A visit to Riccardo and Arianna Cacioppolini, beekeepers and producers of honey-flavoured beer. From taking care of beehives to the selection of malts and hops. A success story.
by Emanuela De Pinto
Recovering a childhood passion, transforming it into a job. Riccardo and Arianna have made it, and today they are two young beekeepers, with a modern and daring vision of tradition. Their company was born in 2012. Riccardo, 34 years old, was laid off from his job, and he involved his sister, a student in Economics and Business, in the project that has brought them back to what their grandparents used to do, producing sweet honey. They owned the family land among the hills of Passignano sul Trasimeno, Preggio and Montesperello. They gave life to Società Agricola Le Guardie. In order to start this adventure they needed training, hard labour and a lot of courage.
“I’ve started with some boxes – says Riccardo – and a lot studies on books, internet, internship, courses. But the secrets of beekeeping were given to me by a friend of my father, of a family of beekeepers since three generations”. Riccardo and Arianna have placed their bees in their 32 hectares of land, faraway from urban centers, protected from cold winds and predators. From their uncontaminated land, starts the fast race towards quality markets.
In each product, the cult for the land
They produce excellent wildflower honey, but also acacia honey with its delicate aroma, chestnut honey with fine bitter aftertaste, and many more products made with honey: 100% natural spreadable creams, with pistachios from Bronte, or hazelnuts from the Langhe region. Amazing products that can create addiction! Dark small chocolate filled with honey, in partership with the company Millepi. Acacia honey with black truffles and Saffron from Cascia. And hydromel, the ancient “nectars of the gods” made from honey fermentation.
We meet Riccardo and Arianna early in the morning, in their small laboratory in via del Porfido 3, Olmo (Pg). Here we taste products and we see the instruments needed to make honey. Then we make the long journey to the beehives, where Riccardo goes to meet his bees at least twice per week. There he wears protective clothing, checks and cleans every single beehive where hundreds of elegant worker bees organize the hive following a strict code of conduct. That’s where honey is born, but it is thanks to human abilities that we can extract it and bring it whole and pure on our table.
An innovative company
Experimentation and diversification are two keywords of Le Guardie company. Riccardo has selected only the best bees in order to prevent the damages of the bees blight, a problem that affects all beekepers. In 2013 he bought in Sicily the “black Sicilian” race that resists extreme weather conditions and the parasite Varroa, dangerous for the hives. With the queen bees already fecundated, he has built the artificial swarms by himself, checking each week the growth of the new family.
Always full of new ideas, Riccardo and Arianna had a new ace in the hole: five unfiltered and non pasteurized craft beers, with honey aromas. Produced with 13 kinds of malt and hops selected from England, Australia, New Zealand, California, and the United States. A real force of nature.
The first beer that Le Guardie produced is Tzunami. Belgian Abbey style, made with caramelized malt, wildflower honey and bay leaves. Amber colour, with yeast and bread crusts aromas, ideal for blue cheese or spiced barbecued meats.
Then there is Folgore, an English Porter with chestnut honey, dark coloured and with a bitter aftertaste, with hints of liquorice, cocoa, coffee, hazelnut and chestnut. This beer can be paired with red meats and creamy desserts. Extreme and very good. The third beer is a real surprise. It is called Tornado and is a Weizen Rauchbier, an intense golden blond, made with smoked malt and wheat, also enriched with wildflower honey. It has a strong structure, embracing you with its 8,1 degrees, and it is perfect with savoury cold cuts.
The fourth is Valanga, an English Imperial Ipa, dark amber, rich of hops: in the mouth it feels like an explosion of exotic fruits, grapefruit, passion fruit, lime, hay and herbal hints. Great for conversation. The last one is Gaiser, a blanche beer with acacia honey, black pepper, coriander, bergamot, orange and camomile. We taste the beers with a cheese called il ‘Guardiano’, born in partnership with cheese factory Nestore di Marsciano (the ability to create networks is a strenght of this artisanal company): they pour 10-20% of beer in the curds, either Porter or Ipa. Raw milled malt is also added. In the mouth you can feel the good flavours of good milk and beer.
They produce 3200 bottles, of 75 cc, each year: still a limited production. But you can already find them in many shops in Umbria: restaurants, famous clubs in Perugia and Foligno, or, alternatively, directly in the microbrewery. These guys are doing great. What else should we expect from them?