My Antonia Imperial Pilsner (7.5%) by Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head

My Antonia is an Imperial Pilsner (7.5%) which was first brewed back in 2008 at the Birra del Borgo brewery in Italy as a collaboration between Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione and Leonardo di Vincenzo from Italian Craft Beer Brewery Birra del Borgo.

Since then both breweries have started brewing this “continually hopped” Imperial Pilsner independently, and I would be interested to see how similar the final beers come out when brewed on different brewery equipment and with a different head brewer at the helm. The original beer was available in 750ml and 330ml bottles (and a very few lucky bars on tap) and I remember reading
a few posts by Zak Avery which mentioned those versions, as well as some other great posts on Birra del Borgo. The bottle I tried was a 330ml version which tasted absolutely fresh as a daisy, which combined with the fact the label was entirely in Italian, leads me to think this was from a new batch produced independently in Italy by Birra del Borgo - although it did still have both breweries logos on the black and yellow label. If someone (maybe you Zak?) knows anymore about the ins and outs of the different batches/versions then please comment below.

So, on to the beer itself.

Imperial Pilsner is a relatively new style and to be perfectly honest, when I bought this beer I had forgotten that it even was an Imperial Pilsner. I actually think this made the experience more enjoyable though as there was a satisfying struggle to deciphering the stylistic clues and citrus hop red herrings that this massively complex beer throws at you.

My Antonia pours a bright golden orange with a touch of haze and a bright, white rocky head. (Sorry about the slightly grainy picture, I was in a relatively dim bar). The hazyness can in part be attributed to the fact I poured the whole bottle into the glass before I realised it was bottle conditioned - that said, there was no sediment or yeast visible in the beer, and I think if I had this beer again I’d do exactly the same thing.

The smell is of this beer is fantastic, one of the freshest smelling bottled beers I’ve had from a bar in a long time. I was chatting to the really knowledgeable and enthusiastic bar manager about this beer and he said they had just got it in that morning and had been blown away by how fresh it tasted, and I’ve got to say he was 100% right.

In the aroma you get loads of sweet tangerine, some grapefruit and a little orange sherbet as well a very slight herbal edge, a bit like parsley. The taste is unbelievably fresh with loads of sweet grapefruit, more orange sherbet and tangerine juice as well as a slighty dry pithyness. The finish does have a touch of that piney, resinous quality which American IPA’s display but then becomes clean and citrusy once more. It’s medium bodied with a nicely lively carbonation and a slightly syrupy consistency. There's a very slight boozyness as it warms but it is well masked by that big fresh grapefruity punch of hops.

It’s a hugely satisfying, and extremely well balanced beer. It tastes like a combination of an unfiltered helles lager and an American IPA, but rather than be overly dry and bitter it manages to remain refreshing and juicy whilst still displaying a huge hop flavour and aroma.

A genuinely unique beer.

NB – I drank My Antonia in the
Stew and Oyster at the end of Call Lane in Leeds. I wrote recently about how they’ve extended their bottled beer range, but from speaking to the bar manager last night it seems my assessment was really just the tip of the iceberg. They really want to be known for their excellent beer selection and he pulled out some other bottles to prove his point; including a 750ml bottle of RePorter and ReAle from Birra Del Borgo, and a bottle of Lion Stout from Shri Lanka. He really knew his stuff and had it not been for a slightly annoyed looking missus sat back at our table I could’ve chatted for much longer about the different beers they were now stocking, or are getting in soon. In essence, this place has continued its ascent up my estimations!


  1. I love this beer and am genuinely very impressed you can get it in Calls Landing, considering how rare it is. I was lucky enough to have it on cask in The Sheffield Tap as well as having a couple of big bottles from Beer Ritz. I decided it went well with moules frites.

    I refuse to call it the "Stew and Oyster" though, it's a daft rebrand when you think how prominent the "Calls Landing" name is on the side of the building.


  2. It's astunning beer, I'll be back for more you can be sure! They have really taken it up a notch in terms of the beer they offer, I was genuinely impressed on my visit last night when they had this beer, as well as some big bottles of stuff.

    The Bar manager told me their aim is to be competing with places like North Bar, which is a bold thing to say! I don't think they are anywhere near that yet though, and they need to get some better keg beer on the bar too, but the steps they are taking are definately in the right direction.

    As for the 'Stew and Oyster' thing, stop being such an old grump!

  3. It was my Beer of 2010. 'nuff said! awesome.

  4. There are two version, brewed to the same recipe, one in Italy, one in the US. This is the Italian-brewed version.