Thursday, May 24, 2012

Le Baladin beer tasting in Oslo

In May 2012, Norwegian beer importer Beer Enthusiasts invited the founder of the Italian "farmer brewery" Le Baladin, Teo Musso, to Norway to talk about his beers and make a collaboration beer. This is a short report from the Le Baladin beer tasting and dinner held at Baltazar Ristorante in Oslo on May 23.

Teo Musso at Baltazar Ristorante in Oslo

Le Baladin

Back in 1986 beer was not a very hot topic in Italy but a young Teo Musso decided he wanted to do something about that and opened a pub named Le Baladin in his hometown of Piozzo, located roughly 60 km south of Turin in the Piedmont region of Italy. His confidence and reputation gradually grew and in 1996 he took the logical next step and opened a microbrewery: Birra Baladin was born.

In the 16 years since the start of his brewing career, Teo Musso has honed his skills and perfected a style of balanced, often Belgian inspired, beers - ranging from the all malt Super Baladin to Nora, brewed with a special resin from Ethiopia, instead of hops, and Kamut, an ancient type of wheat still grown in Egypt, which is about twice as large as modern day wheat and has a nutty flavor.
Baladin Lune Riserva Teo Musso 2010

Today Le Baladin has a world wide distribution with their own pubs in a number of big cities, including New York and Rome, but so far with only a limited distribution in Norway. Which was why the new Norwegian beer importer, Beer Enthusiasts, had invited Teo Musso and  Cico Fallarini, the general manager, of Le Baladin to Norway for a few days of beer tasting and promotion in Trondheim, Stavanger and Oslo. Teo Musso even managed to squeeze in a brewing session with Frank Werme (the former Nøgne Ø brewer) at Sundbytunet, supposedly a Saison brewed with hawthorn and juniper.

Baltazar Ristorante

The beer tasting in Oslo was hosted by Baltazar Ristorante, an Italian restaurant near Oslo Cathedral. It started on the outside of the restaurant, a little after 6 pm, with a regular beer tasting - in plain view of the cathedral.

The visitors to the beer tasting, a mixture of beer bloggers and local pub owners, were treated to the following beers:

  • Isaac (5% abv Belgian style wheat beer)
    • Named after Teo's son, this wheat beer spans the flavor spectrum of the Mediterranean (Teo's words) with oranges from Sicily and spices from North Africa. A fruity and refreshing witbier.
  • Birra Nazionale (6.5% abv blonde ale brewed with 100% Italian ingredients)
    • This is a fruity and spicy ale, with notes of lemon, banana, cloves and coriander, but still fairly dry (Teo Musso stated a 96% attenuation), reminding me of Duvel.
  • Nora (6.8% abv traditional ale brewed with kamut wheat)
    • Named after Teo's wife, Nora was brewed with the ancient kamut wheat from Egypt, a special Ethiopian resin, instead of hops, and flavored with ginger and myrrh. The result is tasty and rich beer.
  • Super Baladin (8% abv all malt, Belgian type strong ale)
    • This all malt beer is one of the smoothest, most subtle beers I've ever tasted, with notes of almond, mild fruity esters and a subdued malt sweetness.
  • Lune Riserva Teo Musso 2010 (11.5% abv barley wine, barrel aged blend)
    • This beer, aged for one year on Italian white wine barrels, was the highlight of the tasting session. It had a wonderful grape or litchie berry character, oak, vanilla and malt sweetness rounded off by a light oxidized note, bringing my thoughts to a good sherry. Awesome!

During the tasting, Teo Musso told us about each beer and despite repeated claims of speaking English pourly, he did a great job in conveying the nuances of his many creations. After the conclusion of the tasting, basically when all the bottles were empty, we headed inside the restaurant for a 4-course beer dinner.

Le Baladin beer dinner at Baltazar Ristorante

A couple of weeks prior to the dinner, the kitchen chef had been given a taste of four different Baladin beers and was asked to compose one dish for each beer. The result was a brilliant display of beer and food pairing, which even took Teo Musso by surprise. The dinner started out with a salmond carpaccio dish, then we got a parma ham and cheese before a rich sausage and pork dish, with kamut grains cooked in the fat of the sausages. The sausage fat and kamut was really tasty and filling, and paired really well with Nora - which was brewed with kamut. Finally, we were served a delicious desert of sorbet and melted cheese, which was served with Lune Riserva Teo Musso 2010. Yummy!

At the end of the evening, Beer Enthusiasts treated us to a very rare beer - the Baladin Terre Riserva Teo Musso 2010, a 12% abv barley wine that was aged for 1 year in different Italian red wine barrels before blending. The result reminded me most of all of a white port wine, with a mild oxidized oak note, ripe berries and a rounded sweetness. It was simply delicious!


With Le Baladin in their portfolio, Beer Enthusiasts have a very good card to play in the restaurant market, as several of the Baladin beers basically begs for food pairing. The dinner at Baltazar Ristorante proved that to all of us. Great beers require great food.

Thank you to Teo Musso for taking the time to talk about his beers, to Baltazar Ristorante for taking the chance to host a beer event in a wine restaurant and to Amund and Jørn Idar of Beer Enthusiasts for being such great beer enthusiasts - keep up the great work!

Baladin Terre Riserva Teo Musso 2010

A comple set of photos from this event can be found at: Flickr.

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