What springs to mind when you think of the Baladin brewery? Beer, of course: new recipes, yeasts, selected spices, and in-house production of ingredients, particularly malt and hops. But there’s much more in addition to the work at the brewery or in the aging cellar.Think of the iconic, unparalleled TeKu glasses for beer tasting, or the involvement in the development of kegs made from recyclable materials - which has resulted in an exclusive, customized design for ochre and black kegs made by PolyKeg, manufacturer of one-way kegs that do not need to be returned and are easily disposable.
All these initiatives require a huge research and development effort, that Birra Baladin has been constantly supporting since 1996 to maintain its distinctive role in the world of craft beer. A pioneer in Italy, Teo Musso has always tried to make his brewery stand out from others and has extended the relevance of Baladin to many related sectors.
His next goal, for instance, is the installation of innovative robotized draft beer vending machines at train stations and airports: strategic places where it is difficult to find craft beer. A challenge, a provocative idea, but also an inventive tactical action to position craft beer in a market that is difficult to approach.
The research and development effort of Birra Baladin starts from the selection of its yeast strains, a fundamental ingredient to give a specific character to craft beer. The selection started in 1999 and it took five years to obtain, in 2004, the Elixir yeast strain. It is now used also for Nazionale, Pop - the first Italian craft beer in a can - and the iconic couch beer Xyauyù.
Xyauyù, in particular, also required the development of a specific production technique. This barley wine is aged in wooden barrels and is the jewel in the crown of the Baladin brewery: it perfectly represents the spirit and love for research of its master brewer, Teo Musso.
This beer anticipated many others in trying to go beyond the common idea of drinking, focusing instead on the evolution of aromas over time and challenging drinkers to make comparisons between different vintages in tasting sessions. Well, Xyauyù required and in-depth study of the evolution of oxidation which lasted years.
Using Xyauyù as its basis, in 2018 Beermouth was created: inspired by the Piedmontese tradition of vermouth, but shaped on craft beer, it can be drunk on its own, as an aperitif or after a meal, and in mixology.
The recipe is true to the traditional one in that it uses the 13 botanicals of vermouth. But the real innovation - apart from the use of beer - lies in the way they are extracted. Ultrasounds and low-temperature vacuum distillation techniques are used to obtain the best aromas. Developing this technique, and carrying out the many tastings needed before obtaining the desired result, required two years of time and joint work between Dennis Zoppi and Giacomo Donadio - international masters of mixology - and Teo Musso.
This would have not been possible anywhere else but at the new Baladin farm brewery, one of the largest in the Italian craft beer landscape. After a long design process, it was completed in 2017 to ensure maximum production quality and consistency with an automated yet flexible plant, which can be adapted to the needs of the master brewer, and to the specific characteristics of Baladin production processes, such as the addition of spices.
At the same time, Baladin has worked to develop the cultivation of hops in Italy. In 2008, the first experimental hop field was launched, in cooperation with the Institute for Agricultural Studies of Cussanio (Cuneo) and the company Tecnogranda. Also, together with Officine Conterno, the Baladin farm brewery has contributed to the prototype of the Italian Hop Machine, which mechanically separates the hop buds directly in the field, thus supporting and improving the work of Italian farmers.
A philosophy based on sharing and a spirit of innovation guide the brand. Think of the first open source Italian beer - Open - whose recipe has been made available to homebrewers with the right quantities to replicate it at home. Or the Open Baladin pubs (in Rome, Turin, Cuneo), which open new markets for craft beers and serve Baladin draft beers along with many other products by Italian independent craft breweries, offering them visibility.
With the same open minded approach, Baladin has developed the first Italian beer kits with malt and all grain extracts, in cooperation with the historical distributor Mr Malt.
In the meantime, two important research projects are being carried out in cooperation with the University of Florence. One focuses on the influence of sound vibrations on the evolution of yeast cells, and stems from an intuition of Teo’s. In his first years as a brewer, he had invented large headsets that he applied to fermenters to stimulate the activity of yeasts through music. Another study is looking for a new yeast strain obtained naturally and uses the stomach of hornets as an incubation laboratory. These projects are work-in-progress and require long times and investments, but they are the perfect expression of the spirit of Baladin in the world of craft beer.