Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category


Thirty years ago, Teo had a dream. A dream that slowly would give birth the the Italian beer revolution. A dream that has grown into a giant brewery, but is much more than that.

Thirty years ago, Teo Musso started a beer bar in his home village Piozzo. He was tired of the bland industrial pilsners on offer, and he knew there were some interesting beers out there that he could sell. His bar soon featured 200 beers, mostly imported, many of them Belgian. Hoegaarden was an early favourite.

For ten years, the bar grew in reputation and scope – and then Teo created his Baladin brewery.  The rest is history.

Piozzo is one of thousands of sleepy Italian villages, among the hills in the Northwestern corner of the country. It’s lush and green here, the Alps make sure there is enough water both as rain and as rivers. The crops here are barley and maize – but mostly grapes.  Alba 20, Barolo 7, the signposts say as we approach.

I was one of a selected few beer writers invited to mark the anniversary of Baladin and the opening of the brand new brewery. Which is much more than a brewery.

The new brewery is situated on a sizeable area of land, with possibilities of growing ingredients, brewing beer with state of the art technology and the aging of beer in 14 century cellars. There is no real threshold for production here. The new brewery does not start out with a capacity far beyond the old one, but the possibilities for expanding are endless.

The bar turned into a brewpub in 1996, and the first bottled beers were sold one year later. Since then there has been a slow expansion, until this year’s move to fantastic facilities outside the village.


The investment is sizeable, 12,5 million Euro plus VAT, but then everything should be in place. Some of this is crowdfunding. This is not only for the financial aspect, it is also a way of getting the local community seriously involved.

The most impressive is the automated bottle maturing process. This is bacically a closed box. The beer is matured for various lengths of time at three different temperatures, and a robot makes sure it is moved to the correct place at the correct time. Groundbreaking beer technology, with a potential in other fields like winemaking or cheese production if you ask me. This was intended as a Horizon 2020 project, but a Spanish partner had to resign, and Baladin lost 1.5 million Euros because of that.

There is more. There is land set aside for growing barley, other grains and hops. There is a drying area for hops, and they plan to build maltings. They are establishing a magnificent garden open for the public, with stone mills, and old communal oven and cheese makers and butchers invited in. The craft of barrel making had almost died out, Baladin uses Japanese craftsmanship to build new ones and to take care of old ones. There is education, too, with a small brewery set up for students at the nearby Gastronomical University to acquire brewing skills.

Baladin is no longer one of a handful of Italian craft breweries. There are now one thousand Italian breweries – yet the growth potential is big. Craft beer still account for just 3% of the Italian market. Baladin sells half of its production abroad, and ten percent in their own bars and restaurants. There are Baladin bars in a number of Italian cities, as well as in New York.


Teo is proud of what he has managed to achieve. I have moved mammoths, he says, and points out that the Italian beer revoulution is also a cultural revolution. What is important is the next stage is to watch out for the big industrial players making beer they pretend to be craft.

I admire people who set u a goal and then work towards it for decades. Some have to throw in the towel, but Teo did not. His contribution to the European ber scene should not be underestimated.

I had expected a range of inventive beers for this launch, but I assume we will have to wait until the products from the new brewing plant have been allowed to mature, be it in the old cellars or in the new warehouse with temperature zones. One beer to look out for is a light, hoppy blonde simply called POP. Available in brightly colored cans, ask at your local beer shop wherever you live. Of course you should enquire about the Xyauyu range of beers too, aimed for a more discerning public. And there are lots of beers in between to explore, too.

And if you are in the area, there are tours of the brewery. A gallery going through the building gives good Access. There is even a shop selling souvernirs and beer.


Check out Martyn’s report on the event as well.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of the new Baladin brewery as a guest, and they paid my travel expenses.

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I got a transfer from the web design company via PayPal last night, with the following message:

Apologies for the misue of your photo. It was for placement only during early production and was supposed to be swapped out with actual photos of this brewery’s beer — but that task fell through the cracks. Please accept this gift to buy yourself some beer. We have already replaced the photo.

So. No grudges. But I’d still like to try the beers from the Hopvine brewery.

Meanwhile – a crappy photo of a grilled Gorgonzola sandwich and a beer. At the Chelsea Pub in Parma, Italy. It is highlyunlikely that anyone will steal this.

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Back when I visited Italy several times a year, I had a couple of very pleasant visits to Birrificio Lambrate in Milan. There were plans at the time to expand internationally, but nothing much seemed to come of the ambitions.

It was therefore nice to see four of their beers on tap in front of the Trattoria Popolare, which is part of the same complex as Schouskjelleren here in Oslo.

Available on Thursday were Su De Doss, Saint Ambroeus, Gaina and Ghisa. I suppose you should run along if you want a taste.

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The lineup for this year’s event in Drammen (30 minutes from Oslo) is more or less ready.

This year it takes place on Friday, May 24 (16-22) and  Saturday, May 25,  (12-22).

