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Baladin News

Enfant terrible

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Matterino “Teo” Musso was born in Carrù on March 5, 1964.

 

A man with a many-sided personality and great communication skills, he is considered one of the most significant representatives of a new way of looking at beer, seen as a strictly craft product, and preferably to be combined with food.

 

The last of four children, he was raised in Piozzo, a small village in the Langhe area he would never leave.

 

ALL BEGAN FROM THE EARTH

 

Mum Maria and dad Enrico are farmers who pass down to all their children the values of the earth, of the power of hard work and of the importance of one’s roots.

 

Pampered by his older siblings and his mum, Teo grows up free to express his creativity through music and the instruments to listen to it. His way of relating to the society and culture of a small countryside village is first punk, he then embraces the new wave culture and enjoys the freedom to travel.

 

And what about beer? Well, of course it is the result of a teenage conflict between father and son!

 

Teo is “forced” by dad Enrico to drink home-made wine with his meals. Teo, a teenager, “rebels” by demanding to drink beer. Even if they are just industrial lagers with no particularly interesting taste, it is still a way to stray from his father’s will.

 

LOVE AT FIRST... SIP

 

The turning point which makes Teo’s passion for beer evolve into something different are a series of studying-working summer holidays with uncle Celso’s, head pastry chef at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.

 

Teo has the opportunity to get to know a world of tastes and aromas he didn’t know before. One day he discovers Chimay Blue Cap, which changes his life. This encounter shows him that beer can be something completely different from what he had been used to drinking, and sows the seed of a new “tunnel” (this is what Teo calls his passions).

 

While visiting uncle Celso, Teo meets Michelle, a dancer at the Monte Carlo Opera, and falls in love with her. But he has no intention of leaving Piozzo, so it is Michelle who accepts to leave her career behind and embark on a new adventure in Italy.

 

LE BALADIN IS BORN

 

But what can they do in Piozzo? Maybe combine their passions and turn them into a job that can support them both. Teo and Michelle decide to re-open an old inn that had been closed for years and turn it into a pub. They express all their passions: Teo chooses 200 beer labels from all over Europe, and thanks to their friends and acquaintances, musicians and artists begin to perform live. They want to share all this with their friends, who then become passionate regulars. It is 1986 and Le Baladin is created.

 

Le Baladin? This odd word means “storyteller” in ancient French. And why all the circus references? The inspiration comes from an itinerant circus which one day stops in Piozzo. It is called Cirque Bidon and is made entirely of street artists; Teo is fascinated by it and “runs away” with them for a few months.

 

So many things, but this is just the beginning. There is still no beer production: it only comes along in 1996, after a few adventurous trips to Belgium.

 

BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND EMOTIONS

 

To better understand the legendary fermented drink called beer, Teo decides to spend some time in Belgium. Here, he works for a great producer, Brasserie d’Achouffe, where he learns how to make craft beer with a skilled technical approach. Thanks to Nora, his new partner, he meets Jean-Luis Dits from Brasserie à Vapeur, where the approach to production is more linked to philosophy and emotions. Teo learns from both these visions and from now on they will always accompany his way of making beer.

 

When he comes back to Italy, his new “tunnel” absorbs him. He takes possession of a garage next to the pub, where Teo sets up the first room for the production of Baladin beers. Where does his equipment come from? He builds it in Belgium with Jean-Luis, adapting old milk vats.

 

THE FIRST BEER BREWED IN PIOZZO

 

It is 1996 and the new brewpub in Piozzo opens its doors: Le Baladin.

 

What is the first beer made by Baladin? It’s two, actually: Blonde and Ambrée. Teo has no hesitation in scrapping the 200 labels from his menu and only offer his new creatures… The result? Customers run away…

 

But Teo does not give up and perseveres, aware that it will be difficult to convince people of his new products. It is still just the beginning of the history of craft beer in Italy...

 

To Teo, a multitalented man and a great communicator, beer is a means of expression which reflects him fully and which, with its complex evolutions of taste, becomes an extension of his thoughts, beliefs and being.

