A Quick History of Menabrea | Italy’s Iconic Brewery

What an incredible place Milan is. It has a unique energy, steeped in history, the architecture is beguiling and importantly, the beer is sensational. Last week I was introduced to the wonderment that is Menabrea beer, with a guided tour of Italy’s iconic Menabrea Brewery with Menabrea’s master brewer and 5th generation of the Thedy brewing family, Franco Thedy, as my personal guide.

In 1846, Giuseppe Menabrea travelled to the town of Biella in the foothills of the Italian Alps. There he discovered an underground cave system, ideal for the traditional process of 'lagering'.

The combined elements of pure water and cold fresh air of the region made conditions conducive to build a brewery.

Fresh off the plane, a lunchtime arrival in Milan and I was quickly chaperoned through the provenance of authentic Italy, stepping off the beaten track to explore the historic town of Biella. There, residing in the foothills of the Alps – the birthplace of Italy’s premium Birra, the Menabrea brewery. 

When you visit Biella, you'll still find Menabrea brewing their award-winning beer on the same site, made in the same way, by the same family, with the same ingredients, passion and care.

Biella is a northern Italian town situated midway between the two historic cities of Milan and Turin; it’s nestled in the Bo mountain range in the foothills of the Alps – an area rich in springs and lakes.

The brewery has that inimitable Italian beauty, an eclectic blend of historic brickwork, vaulted ceilings, now modernised with sophisticated production lines carefully manicured by the dedicated staff that oversee operations. 

Both varieties of Menabrea (Blonde and amber) are matured gently in the perfect temperature of the brewery’s cave cellars for a taste of superior clarity, made with alpine water, and distributed around the world.

The blonde (Bionda) is my go-to beer, a sumptuous blend of citrus, bitter tones and floral, fruity undertones giving a consistent and refined flavour. It has a complex malty, hoppy taste with exceptional head retention due to the quality of the ingredients and maturation process.

The Amber beer (Ambratta) is served at a  A 5.0% ABV amber beer, full bodied and well rounded, with a moderately bitter flavour. Amber in colour with bronze undertones, this lager is another example of the brewery's exceptional capabilities.

Whilst in the UK we serve scampi fries and pepperoni's to caveat the blandness of our beers, in Italy there is no need for such apology.

In classic establishments, serving a Menebrea is usually accompanied with an aperitivo - traditionally a bowl of olives or nuts as something to whet the appetite so you can sit back and savour la birra perfetta. We also had a chance to attach some ‘Sbirro’ to the tasting, a Menabrea-infused cheese fresh from the cheese factory situated next door. 

DSC07574.JPG

Milan is the metropolis of northern Italy, the global capital of fashion and design, and a hub for first class arts, culture and hospitality in Europe.

Biella is a nippy one hour drive from Milan and well worth the detour should you be looking to escape the city for a day or so. You can enjoy lunch al fresco at Menabrea Brewery Restaurant before taking a tour of the brewery and cheese factory.

Milan of course is dripping with fantastic bars and restaurants that I was lucky enough to frequent during my brief stay. The famous Duomo di Milano, Galleria et Emmanuelle (don't forget to twist your heel in the mosaic Bulls' testes 3 times for good luck) not to mention the Italian nightlife culture along the famous Ripa di Porta canal.

 

Lastly, I know I get a lot of comments from people saying how they're super jealous of me travelling here there and everywhere. Well soon you'll also be able to enjoy a pint in northern Italy’s beautiful town of Biella, exploring Menabrea’s historic brewery. 

That's right I'm talking about my new teleport machine that I've toiling away with for the past couple of months. You've all seen The Fly? Imagine that, without the wires. And the carnage. 

Of course I jest, but a visit to the Menabrea brewery is made possible through virtual reality technology. Menabrea will be touring restaurants and premium bars across the UK with the VR experience - offering a 360degree tour of Italy’s oldest brewery. 

The VR tour can be experienced later this year in selected bars in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. More details will be available at Menabrea UK on Facebook.

Genoa – The unsung city of Italy?

It's €39.40 from the Genoa airport to the Bristol Palace Hotel, which took all of 3 minutes. I gave a scathing look at the cab driver and ordered the missus to get the change from this pillager of tourists. Bristol Palace? An odd assembly of words one could argue an utter contradiction. 

Figure        SEQ Figure \* ARABIC     1      The Elliptical Staircase in the Bristol Palace Hotel

Figure 1The Elliptical Staircase in the Bristol Palace Hotel

Depending on your vantage point, Genoa could boast several identities. Start north from the hills by taking one of two funiculars for €1.50 that connects Zecca to Righi and see the city at its finest. It's mottled buildings of faded complexions; burnt yellows, rustic auburns are redolent of any Pisa, Lucca or Pienza panorama. Walk serpentine down the steep roads back into the heart of the city, reach the imperious stretch of Via Garibaldi and you'll think you've slipped down a magical side alley in the heart of Rome. For €9 you can visit Palazzi Rosso, Bianco and Tursi.

Genoa

Venture down the winding streets that taper and twine to the harbour and eventually, once you've been accosted by a Somalian immigrant hassling you for change or 'a go' on his wife for 30 minutes, you'll instantly be transported back to Edge Lane in 90's Liverpool. The topography of these narrow streets were designed to defend the city of Genoa from naval attacks by forcing their enemies into a labyrinth of alleys, funneling them into single file and pouring hot oil on them from the terraces and apartment windows overhead.

Genoa Appartments

Once you've escaped, if you escape, you can catch your breath on the The Neptune; a ship replica of a 17th-century Spanish galleon built in 1985 for Roman Polanski's film Pirates. As you look back at the city from the ocean, you could think that Genoa is one big Hornby Scaletrix. It's raised highways encircle the city, much to the chagrin of my missus - 'Stick that crap underground in tunnels, who wants to see that monstrosity'. However, this has given the the urbanites a chance to leave their own creative modern taint on this ancient city by glossing the underneath with animated creatures and fictional monsters. After all this is still Italy and no one does grandiose art better than the Italians.

Genoa Art

Place to stay: Bristol Palace Hotel - €115 a night (August) inc Breakfast

Place to visit: The Aquarium - £23 a full adult day pass

Place to eat: Icuochi

Place for awesome Instagram profile pic: Palazzi Bianco Roof Gardens or the Christopher Columbus Column Square. 

Place to avoid: Back alleys to the city harbour. 

Genoa

Written by Peter Brooker