The history of Baladin is the history of a truly visionary brewery. It helped to ignite the spark of craft beer in Italy, and has since opened new paths and started new trends for the future development of the entire sector.
The merit goes to the ingenious mind of its founder, Teo Musso, who has repeatedly revolutionized the very concept of beer. One of his many disrupting ideas was the ambition to create the first 100% Italian craft beer, made entirely with ingredients produced in Italy. It may sound easy and feasible without great effort now, but it did sound crazy just five years ago. Teo Musso has always nurtured the dream of creating such a product. And he made his dream come true in September 2011 with Nazionale, the first 100% Italian beer. It was the beginning of a new, important phase for the entire Italian craft beer industry.
The history of Nazionale is long and intriguing, as it tells an ambitious process which started many years ago. The first step can be dated back to 2006, when Baladin started an experimental cultivation of barley for malting in Piozzo, thanks to the “Morally Controlled Production Chain” project. The following year the production was moved to Basilicata, given the land and climate characteristics of this southern region, where it increased significantly: 10 hectares in 2007, 25 in 2009, 68 in 2011, over 400 now (including the organic fields in the Marche region). In the meantime, the 4 hectares in Piozzo were destined to other cereals that are used raw.
The turning point for the production of Nazionale, however, was the availability of self-produced hops. In 2008, thanks to the cooperation with the Institute for Agricultural Studies of Cussanio, Baladin started the first cultivation of hops in Italy. The size of the fields was enough for a relevant production of beer. 600 plants of the Hallertau Mittelfrüh variety were planted. In 2016, another hectare was added to grow mainly the Cascade variety. The availability of the other two key ingredients was also ensured:
Three years after starting growing hops in Piedmont, Nazionale saw the light: it was developed following the style of Blonde Ales, classic Belgian beers that are easy to drink, yet have a bold aromatic profile. Baladin’s idea, however, was to change the recipe over time, waiting for the hops to develop their personality before they could become the protagonists of this beer. As this would only be achieved in a few years, the first Nazionale was mainly characterized by the yeast: a strain taken from a whisky distillery, reminiscent of the yeasts used in classic Belgian beers, but with some peculiar traits, such as a gentle note of almond.
Nazionale has now entered its second stage, where the contribution of hops has become more important and shares the stage with the yeast. The used varieties are Magnum to give bitterness and Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Cascade for their aromas. It is worth noting that the latter, compared to the original US variety, has a distinctive peppery note that comes from the soil where it grows. The recipe also requires a very small amount of zest and coriander. Both ingredients are of course grown in Italy and enrich the aromatic range.
The birth of Nazionale has allowed Baladin to expand the concept of 100% Italian beer to other products. For instance, in April 2019 it launched Italian Alley, a Blonde Ale that may be considered as the young sister of Nazionale (also in terms of alcohol content). This beer was developed for the Baladin bars opened the same month in London at Camden Market. The idea is to take the concept of Italian products abroad with a 100% Italian craft beer.
Teo Musso’s goal is to make all his beers 100% Italian (since 2019, the historic blanche, Isaac, is also made with Italian ingredients only).
Nazionale is now a mature, solid and very Italian beer. As the best Blond Ales, it is very easy to drink, and at the same time boasts a bold and unique characters. Most importantly, Nazionale is a beer with a message: a visionary and revolutionary project, the realization of a dream that seemed impossible just a few years ago. If the concept of Italian production chain is now firmly established in the industry, if the projects to grow and process hops have multiplied, it is because Teo Musso was grabbed by a crazy, extraordinary idea ahead of times.