Intonarumori Italian Pils

An elegant pilsner with a strong yet understated hop aroma—light and refreshing!
  • Grain bill:  Eraclea Pilsner, Vienna, Belgian Aromatic, Acidulated Malt
  • Hops:  Magnum, Perle, Southern Cross, Saphir
  • Yeast:  Imperial L13 Global


Origin Story:

The universe seemed to be telling me it was time to make an Italian pilsner.  Hal included the Lowercase Brewing Italian pils in his subscription box and we had a webchat with the brewer about his favorite pHs.  I virtually attended the 2021 American Homebrewers Association conference and there was an Italian pils seminar.  The summer cover story of one of the homebrew rags was on Italian pils.  I guess there was a bandwagon toddling down the street and I had to hop on.

I also had just done a bunch of beers with lots of crazy fruit additions.  Time to strip down, right?  Springsteen followed up The River with Nebraska.  Something like that.

The Italian pilsner has only been a thing since the mid-90s.  Agostino Arioli, then a Milan-based homebrewer, fell in love with both Czech pilsners and the dry-hopping he found in more American styles.  He thought that creating a more hop-forward pilsner—brewed from Italian grains—would be a lovely and pure expression of the craft.  His Tipopils, the first Italian Pilsner, has been celebrated and he went pro.

So this is one where there’s nowhere to hide—no adjuncts, no flavorings, no weird yeasts—just pure craft.  My main variation was to tinker with the hops:  Southern Cross is a New Zealand variety that doesn’t stray too far from the noble hop world but is a bit of a curveball.

The result was a lovely, elegant and subtle beer.  It’s got the crispness of a pilsner but it’s also very soft, with a subtle bitterness that dissipates quickly.  There’s a nice hop aroma of which I would honestly like to get a bit more.  It drinks quick and refreshing.

Luigi Russolo ca. 1916

Luigi Russolo ca. 1916

Of the name:  Intonarumori had been kicking around in my head for a while as another installment in our Modern Composers beer series (Turangalîla-Hefeweizen, Unanswered Question, and Ionization).  When the Italian pilsner idea revealed itself to me, the name had found its beer. 

In 1913, the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo wrote his manifesto The Art of Noises.  Herein he argued—in a charming scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners style—that the orchestra must embrace all the roars, whistles, gurgles, buzzes, clanks, and shrieks that had been brought into the world by the Industrial Revolution.

Intonarumori schematic

Intonarumori schematic

Russolo backed up his rhetoric by going on to invent the intonarumori (the name is both singular and plural).  The internal mechanism of a typical intonarumori is a wire strung against a drum head.  The tension of the wire is varied by a lever, and the wire is vibrated by turning a crank.  A large horn amplifies the resulting sound, which is spectacularly unpleasant

(And it must be said that Though Russolo’s actual inventions may have been a dead end, he wasn’t wrong—ask The Bomb Squad or Einstürzende Neubauten.)

As I pondered the intonarumori, I was struck by its resemblance to both the street organ and the horn of plenty.  In my head these images slowly reconciled themselves, and artist Chris from Cyprus brought it to life in the style of a vintage Campari poster advertising the life-giving benefits of horrible noise.

And yes, that is Leon Redbone at the crank.  Dude dressed better than Luigi Russolo.

Music Pairing:

Laurie Anderson probably wasn’t the first artist who raised the alarm about the impact of digital technology on our lives, but it was probably the first time when it sounded like the call was coming from inside the house.

My first introduction to Anderson was through United States Live, a 5-LP document of her 1983 BAM stage show.  It was loaned to me by my mother’s artist friend Martha, who correctly assumed it would find fertile ground in my high school brain.

This befuddling epic tackles technology, Reagan-era politics, epistemology, semiotics, and the oddities of human behavior.  Anderson’s scope is audacious.  In the opening “Say Hello” she asserts that by the calculations of certain religious sects, the location of the historic Garden of Eden was, roughly, New York City.  The finale, “Lighting Out for the Territories“, steals its title from the final lines of Huckleberry Finn

Between these poles she’s playing her violin with a tape loop, contact-miking her head to turn it into a drum, and pitch-shifting herself into the anodyne voice of authority.  Sometimes the tone is deadpan comedy, sometimes it’s dreamtime.  And throughout it all she scatters elegant, minimal music, sometimes driven by little more than handclaps and Anderson’s gorgeous violin.

Anderson’s first album Big Science concentrated some of the highlights of United States Live to give them additional potency.  Here, what starts as an airline crash in medias res gradually morphs into the proposition that there is in fact no ghost in that machine at all.

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