Confirmed participants so far:

  • Aass Bryggeri (N)
  • Bierbrouwerij Emelisse (NL) @Rest_emelisse
  • Birrificio Toccalmatto (IT) @Toccalmatto
  • Brouwerij de Molen (NL) @molenbier
  • De Struise Brouwers (B)
  • Haand (N)
  • Lervig Aktiebryggeri (N)
  • LoverBeer (IT) @LoverBeerBrewer
  • Magic Rock (UK) @MagicRockBrewCo
  • Monks, Stockholm (SE) @Monksevent
  • Naparbier (ES) @Naparbier
  • Närke Kulturbryggeri (SE)
  • Partizan (UK) @partizanbrewing
  • Picobrouwerij Alvinne (B) @alvinnebeer
  • S:t Eriks Bryggeri (SE)
  • Ægir Bryggeri (N)

I particularly look forward to the return of Magic Rock, the new London brewery Partizan and Lervig from Stavanger, Norway. Not to mention Alvinne, Emelisse, de Molen and the rest of the stellar lineup.

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I don’t cover the European beer scene as comprehensively as I used to. There are several reasons for this – I don’t travel as much as before, there are others out there with local knowledge which does the job nowadays, and I don’t have the time to keep up with it all.

On the other hand, much of the best brews of the world are now available at my doorstep (Well, here in Oslo). The new wave of brewpubs are not afraid of letting the competition in, meaning we get access to Swedish, Danish, British and Italian beers along with their own offerings.

One of the relatively new stars on the European beer map is the Italian Revelation Cat. I first encountered them at the Copenhagen Beer Festival a few years ago, and their beers are now often available at Schouskjelleren in Oslo. They specialize in lambics, brewed in Belgium, barrel aged, blended and bottled in Rome. Lambics is perhaps using a term that is a bit too narrow, we are talking barrel aging a wide spectrum of beers, using barrels previously storing wines and spirits from around the globe.

Revelation Cat has so far been a contract/phantom brewery, meaning they don’t own their own plant, apart from a small pilot brewery in Italy. Their beers have been brewed in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK.

They have recently bought brewing equipment in England, and they are currently launching a range of hoppy beers more inspired by American and British styles. When I was asked by owner Alex Liberati if I would be interested in sampling some of the beers from the new range, I did not hesitate.

To make  a long story short, a box of beers has been spending Christmas in the warehouse of FedEx, but yesterday it was delivered to my office. The box was not that big, but it was crammed full of beers. No possibilities of opening them this week – but I’ll tell you when I do.

The customs fees did not ruin me, either.


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Brewing in South Tyrol

I’ve mentioned before that I had a wish to freshen up my German. The last time I had any formal lesson in that language was some time in the late Seventies, and I have rarely used it apart from touristic purposes. A number of visits to Germany and Austria over the last five years or so have, however, wet my appetite to get a better grasp of the language.

So I enrolled in a course at the Goethe Insititut here in Oslo. Back to school every Wednesday from five to quarter past eight. Plus homework. Grammar, vocabulary, the lot.

It is challenging, but it’s great fun.

I ahve even started ordering books from the German amazon shop. Short stories to begin with, but I decided to have a look at more beer related titles in German, too. Lots of home brew books, some German translations of English language books, crime novels set in hop yards or Kneipen.

Some beer history, too, like this book about brewing in South Tyrol, a German-speaking region in Italy. There were 27 breweries in the area in 1880, a number that dwindled down to just one during a century of war, closed borders and taxation that favoured other beverages. But the book also covers the birth of small scale brewing in recent years, with portraits of the new brewpubs.

No plans of a visit to there area for now, but I think I’ll try to ask for a review copy.

But there is more.

Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk will not surprise you by giving unorthodox suggestions when you search for beer books. They will recommend pub guides and atlases, Brew like a monk and How to Start a Brewery Even if You’re not interested in Beer.

Amazon.de has a broader approach.

Sure, you have a guide to the most beautiful beer gardens of Bavaria, but they also have the Dirndl Sexy Romance series. 

But even if I was tempted, these Kindle tales of lust during the Oktoberfest are only available in Germany. Maybe it’s for the best.

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I did not set up a list of favourites from the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, even though both the 20 year old sour ale from de Struise and the spontaneous blueberry from Mikkeller were standouts.

In the weeks after the events, I have particularly enjoyed two beers.

RyeKing from the Copenhagen brewery Amager Bryghus was one of the beers I picked up at Ølbutikken. It has an intense flavour of liquorice and liquid sour Russian rye bread, a little salt and a deep bitterness. There is a malty body that is able to cope with all of this and balance it in a strange way.

Charcoal in the dry finish. Mouth-watering, and a great candidate for further barrel aging.

The other one has mixed origins. Italian Gypsy brewery Revelation Cat brew their lambics in Belgium and then transport them to Italy for aging and blending. Their Islay lambic has a clean whisky aroma, and when you sip you find a lovely lambic laced with peaty smoke. Exciting – I won’t claim that his is a major trend for beer in 2012 (though I told you barrel aging would be the Big Thing), but this certainly shows that there still are new roads to explore. Nice sour tail and a smoke flavour I haven’t really felt since my last packet of John Player’s Special several decades ago.

Available at Schouskjelleren, Oslo, right now,  I’m sure it will also pop up in London, Copenhagen and Rome.

Revelation Cat Islay

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