In the footsteps of the Belgian monks. San Biagio, a beer that satisfies body and mind
An artisanal microbrewery inspired by the old monastic traditions of Northern Europe. In the “Accademia” line 5 elegant beers that smell of fresh fruit and spices
Azienda Agricola Monastero di San Biagio
Loc. Lanciano, 42 Nocera Umbra (Pg) – 0742.813646
Median price of a 75cl bottle: 8-10 €
by Filippo Benedetti Valentini
Giovanni Rodolfi is someone who before beginning to produce beer has known it drop by drop. The 50 year old, originally from Bergamo, has been working for over twenty years in the brewery business. He worked in the prestigious role of Beer Culture Manager for Interbrew-Stella Artois, then Heineken, but that wasn’t enough for somebody so passionate about beer and also about artisanal methods.
In 2009, Giovanni leaves the big business and the big city and moves to Umbria, where he founds the San Biagio di Nocera Umbra Microbrewery, which produces the only Umbrian artisanal beer inspired by the monastic tradition of the Benedictine Abbeys of Northern Europe. His brewery follows the laws of Belgian Trappists: honesty, respect for the land, and the use of genuine ingredients as a way of reconciling nature and mind. A recipe book of golden and amber colored beer with moderate foam but rich in smells: fresh fruit, marmalades and a refined assortment of spices such as bay leaves, honey, cloves, chocolate and coffee.
The San Biagio Abbey in Lanciano, close to Nocera Umbra, was founded in 1333. A medieval presbytery is located within a 50 hectares heavenly estate, which also contains the agriturismo “La Tavola dei Cavalieri” and the country residence “Le Case”. Elegant rooms – wood and stone, as in the best Umbrian tradition – a pool and a spa. The organic farm raises wild pigs and grows the hops for the beer. It is a mystical invitation to abandon the city and its chaos to give mind and body a rest.
Master Brewer Giovanni is helped by Marco Gerli and Roberto Battiston in creating his San Biagio beers, with Marianna Merluzzi and Remo Andreini helping out with sales and accounting. The beer with style and for all tastes, from low to high fermentation (Pils, Weiss, Ale, Strong Ale, American Pale Ale, Kriek, Saison) is not filtered or pastorized but fermented in bottles. A unique ingredient is the extremely limpid water of Nocera Umbra.
Monasta: an absolutely innovative product, a new style of beer which makes use of the techniques of Tappist monks. Amber in color with hazelnut reflexes, it has a full taste and aroma because of the addition of bay leaves, grown outside the brewery, and honey from the Umbrian mountains. It is perfectly accompanies roasted meats, smoked sausages and seasoned hard cheeses.
Verbum: a Weiss, thus wheat, beet. White color, low alcohol content. Slightly bitter and rather sparkling, it is paired with cheeses with high fat content, vegetables and fried fish. The perfect beer for an aperitivo.
Gaudens: Pils, the queen of low-fermented beers. Golden, light and pleasantly bitter because of the Saaz hops, typical of Bohemia. It goes well with pizza. Also try it with cheeseburgers, mustard and barbecue sauce.
Ambar: a highly fermented amber colored beer, it is the Ale which in 2011 has received the gold medal at the “Mondial de la bière” in Strasburg. This, like the Monasta, is a true jewel. The toasted malt make it full, round, and almost not bitter at all. As it contains overtones of cocoa and caramel, it is perfect to accompany a tiramisù at the end of a meal.
Aurum: a refined strong ale. A light colored beer with a structured character with malt, fruit and spices in perfect balance. Best served with ripened pecorino cheese or braised meat.
Production. Four steps: mashing, filtering, boiling (during which the hops are added) and whirlpool (a rotation which clarifies the must). Subsequently the must is placed into closed fermentors. The beer is then filled into bottles and after a little sugar is added, it ferments a second time. Once the process is completed, the labels are placed on the bottles. An annual production of 200-250 thousand bottles in 75, 50 and 33 cl sizes as well as Magnum bottles and kegs of 20 liters.
Where to buy: the best way to try all varieties is to visit the brewery, to enjoy the clean air of Nocera Umbra, the peace of the place, the serenity of the landscape and the wisdom of the brew master Giovanni, always ready to give useful tips about pairing as well as home brewing. But San Biagio beers are also sold in stores carrying artisanal beers and in restaurants. A quality that has also been appreciated abroad: especially in Canada, Cina, and Japan. A Belgian heart that pulses under the chest of the ancient Umbrian hills.