For whatever reason you may have come, you can’t leave Biella without first visiting the historic Menabrea Brewery, Italy’s oldest active brewery. It was founded back in 1846 by the Menabrea family, a family of Walser culture, already brewers in Aosta. Since then the brewery for this excellent beer has remained firmly anchored in the territory. Although production has increased considerably and has required the use of new machinery and increasingly larger premises, the Menabrea Brewery has always been situated in the Riva area of Biella, where it was founded. And still today, at Menabrea in Biella you can find the brewery, a museum and a brewpub-restaurant.
More precisely, in the historic rooms where the very first beer was produced, today we find Casa Menabrea, the brewery’s museum. The visit to the museum is very interesting in that it allows you to discover the production processes as well as the anecdotes of a beverage that has only arrived at our tables and become part of our Italian culture in the recent decades, and of which I believe we still know very, very little. Here you can see old saccharometers (for measuring the sugar content of the beer) and discover that excise taxes were paid on the amount of sugar in the wort; or an old beer tap and find out that there were special methods used to cool the beer quickly through adding salt to ice to lower the freezing temperature; or even an old artisan roaster, the delight of master brewers.
Visiting the museum, one discovers that the water is a very important component of the beer and it is for this reason that Menabrea beer is so good and has such a long history. The water of the Biellese Alps springs is very light, the lightest in Europe and being also without limescale, it gives the beer excellent natural qualities that are difficult to be achieved by other beers. Furthermore it should also be noted that there are several families of yeasts and that the yeast accounts for at least 60% of the beer’s typology. This is why Menabrea has always bought their yeast from the Yeast Bank in Copenhagen to maintain consistency.
But the real peculiarity that has made Menabrea such a unique beer is the bottom fermentation process used. The company was, in fact, among the first and the few in Italy to use this process (equipping itself with an icehouse attached to the brewery), and still today, Menabrea beer is obtained with the bottom fermentation process (obviously it is no longer necessary to have an icehouse!). The bottom fermentation involves a less turbulent process than top fermentation and the result is a beer that has a clean taste and is rich in flavors, since the residue, depositing on the bottom, allows a greater development and a better definition of the different flavors in the rest of the liquid.
In 1997, the worldwide recognition finally arrived: by participating in the World Beer Championship in Chicago, Menabrea beer won various gold and silver medals and became the beer that exports Made-in-Italy to the world. A beer with a pleasant and refined taste, obviously no longer artisanal, but that preserves tradition and original recipes made with the same ingredients and procedures of artisan production from the end of the 1800’s.
When you have arrived at the end of the essential, well studied and very interesting museum tour, the desire to try this beer will have overwhelmed your mental abilities. In the building adjacent to Casa Menabrea, part of the old production workshop, an authentic and well-maintained restaurant / brewpub has been active since the 1990’s. It’s a great place to enjoy giant burgers and try the different beers of the house: directly from the production, which is right there, beyond the wall!
Maybe it’s because I’m Piedmontese, maybe because it’s among the first beers I’ve tasted, but for me Menabrea is really the best beer in the world! And what do you think? Tell me in the comments below.
Casa Menabrea Beer Museum
Address: Via Eriberto Ramella Germanin, 2/A, 13900 Biella BI
Phone: +39 015 252 2320
– Tue – Thu, Sun: 3pm – 7pm
– Fri – Sat: 2pm – 7pm
– Mon: closed
– Full: 3€
– Free: children 14 and under and the disabled
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