Matterino “Teo” Musso was born in Carrù on March 5th, 1964. The last of four children, he was raised in Piozzo, a small village in the Langhe area that he would never leave. A man with a multifaceted personality and great communication skills, he is considered the most significant representative of a new way of looking at beer: a strictly craft product, and preferably to be combined with food.
THE CONTACT WITH THE EARTH
Mum Maria and dad Enrico are farmers who pass down the values of the earth, the power of hard work and the importance of one’s roots to all their children. 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. And what about beer? Well, it has all to do with 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
Teo’s passion for beer evolves into something different after a series of summer holidays spent studying and working with uncle Celso, head pastry chef at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
It’s there that Teo gets to know a world of tastes and aromas he didn’t know before. Most importantly, he discovers Chimay Blue Cap, which changes his life. The encounter shows him that beer can be something completely different from what he had been used to drinking.
While visiting uncle Celso, Teo meets Michelle, a ballerina at the Monte Carlo Opera, and falls in love with her. But he has no intention of leaving Piozzo, so Michelle accepts to leave her career behind and embark on a new adventure in Italy.
THE BEGINNINGS OF LE BALADIN
But what can they do in Piozzo? Teo and Michelle decide to re-open an old inn that had been closed for years and turn it into a pub. Here, they can express all their passions: music, performance arts and, above all, beer. Teo chooses 200 beer labels from all over Europe. It is 1986 and Le Baladin is born.
The word means storyteller in ancient French. The inspiration comes from a wandering circus of street artists, called Cirque Bidon. Teo is fascinated by it and even runs away with them for a few months.
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 begins to work with Christian Vanhaverbeke, beer master of Brasserie d’Achouffe, where he learns how to make craft beer with a skilled technical approach. Thanks to Nora, his new partner, he then 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, Teo takes possession of a garage next to the pub and sets up the first room for the production of Baladin beers. The equipment is built in Belgium with Jean-Luis, adapting old milk vats.
It is 1996 and the new brewpub in Piozzo opens its doors: Le Baladin. [backlink]
THE FIRST BEER BREWED IN PIOZZO
The first two beers are Blonde and Ambrée. Teo decides to scrap the 200 labels from his menu and only serve his two new creatures. The result? Customers run away. But Teo does not give up and perseveres, knowing that it will be difficult to let people understand and appreciate his new products: it is still just the beginning of the history of craft beer in Italy.
But how can he create buzz on the beers from Piozzo? By bottling them and distributing them not only at his pub, but in the rest of Italy too. Teo decides to create his legendary Super.
INNOVATIVE CONTENTS AND LOOK
Teo Musso might be a man with a natural talent for marketing. The choice of the packaging, the unique label and its special font are a sign of this ability, which is confirmed by the idea to send a sample of his two bottled beers, Super and Isaac, to 500 restaurants in Italy, chosen from a Slow Food guide.
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 instead of being served at the restaurants!
Disappointed and discouraged? Not at all! Teo is a persevering man who knows how to work the media: he creates all the prerequisites to attract the interest of the 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 award for his contribution to disseminating the culture of beer in the world of gastronomy and restaurants.
NEVER GIVE UP!
Despite his visionary soul, Teo Musso has a very clear and focused approach to technique. The production of the brewpub has grown so much that the available space is no longer enough for an adequate fermentation cellar. Teo decides to convert a former chicken coop owned by his parents into a cellar, but how to transfer the wort? Moving the production facility is not an option, as Le Baladin is a brewpub and this would damage its image and communication.
The need to transfer the wort from the brewery to the cellar through a direct connection leads Teo to design a steel duct, strong enough to withstand the expansion caused by the wort temperature. The main street in Piozzo is dug to make room for what becomes an actual Beerduct.
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 former chicken coop, which is what happens next.
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, to create smooth tastes than can be easily combined with food. Teo understands that his brewery, and many others, can only grow by spreading the culture of craft beer. He communicates strong messages to convey issues that are very dear to him, such as the agricultural origin of beer - hence our mantra Because beer is earth. Not an easy task in Italy, where the culture of wine is still so deeply rooted.
To distribute his products, Teo creates Selezione Baladin, a distribution company which manages the sales of beers and all other products in the Baladin catalogue.
A name often crosses Teo’s path, right from the beginning: Lorenzo Dabove, aka Kuaska. A great connoisseur and world-renowned beer taster, he meets the young ambitious guy from Piozzo at the beginning of his work. Years later they create TeKu together: the first glass designed to taste craft beers.
PLACES, TRIPS AND NEW RECIPES
In the meantime, Casa Baladin is opened: a beer restaurant with rooms, where the work of a great chef expertly shows what it means to combine beer and food. The prestigious Gambero Rosso “Ristoranti d’Italia 2013” guide gives it its Tre Boccali, the first acknowledgment for a restaurant which only serves beer with food.
The company grows, Teo creates an in-house competitor with the birth of Lurisia beers. It is now even more important to communicate what the Italian world of craft beer is all about. Open, the first open source beer, is created and its recipe is made available on the Internet. The Open project grows to include the Open pubs: the first one is Open Cinzano (now closed, after the opening of Open Baladin Cuneo [backlink]), created to spread the culture of beer through 100 labels of Italian craft breweries. A second place is opened: Open Baladin Roma, a true reference point for beer lovers and, more importantly, a center for Italian and international beer culture. Open Baladin Torino and Cuneo follow.
These are years of great and frantic evolutions, but Teo’s heart is always with beer. This love becomes a lab for experiments and leads to the creation of our so-called couch beers: the Baladin barley wines, including the multi-awarded Xyauyù. Teo starts thinking about them back in 1997, but the first production only happens eight years later. The first Xyauyù is produced for sale in 2003 and launched on the market two years later, in 2005.
In the meantime, Oscar Farinetti is thinking about its Eataly project and Teo is invited to join the small work team that will give birth to what will become a center of excellence for Italian gastronomy and food education. Oscar and Teo immediately find many things in common in their approach and vision. Theirs become a sincere friendship and lays the foundations to explore new ways to spread the culture of good Italian beer together. The Birreria project is developed. The idea is to create a brewpub inside some of the Eataly structures – first and foremost at the legendary New York branch.
The brewery moves a few kilometers away to much larger premises, which can now be visited on Sundays [backlink]. The chicken coop has become too small and has now become Cantina Baladin. Here is where special beers are aged. It is the home of the Xyauyù range and of the two beers dedicated to the world of wine: Terre and Lune, which age in oak barriques given to Teo by many great Italian wine makers.
This is also the time when Baladin Cafés are created: small places which fully express the Baladin taste. The first opens in Saluzzo, the second in Cuneo, later called L’Altro Baladin. It is then time for Turin with the beautiful, 50’s style Petit Baladin. New places are opened to create a direct connection with the public, explain the philosophy of our brewery and test the reactions to new products or the transformations of existing ones. Here come Baladin Bologna, Baladin Milano, Baladin Jesolo La Guinguette, Baladin Cortemilia, Baladin Caselle Aeroporto, L’Altro Baladin and the Baladin brewpub at FICO, the large thematic park developed by Eataly World in Bologna.
Three special places are opened abroad: Riad Baladin in Essaouira, which also includes a small restaurant that serves pasta (Pasta Baladin Essaouira), and Baladin Zanzibar, a small resort, a little gem on one of the most beautiful African islands.
Teo Musso’s provocative soul has never stopped and is still the lifeblood of the entire world of Baladin. Music, educational projects, food products, research and development... These are just some of the innovative components of what Baladin is today and, more importantly, of what it will be tomorrow.