Piedmont is well-known for its wines. In fact, the best wines of the region are legendary. But what about beer? Yes, Europe is known for its great beer. Think Ireland, England, Germany, and the Czech Republic. But, how many European countries are known for both great wine and beer? Ok, Germany could be an exception. I love a good Riesling. But, when have you had a nice glass of red from Ireland? Is it possible for Italy to become a world-renowned producer of both wine and beer? After a few recent tastings, I think the answer is yes, and Piedmont is leading the way.
In the line-up were three beers for three different breweries. First was a lager from Menabrea, a brewery in the town of Biella in northern Piedmont. This pilsner style lager was the most similar to the American lagers that I prefer. Lighter in color and milder in taste. I could get used to drinking this beer. Perfect for a hot summer afternoon.
A bottle of Nora from Birrificio Le Baladin was next. Baladin, located in Piozzo in southwest Piedmont, is probably the most well-known brewery in Italy, at least to beer snobs. I was excited to open up the unique looking bottle. At $7.80 for a 8.45 oz. bottle, I was hoping it was good. It was. As an ale, it was much darker in color than the Menabrea, and much, much more complex. A lot of flavors going on here (citrus, spicy and woodsy). Though I could enjoy a bottle of this ale here and there, I won’t be picking up a six-pack anytime soon. I’d rather spend that kind of money on a good bottle of wine! I’m a wine snob, not a beer snob.
Finally came the Pausa P.I.L.S. from Birrificio Pausa Cafe in Saluzzo. Also brewed in southwest Piedmont, this pilsner style lager suited my tastes. I don’t know enough about beer to understand why I prefer a lager to an ale. I just know that I do. Like the Baladin, this little bottle was pricey, but worth the splurge. Pausa Cafe not only makes beer, but sells fair trade coffee and cocoa. It sounds like the kind of company that you’d find in Brooklyn. Very hipster-ish. I want to try more of their beer.
Though I have yet to try any of their beer, Birrificio CitaBunda is on my short list of stops for our next trip to Piedmont. Not only is this brewery, bar and restaurant located in Bricco di Neive (my favorite Barbarescos come from Neive), but it is also in an old elementary school. When is the last time you drank beer in an elementary school? How about drinking artisanal Italian beer in an elementary school on a hill overlooking some of the best vineyards in Barbaresco? I’m assuming never. This place is a must do.