 

But how can he create buzz on the beers from Piozzo? By bottling them and distributing them not only at the pub - which in the meantime has regained its customers, who are getting used to the taste of the Piozzo beers – but in the rest of Italy too.

 

Teo decides to create his own bottle (which is crazy, if you think that he still doesn’t have a market) and to bottle his legendary Super.

 

INNOVATIVE CONTENTS AND LOOK

 

Teo Musso is also a marketing man, or maybe he is just someone with a natural talent for marketing. The choice of the packaging (the bottle), the unique label and its font (created with an artist waitress) are a first sign of this talent, which is strongly confirmed by his idea to send a sample of his two bottled beers, Super and Isaac, to 500 restaurants in Italy.

 

The idea of serving beer as an alternative to oh-so-Italian wine is a mad vision, but things slowly evolve. The success of that first sampling generates an increase in sales… the only problem is that the beers are drunk by the chefs in the kitchen and are not actually served at the restaurants!

 

Disappointed and discouraged? Not at all! Teo is a persevering man who knows how to work the media. He has created all the foundations to attract the interest of the media, press and television. He re-launches his products and finds new credibility beyond the local level and the world of super expert beer enthusiasts. Years later, even Carlsberg awards him a much coveted acknowledgement for his contribution to the dissemination of the culture of beer in the world of gastronomy and the catering industry.

 

NEVER GIVE UP!

 

We have already explained that Teo is a visionary, and that he expresses himself through beer. So much so that he has even named two of his beers after his children (Isaac and Wayan) and their mother (Nora). He always tries to put his sensory experiences in the formulation of his recipes, but maybe it is worth emphasizing that he also has a very clear approach to the technical side of brewing.

 

Today visitors can come to the brewery and be surprised by the way production has been carefully organized, paying the utmost attention to cleanliness and technical details.. and to think that Teo once came up with the idea of a beer-duct!

 

The production of the brewpub had grown so much that space was no longer enough to have an adequate fermentation cellar, the place where all the fermenters are located. Teo decides to convert a former chicken coop owned by his parents into a cellar, but how to transfer the wort? Moving production is not an option, as Le Baladin is a brewpub and it would damage its image and communication. A guy responsible for taxes on alcohol explains Teo that he can move the wort with an adequate van. Fine, the van is there, the cellar is ready… but the guy leaves his office and his substitute says there is no other way of transferring the wort but through a direct connection between the production area and the cellar. All clear, but what about the 300 meters separating the two buildings? Easy! All it takes is going to the town hall, arguing with the mayor, convincing him to dig the main square in the village (we’re still talking about Piozzo), showing technical skill by presenting the project for a steel duct and calculating the expansion due to the length and temperature of the liquid going through it... And one more thing: it takes the first traffic lights in the center of an incredulous farming in village in the Langhe… Well, believe it or not, this is exactly what happened!

 

GROWING PRODUCTION AND SPREADING BEER CULTURE

 

Things move fast, production grows, the plant is small and needs modernizing… in fact, replacing. The time has come to move everything to the “chicken coop”.

 

Many new beers are created. They are all top fermented and have different souls, although they do share one thing: the constant search for the right balance of ingredients, so as to create tastes than can be combined with food and give their best in these combinations.

 

Teo understands that his brewery, and many others, can only grow by spreading the culture of craft beer. He communicates strong messages with innovative and provocative contents, such as “beer is earth!”. He tries to explain that beer too comes from farming, although in Italy this is not as clear as it is in the case of wine (which is in the DNA of Italians). This is a very important moment, almost the beginning of an awareness which brings Teo back to his farming origins. He thus expands his activity to cover all production stages: from the production of ingredients to their processing into final products and their distribution.

 

To distribute his products, Teo creates Selezione Baladin, a distribution company which manages all sales of beers and all other products (take a look at the product catalogue…).

 

A name often crosses Teo’s path, right from the beginning: Lorenzo Dabove, better known as Kuaska. A great world famous beer connoisseur and taster, he discovers the young ambitious guy from Piozzo at the beginning of his work. Years later they create together… TEKU, the first glass specially designed to taste craft beers.

