Anima: Taking beer and food matching to the next level

Peter Ranscombe reviews craft beers made by Anima in Italy’s Piemonte wine region.

THINK Piemonte, think wine.

From powerful reds like Barolo and Barbaresco made from nebbiolo grapes through to elegant whites like Gavi and Roero and the gentle spritz of moscato d’Asti, Piedmont has a world-class reputation for its wines.

But how about its beers?

Bellissimo Vino, the family-run Italian wine specialist in Edinburgh, wants to put the region on the map for its grains as well as its grapes.

The wine merchant is importing a range of six beers made by Anima, a craft brewery to the west of Genoa and the north of Nice.

There are lots of similarities to the approach adaopted by Anima and many of the area’s wineries – if you replaced “barley” with “grapes” in its literature and on its website then we could be talking about a very similar product.

“Their goal is to be the ‘fine wine’ of beer ,” explained footballer-turned-wine-merchant Gary Cennerazzo, one of the directors at Bellissimo Vino, when he introduced them to me.

“Pairing with Italian cuisine – showing cheese and meats don’t just go great with wine, but also with beer.”

Each bottle comes with a sparkling wine-style cork and cage, with Cennerazzo reporting that Anima was the first brewery in the world to use the closures on 330ml bottles.

As well as those diddy bottles, the beers also come in 750ml wine-sized bottles.

The range consists of three amber ales, two brown ales, and a red ale, with their alcohol by volume (ABV) rising from 4.9% up to 7.8%.

What tied them together was their balance – each had a rich texture, to varying degrees, plus a well-judged hoppy freshness.

Cennerazzo’s mention of the brewery’s gastronomic credentials put me in the mood for some beer and food matching.

It seemed like the perfect excuse to place orders with East Coast Cured in Leith and The Cheese Lady in Haddington, two of my favourite charcuterie and cheese suppliers.

Let the matching commence…

Just as with wine and food pairings – or whisky and food pairings, for that matter – there’s no single “right” answer.

Cleopatra, one of the blonde ales, proved to be a great all-rounder, not just with the charcuterie, but with the cheeses too, while both blonde ale Leonardo and darker ale Netwon could lay claim to pair with many of the wedges spread across the cheese board.

Tasting notes

THE BEER: Anima Anastasia Blonde Ale (4.9% ABV)
A pale gold ale with a herby nose, full of lemon and honey aromas, plus some metallic and yeasty notes. Richer and rounder on the palate than the nose suggests, with flavours of lemon, lemon rind, honey, and walnut, plus a refreshing crispness. Although clearly not a wheat beer, I think those herby aromas would please fans of Belgian and German ales.
THE CHEESE: Spenwood
A mature sheep’s milk cheese from Berkshire that was inspired by ewes’ milk cheeses on Sardinia. The creamy notes in the cheese cancelled out the herbiness of Anastasia, creating a really harmonious pairing.
THE MEAT: Merguez Salami
One of East Coast Cured’s old favourites, made from pork, lamb, and North African spices. Anastasia cut through the fat in the sausage and calmed the spice, as opposed to the three maltier beers, which emphasised the spicy heat.

THE BEER: Anima Cleopatra Blonde Ale (5.2% ABV)
Mid gold in colour, with attractive honey, peach, and lemon on the nose. American hops bring much more noticeable lemon, orange, and pine on the palate. It’s tangier and fresher than Anastasia, and really well-balanced.
THE CHEESE: Fiore Sardo Pecorino
A pecorino from Sardinia, made from ewes’ milk, and at the harder end of the pecorino spectrum. Cleopatra masked a sharp note in the cheese, while the cheese brought out more of a lemon note on the beer’s finish.
THE MEAT: Saucisson Sec
The classic saucisson sec was the ideal accompiment for Cleopatra, comin’ atcha with floral and hoppy lemon notes. The maltier trio were lost against the saucisson sec.

THE BEER: Anima Leonardo Blonde Ale (6.7% ABV)
Its deep gold hue hints at its rich and rounded mouthfeel, with honey from the nose following through onto the palate, where it’s joined by almond and lemon rind. Orange and metallic aromas round off the show.
THE CHEESE: Sheep Rustler
One for the Aberdonians. A Somerset firm and mature sheep’s milk cheese, with nutty notes and a dense texture. The combination brought out honeyed notes in both the beer and the cheese.
THE MEAT: Iarna Salam
A limited edition Romanian-style winter pork salami, seasoned with allspice, black pepper, garlic, juniper, and white wine, then smoked over beech wood. The beer highlighted the garlic in the salami, while the meat emphasised the beer’s honeyed softness. The sausage made the maltier beers appear stalkier.

THE BEER: Anima Newton Amber Ale (also 6.7% ABV)
Shifting to a pale brown tone indicates the maltiness that’s waiting on the nose and the biscuit and oatcake flavours on the palate. Yet there’s still lots of lemon aromas, plus freshness on the palate, balanced by marmalade and honey.
THE CHEESE: Bonnington Linn
A newer offering from Errington Cheese in Lanarkshire – the maker of Corra Linn and Lanark Blue – this firm, mature goat’s cheese brought out the sweeter notes in Newton. A great all-rounder beer, pairing well with the pecorino, Sheep Rustler, Spenwood, and a cheeky wee bit of Corra Linn too.
THE MEAT: Strathearn Saucisson
What could be better than charcuterie? How about charcuterie with cheese inside? East Coast Cured added Strathearn – a soft, whisky-washed cheese – to its saucisson. The resulting sausage brought out a previously-hidden red apple note from Newton.

THE BEER: Anima Mozart Amber Ale (7% ABV)
A mid-brown amber ale, with its hops bringing a surprising amount of freshness on the nose, where the lemon, grapefruit, and green apple aromas are joined by runny honey and maltier notes. Meaty – almost tannic – on the palate, yet with a creamy mouthfeel and a bitter finish. Tastes like digestive biscuits smothered in lemon curd.
THE CHEESE: 20-month aged Comté
One of The Cheese Lady Svetlana Kukharchuk’s specialisms is aged Comté, and her 20-plus month old cheese is a triumph. It sang alongside Mozart, which brought out the Comté’s creamier side.
THE MEAT: Red Wine & Garlic Salami
Those magic words – “red wine” and “garlic”. The sausage engaged the hoppier side of Mozart, bringing its hoppier lemon and green apple notes to crescendo.

THE BEER: Anima Dante Red Ale (7.8%)
Deep brown, with a red rim. Yet this is no circle of hell waiting to be traversed – instead, it’s a guide to the digestive biscuit and red apple awaiting on the nose, and then the huge malty hit on the palate. Thick milk chocolate and more bitter dark chocolate flavours give way to a satisfying freshness on the finish.
THE CHEESE: Vintage Gouda
Thank you to Graeme Sutherland at Edinburgh wine bar Good Brothers for introducing me to aged Gouda, which is fast becoming one of my favourite cheeses. Who knew that something as bland and innocuous as Dutch cheese could become so exciting with age? Kukharchuk’s example is matured for more than four years, adding to the complexity of the match with Dante, and emphasising its red apple notes and caramel on its finish.
THE MEAT: Air-dried ham
Sometimes the simplest matches are the best. Dante had the body and flavour to stand up to the layer of fat surrounding the air-dried ham. The spice of the black pepper in many of the salamis fought with the alcohol in Dante, creating an inferno, and so the simpler pairing won the day.

Read more of Peter’s beer, wine, and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.