite a body that errs slightly on the side of thin, this is a dangerously drinkable beer. File under: crushable.
Stepping things up a gear, I plump for CR/AK’s 7% gluten-free IPA, New Zealand, next. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the beer takes its name from the origin of the hops used in its producton; Motueka and Wakatu in this instance. Orange and lemon peel aromas jump out of the glass, wafting up my nostrils invitingly. A soft mouthfeel, combined with some sweetness, hides the considerable punch this beer comes packing. An ever-so-delicate hint of hop burn suggests it could do with another couple of weeks to mellow, but this is a beer that is more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with the best gluten free IPAs currently coming out of the UK.
The final beer I sample has to be the brewery’s New England IPA. The ultimate hype beer style; this could be the make or break for CR/AK. Characteristically murky, the beer slurps almost sluggishly into my glass. A sharp, spicy aroma, reminiscent of Sorachi Ace catches me unawares – you don’t normally get that with your glass of orange juice in the morning. More familiar are the citrus and tropical flavours contained within, which fade out into a savoury, onion-like finish. Closing my eyes, I could almost be back in Brooklyn at Other Half, which is about as high praise as can be given when it comes to New England IPA.
On the whole then, CR/AK passes its test with flying colours. These beers comfortably hold their own in an increasingly crowded pale beer market, and should rightly be held in just as high regard as their UK equivalents. And I’m not just saying that because they come in pretty cans.
Pick up a six beer mixed case from CR/AK here, and you could be in with a chance of winning flights, transfers and accommodation to visit the brewery for you and a friend.
James Beeson is the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer 2017. You can read more of his work on his website Beeson On Beer, in The Morning Advertiser, or by following him on Twitter @jdbeeson16.