I first read about the Corsican Brasserie Pietra and its amber chestnut beer last year and really wanted to give it a try. I'd forgotten all about it until my colleague Henning came back from a holiday in Corsica with what sounds like a suitcase-load of the stuff. Being a thoughtful chap, he left one on my desk for me...
Pietra is brewed with a proportion of chestnut flour, particularly significant as Corsica has a long association with the chestnut, for centuries considering them to be part of the staple diet and using it much as other cultures would use grain crops for making bread. According to the Lonely Planet guide to Corsica, in the 1880's they were harvesting some 150,000 tonnes of chestnuts, but by 2004 this was down to 1,200 tonnes due to a general decline after WWI, disease and the use of the timber in early chemical industries for tannin extraction. By all accounts, Pietra is helping a small resurgence in the chestnut culture, so they should be congratulated for being one of only two breweries on Corsica (thanks to Laurent Mousson for the correction) and for integrating a piece of true Corsican culture into their beer range. But what it is like?
Pietra pours a bright amber with a fairly dense off-white head. The aroma is quite sweet, taking a mandarin-like tone. I'd like to think I can smell chestnuts, but it's probably more accurate to describe it as a marzipan-like undertone. The flavour isn't what I expected though. It's a little woody and, dare I say it, there's a chestnut flavour deep down there somewhere. It has a caramel sweetness, a little nuttiness and hints of dried fruit around the edges. The 6% ABV provides a touch of alcohol warmth to the flavour. There's a gentle, tingling bitterness and a sweet, grape-like fruitiness to the finish that lingers.
It's certainly a bit different, and although it has a strange mix of flavours and gets a bit sticky sweet as it warms, on balance, I quite liked the warmth and nuttiness of it. Worth a try if you see it.