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Italian brewer wooing diners away from their wine

TEO Musso, the pioneer of Italy’s craft brewing movement, changed wine-loving Italians’ drinking habits and helped the artisan craft beer move into fine dining.

Thanks to his passion, craft beer scene has sprung up in the country, bringing well-made specialty brews into elegant dining rooms and elevating the status of beer drinking.

The father of Italy’s brewing revolution was in Shanghai recently, presenting his Baladin craft beer to the Chinese market. His products, in wine-shaped bottles, are available in smart restaurants and bars in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hefei.

Musso’s story with beer started right from his conflicts with father who was forced to drink home-made wine with meals. As a teenager, Musso rebelled by demanding to drink beer.

The turning point which made his passion for beer evolve into something different began at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, where he discovered Chimay Blue Cap.

This encounter showed him that beer can be something completely different from what he had been used to drinking.

He went back to his home town Piozzo and turned an old building into a pub in 1986. Musso chose 200 beer labels from all over Europe and shared his passion with his friends and acquaintances who later became regulars.

Musso later spent some time in Belgium where he learnt how to make craft beer with a skilled technical approach and it was there he met Jean-Luis Dits from Brasserie a Vapeur, where the approach to production is more linked to philosophy and emotions.

He then took possession of a garage next to the pub in Piozzo where he set up the first room for the production of Baladin beers in 1996.

Back then, it was just the beginning of the history of craft beer in Italy and to Musso, beer is a means of expression which reflects him fully and which, with its complex evolution of taste, becomes an extension of his thoughts, beliefs and being.

Production has been growing and beer culture spreading all over Italy. Many new beers have been created along the way: they are all top fermented and have different souls.

They do share one thing: the constant search for the right balance of ingredients, so as to create tastes that can be combined with food and give their best in these combinations.

Craft beer covers three percent of the Italian beer market and the forecast for 2020 is five percent.

“Germany is a little bit late comparing to the revolution we had in Italy. France started with 1,000 micro breweries and is following the American trend. Spain started to produce craft beer only recently, 10 years ago, and had an immediate boost,” Musso said.

“Italy is driving and leading Europe thanks to the quantity of many different products on this market.

“We have an interesting scenario: many new restaurants use premium quality ingredients to prepare easy recipes as pasta and pizza reach a level of excellence, where the craft beer also showcase the potential due to their premium quality ingredients,” he says.

“Nowadays, people have different tastes and have different options. It is interesting to see that the booming of the craft beer market has stolen clients from commercial beer drinkers, not from wine drinkers.

“For me, beer is passion — an intense love for taste and certainly a form of expression. Through my recipes, I have communicated special moments in my life, aside of my constant search for the perfect sensory balance,” Musso says.

Their beer is “alive,” as it is not pasteurized. It requires particular attention during the preservation and storage. Baladin Nazionale is the first 100 percent Italian beer made with Italian ingredients: Italian water, barley malt, hops, yeasts and two Italian spices (bergamot and coriander) which combine to create harmony and originality.

“Baladin Nazionale expresses the commitment to working in direct contact with the Earth and the desire to be Italian. Beer is the direct expression of the Earth and farming. To us Italians, it comes natural to think of wine in these terms, but it makes much more sense when it comes to beer.”


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