By The Gentleman
Oh god, I knew it was going to come to this one day. Beer and cats. You should all know that The Lady is mildly obsessed with cats, and by mildly obsessed with cats I mean she’s actually on the career path to being a crazy cat lady. You may see her run past your house one morning chasing a cat yelling “why won’t you love me?!” Given her love (obsession) of cats it was really no surprise when she got me the Birra del Borgo Hoppy Cat Caskadian Dark Ale for my birthday. It was probably the most excited she’s even been around beer and probably the most ambivalent I’ve ever been around a beer. Cats man, always with the cats.
I have to admit that I’d never heard of Birra del Borgo before or noticed their funky bottles. The brewery was officially opened in 2005 in a small village in the province of Rieti, Italy, on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo in the nature reserve of the Mountains of the Duchess. Starting with only three beers the brewer has grown, as all good things do, to produce 36 beers. Birra del Borgo focuses on British and Belgian brewing styles, but as the brewer has grown and developed they have started to develop what they call an “Italian way to craft beer” which focuses on the unique ingredients of Italy and the country’s strong culinary tradition to craft some more unique beers, like the Hoppy Cat Caskadian Dark Ale.
The first thing that stood out to me about the Hoppy Cat, aside from those pesky cats, was the unusual shape of the bottle. It has more in common with a wine bottle than a beer bottle with its shape, a long neck with a rather chubby base. It certainly has a different feel in the hand when you are holding it. As much as I might try to deny it the label is also quite good. The green of the label is reminiscent of the colour of hops and the font is very creative with its use of a hops plant, fish and a hook as letters on the label. There is also a cheeky cat, but for me I much prefer the use of the yellow eyes on the black background. It is quite striking and reminds of the posters for Cats the musical. It’s a playful label that doesn’t overdo the cat focus.
The beer itself is described as a black IPA made with roasted malts and special American hops with a 5.8% ABV and a 55 IBU. It pours a dark brown but with a lightness which makes it almost reminiscent of coca-cola or as the description suggests an almost coffee like colour. There was minimal decent head, which also has a slight brown, caramely colour to it but again I think this might be more down to poor equipment than a sub par beer. It smells strongly of hops and malt and these flavours dominate the pallet. A lot of people have described it as having a slight chocolate flavour but I couldn’t pick up on it. Instead I got a bit of smokiness, a relatively sweet bitterness (I know that sounds weird but hey, I’m drinking a cat beer) and some spicy pine notes that give a bit of a numbness to your mouth. It was an interesting beer that was quite drinkable despite being a relatively strong beer.
The Lady’s cat obsession aside this was quite a good beer. It came in an interesting bottle, had a creative label and was a decent pour with some strong malt and hop flavours. It was probably more drinkable than I expected given the deep dark brown colour, but that’s only a positive. Everyone wants a beer that’s easy to drink at the end of a hard day and maybe a cat to pat.