Who’s been freezing like us? I think everyone has been hibernating the last few weeks. The indoor respite was nice but the stir-crazy is starting to set in so join us as we (alas, just pretend to) go to Italy and sample the wares of Teo Musso, the “Jim Morrison of craft beer.” Musso is the creative personae behind the Le Baladin Artisanal Brewery, Italy’s top-producer of craft beer and some of our favorite beers to come outside of the U.S., Belgium, Germany and the UK. There are all sorts of crazy stories about this guy. Second-hand tales from folks who’ve traveled there tell of an almost mystical experience with the carnival-like atmosphere of the brewery and brewpub. (Fans of the Dogfish Head Ancient Ales series are sure to love Nora, which is based on an old Egyptian recipe.) Le Baladin is definitely on our short-list of places to go in life, hopefully sooner than later. Here’s just a tidbit from the travels of beeralewhatever.com:
“Many hail him as a genius, though others of a more conventional stripe might think some of Musso’s ideas as thoroughly bonkers. For a start, most of the fermenting vessels have headphones attached to them. This is due to Musso’s belief that as yeast is alive it can respond to music, in the way newly born babies like a spot of Mozart. There is even a tango guitarist who has composed movements for the different phases of fermentation. Along with the regulation barley and hops, various spices, chocolate, coffee beans and even myrrh go into the brewing pot, while top-fermenting yeasts are joined by strains that usually work with whisky or wine. Then there is Musso’s latest creation, the Casa Baladin, which is a beer restaurant and hotel across the square from the bar, a unique stronghold of beer cuisine and seven luxuriant rooms all individually decorated to a theme. The Flowers Room is dominated by an incredible three-metre deep brass bath that was brought from North Africa; the Jewels Room is hip and minimalist, while the 70s one is lurid and psychedelic. You get the picture. There’s also a Turkish bath, while the high-ceilinged lounge continues with this mixture of modern and fantasy: old weathered beams hang over the proceedings, a metal chimney rising out through the roof has the feel of something out of 1001 Arabian Nights, some of the seating comes from an old Paris cinema. ‘I want to transmit experiences to people,’ he says.”
See? Tell me honestly you don’t want to go there!
Added bonus: Special tasting deals starting in 2010! We’re offering 15% OFF on all Baladin beers, excluding his loosely-categorized barleywines Xyauyu and Xyauyu Fumé (the smoked version of the latter). The Italian beers, in general, tend to fall in the “splurger” category, so this is a great opportunity to taste and purchase some fantastic beer at a great price.
LE BALADIN Wayan: “Teo calls it a Saison, but it is certainly his personal definition of a saison. Aroma & palate are rather complex, i.e. it takes some time to find your way through it, so to speak. The different hops are barely noticeable. The balance & bitterness is by a high degree provided by many spices, some of which are very, very unusual in brewing. (Teo does not disclose them.)” [Saison / 5.8% abv]
LE BALADIN Nora: “Teo’s wife, Nora, is the inspiration for this special beer, just released last year. Although she hails from the town of Lille, France, she also has Algerian heritage in her blood. So, this special brew has been concocted from an ancient Egyptian recipe. Unmalted kamut which was used in ancient Egyptian beers is employed. Hops, which would not have been used in Egypt, are employed in a tiny quantity, solely for their preservative power. Rather, ginger, myrrh, and orange peel are used to represent the balancing spices of ancient times. The myrrh provides the bittering that allows Teo to mostly forgo the use of hops.” [Egyptian Recipe / 6.8% abv]
LE BALADIN Super Baladin: “The Super Baladin is the masterpiece of the brewery and is most often the favorite among the customers at Le Baladin. It originated from an old recipe created toward the end of the 9th century following the style of the Belgian abbey beers. It is similar to a Belgian triple. The twist with this beer is that an English yeast strain is used for primary fermentation. Afterwards, it is bottle-conditioned for two months using a Belgian strain.” [Tripel / 8.0% abv]
LE BALADIN Al-Iksir: “The Al-iksir is characterized in Italy as a demi-sec beer. To write this beer off as a standard Belgian Strong Ale would be a mistake. It’s depth, complexity, and uniqueness stems from the masterful hand of brewer Teo Musso and his use of whiskey yeasts, from the island of Islay, for the primary fermentation. These yeasts conduct a rigorous fermentation lending a striking dryness and lively effervescence to the final beer. The beer pours with a thick head. The complex nose showcases almond and tropical fruit sentiments. As the intense scrubbing bubble hits the tongue malty flavors and aromas of baking spices spread through the mouth. It’s finish is dry and very warming from the high alcohol.” [Demi-sec / 10.0% abv]