Pass Me a Birra!

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.

Pausa Cafe

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.


8 thoughts on “Pass Me a Birra!

  1. We love la birra from Le Baladin. I’ve visited the brewery and took a tour, the owner as our guide, with Eataly in Torino a few years ago. Everything is organic in the production and the brewery is highly efficient…state of the art technology…hence why it costs much more. His restaurant in Piozzo is wonderful. Next time you are in Piedmont, try to put it on the list of places to visit. Saluti!

  2. “I’m a wine snob not a beer snob” …..perfect! I agree.

    All of these beers sound very interesting though and I will try them if they ever become available out in the hinterlands where I live! Nice post!


  3. So funny! we just went to a beer fest here in Saluzzo with 20 local breweries. Pausa caffe is one of my favorites too and is right here where I live! Made in the prison. Anyway, Baladin in my opinion has gone way downhill. When it was a real “microbrewery” in Piozzo it was amazing! Now that they cater to the demand for Eataly and other pubs all over the world the quality is much more disappointing. However when I go to Baladin (there is one right under my house in Saluzzo) I always choose Nora. It is an “Egyptian” style beer so very spicy. Mine this week tasted a lot like cinnamon. I am so excited you wrote this post because beers right here in my little neck of the woods are outstanding (but expensive) and great to drink in the summertime! CHEERS!

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