 

PLACES, TRIPS AND NEW RECIPES

 

In the meantime, Casa Baladin is created: a beer restaurant (today a farm restaurant) with rooms, where the work of a great chef shows what it actually means to combine beer and food. The prestigious Gambero Rosso “Ristoranti d’Italia 2013” guide gives it the “Tre Boccali”, the first acknowledgment for a restaurant which only combines beer with food.

 

The company grows, Teo creates an in-house competitor with the birth of Lurisia beers (another spontaneous marketing initiative…). It is now necessary to communicate even more what the Italian world of craft beer is all about… Open is created: the first open source beer. Its recipe is made available to all homebrewers through the Internet (curious? Take a look at the menu up here). Eventually it gives its name to a pub in Cinzano, created with friend master brewer Leonardo di Vincenzo to spread beer culture with 100 labels from Italian breweries and Baladin products. Today the second Open Baladin pub, opened in Rome, is a true reference point for beer lovers and, more importantly, a center for Italian and international beer culture.

 

It is difficult to follow a clear chronology in the life events of a man like Teo. Years of great and frantic evolutions follow, but his heart is always with beer. He keeps on experimenting with the creation of what he calls “sofa beers”, barley wines which he patiently designs, studies and creates: the legendary, multi-awarded Xyauyù. He starts thinking about them back in 1997, but the first production only happens 8 years later. Xyauyù is produced for the market in 2003 (although several previous small experimental productions) and actually launched on the market 2 years later, in 2005.

 

Teo travels and discovers fascinating countries like Morocco, where he happens to open Riad Baladin in the beautiful city of Essaouira. It becomes a destination for Teo to escape from the many daily commitments and an oasis of peace appreciated by his many friends who come here from all over Europe.

 

In the meantime, Oscar Farinetti starts thinking about his Eataly project and Teo is invited to join the small work team which literally sits around a table and begins to give shape to what will become a center of excellent gastronomic Italian products and education. Oscar and Teo immediately find many things in common. They have a shared vision which becomes a sincere friendship and lays the foundations to work together and spread good beer drinking.

 

The Birreria project is developed with two other producers (Dogfish Head and Birra del Borgo). The goal is to create a brewpub inside some of the Eataly structures – first and foremost at the legendary New York branch.

 

But beer is not all: there is music, the summer festival in Piozzo, the music school and Mono Baladin… but if you explore the website you can find out all about these.

 

The small chicken coop becomes something different. The brewery moves a few kilometers away to much larger premises. Now it can be visited on Sundays with Teo to discover its technical features, enjoy its colors and images, and be immersed in the world of Baladin. So, what’s happened to the chicken coop? Now it is called “Cantina Baladin” and here is where special beers – all barley wines – are aged. It is the home of the many Xyauyù and of the two beers dedicated to the world of wine: Terre and Lune, which rest in 160 oak barriques given to Teo by many great Italian wine makers.

 

With “Cantina Baladin”, Teo symbolically makes peace with his wine grower dad, who was so important in giving Teo the motivation to start exploring the oldest fermented drink in the world.

 

This is the time when Baladin Cafés are created: small places which fully express the Baladin taste. The first opens in Saluzzo, the second in Cuneo. It is then time for Turin with the beautiful, 50’s style Petit Baladin.

 

Today we are a Farm Brewery, we work on sustainability, corks, and we have produced Nazionale, the first beer made with 100% Italian ingredients (including hops). Do you want to know more? Just explore this website, created to tell you about Baladin, Teo Musso, his beers, his world..

 

And what about our collaborations?? Or our special beers, produced and sometimes never sold? Again, it’s all here on this website!

 

To quote Teo: “I am provocative. I refuse some conventions of the culture of taste. With my beer, I want to create paradoxes. I am one myself: for the Italian school system, I am ignorant. But despite this, I am often called to hold classes, even at universities.

I think I am someone who loves beautiful things, wherever they come from and regardless of their value. I love to experiment and offer the results of my experiences to others… I am curious to see what happens!

When people ask me where the boundary between work and art is, I answer it is the last centimeter of skin on the little finger which stays attached to the ground.

I am an unusual entrepreneur, I make little calculations, I just let emotions guide me!”

 

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