The terroir of beer

04 September 2020

We often speak of the terroir of beer and its connection with the land. But most of the time this discussion makes reference to raw ingredients like herbs, fruits, spices and even vegetables.

Less often – although in recent years there’s been a small but visible change in the direction of the wind – do we talk of malt and hops.

And almost never do we factor in two actors which have played a decisive role in the history of beer and its relationship with its surroundings: water and fermenting agents, above all yeasts and bacteria.

SPONTANEOUS FERMENTATION

The great technological innovations that allow contemporary brewers to modify the water to their taste through filtration and the addition of minerals, as well as the use of selected yeasts, have relieved these ingredients of their role in determining the character of the final product. But it wasn’t always this way. Think of the waters of the Czech city of Plzen or Burton-on-Trent in England, which are fundamental in shaping the personality of pils and IPA respectively, styles which are among the popular worldwide today. Or else we may consider how the complex mix or microorganisms in Belgium, particularly, Pajotteland, is key to aromatic profile of their spontaneously fermented beers.

In the Taste Workshop Beer: the importance of native yeasts which will be held on October 11, 2020 in Turin, we’ll discover how yeasts and spontaneous bacteria define the aromatic characteristics of some of the most famous Italian beers, and how, in the relationship between beer and brewer, there’s a deep link with the place of production.

THE BEERS WE’LL TASTE

We’ll taste the beers of six artisanal producers who’ve taken the path of anomalous fermentation, which is activated not by selected yeasts but by the microorganisms natural present in the brewery, on fruit skins and grapes, and in the wooden barrels where the beer is left to ferment.

PIEDMONT, VENETO, TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE

Valter Loverier, a Piedmontese brewer from Marentino, a master of mixed and spontaneous fermentation, presents Tre Ban, a spontaneous beer that ferments and matures for 24 months in wooden barrels that have been used for the production of cognac.

From the town of Village in Veneto, meanwhile, the Siemàn company is a young business that combines both a wine cellar and brewery in a single edifice. Their Incrocio Bianco is produced using manzoni grapes and the fermentation process, as with all the beers they make, is activated by a starter obtained from the same grapes that give the beer its aroma.

From Trentino Alto Adige we welcome Asso di Coppe and their Impombera,a spontaneously-fermented beer made with mountains raspberries.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA, TUSCANY

Our journey continues in Emilia-Romagna, where Ca’ del Brado represents one of the oldest breweries in Italy, and one of the most successful. We’ll taste their Û Baccabianca, made with grechetto grapes.

Casa Gori is a farm near Siena that produces honey, wine, cereals, hops, and, of course, beer. We’ll taste their Farmhouse Old Style, a beer that reflects an ancient style: Saison, which was traditionally made in the Belgian countryside to quench the thirst of peasants after long summer days working in the fields.

Our journey ends in Tuscany, with Cantina Errante near Florence, whose Primavera 2019 is a spontaneous fermentation beer made using the ancient technique of koelship, and perfumed with herbs gathered in the fields around the brewery.

by Eugenio Signoroni, e.signoroni@slowfood.it