Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Suds: Birra Baladin "Solera"

No, I didn't take a side trip to Champagne while visiting Piedmont over the last ten days. So no, that's not a sample of wine drawn from the solera of Anselme Selosse you see in the picture at right. What it is (or was...), though, is something equally obscure and fascinating.

What it is was just one of many highlights of a side visit I did take while in Piedmont, in the company of a couple of friends, to visit Birra Baladin in Piozzo. Yes, it was beer, a beer unlike any I'd tried before.

Baladin founder and brewmaster Teo Musso started his solera "experiment" (his word, not just mine) in 1996, when he intentionally left a batch of his then fledgling flagship brew, Super Baladin, in a loosely closed cask. Three years later, he bottled that beer after it had undergone a transformation usually associated with brown spirits rather than beer, mellowing in flavor and losing a good deal of its original alcohol via evaporation. That slow, slight oxidation took the beer's original 8.5% alcohol down to a whopping two percent.

Eleven years later, Teo opened a bottle to share with us. Was it mindblowingly complex? No. But it was amazingly fresh, delicate and, though oxidative in style, not at all oxidized in taste. It showed a kind of freshness akin to old Madeira, along with aromas of sandalwood and subtle dried fruits and spices.

I hope/plan to share more complete details of our visit with Teo at Baladin in the weeks to come. This was just too geeky not to break out now.


The Wine Mule said...

Have I got a wine for you:

Camillo Donati Malvasia dell' Emilia Frizzante IGT

It's almost beer...

Do Bianchi said...

during my years as a grad student, I used to spend the summers touring with my cover band in the Veneto along the beer festival circuit. Folks don't think of Italians AND beer but there's an awesome microbrew culture concentrated in the Veneto where it's relatively easy to find unpasteurized beer during the summer (once you taste it, it's hard to go back!)... great post...

bill l said...

i first tasted baladin brews at 2006 salon de gusto. there were real good except the ones with the herbs and spices in them. i never understand why brewers do this.

they can be had in maryland at you know where.

David McDuff said...

@Dave - You're not the first I've seen/heard compare Donati to brewski (also in the VLM's dying post). Haven't been dabbling much with PetNats of late but I reckon I'll have to take the Donati for a spin.

@Jeremy - You're absolutely right. Until just a few years ago, I never thought beyond Peroni and Moretti (neither of which I care much for) when it came to Italian beer. But there's been a renaissance in Ital beer culture growing since the mid-90s, largely under the influence of Teo. Now there's tons of cool stuff out there.

@Bill - Brewers do it because they can. Part of the always exploratory, experimenting aspect of beer culture. Actually, there's a pretty longstanding historical precedent for it, too. That said, I'm not a huge fan of spice and fruit adjuncts either, though I do love me some kriek.

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