Collesi – Italian Craft Beer
This August marks the forty fifth anniversary of Woodstock. You may be wondering what that has to do with an Italian beer story. Well, it reminded me of a pop music icon from that period, Frank Zappa, who was once quoted as saying that in order to be considered a legitimate country you needed to have a flag and a beer. He then went on to say that you could probably survive without the flag but, you definitely needed to have a beer. I don’t necessarily agree with his geopolitical philosophy but, I have noticed that most civilized countries do produce beer.
Now Italy is not really known for making beer. Yes, there are a few commercially produced brews that have gained some international recognition but, most of them are simple mass produced lagers. There is nothing wrong with them. They are easy to drink and refreshing on a warm summer afternoon. However, there is another category of beer that is more serious. They are bottle conditioned ales that are produced by a slow, methodical process whereby they go through a second fermentation in the bottle (like Champagne) and are sold unfiltered. This style of beer was created by the Trappist Monks during the middle ages and is most widely produced in Belgium.
About fifteen years ago, Giuseppe Collesi, who was running his family’s distillery business in the Marche region of Italy, was asked to present his range of Grappas at a gathering of international diplomats in Rome. As the evening progressed, the Belgium ambassador asked Giuseppe if he had ever considered making beer. He confessed that he always had a passion for beer but did not know how to begin. The ambassador arranged for him to meet Marc Knops, one of Belgium’s most respected brew masters and Collesi beers were born.
Giuseppe discovered he had all the right elements. His family’s farm was located in Apecchio, high in the Apennine mountains, in close proximity to the limestone rich water of Mount Nerone. The Collesi family had been growing fruits and grains in this area since the unification of Italy in 1860. Within a year they built a brewery and perfected six distinct styles of beer, all hand crafted, using organically grown grains and hops from his family’s estate.
The success of Collesi beer has resulted in this small mountain town of Apecchio, that sits at the crossroads of Marche, Umbria, and Tuscany, to become an International meeting place for craft beer connoisseurs and brewers. The town of Aprecchio has been given the official designation of “Citta Della Birra” the City of Beer.
If you have the opportunity to visit the Marche region be sure to put Apecchio on your agenda. The ancient history, the food (did I mention that they are one of the few towns that have truffles all year long), breathtaking views and, of course, the beer will make it a highlight of your trip. In the meantime look for Collesi beer in your favorite shops beginning September. The six styles range from clean and citric to rich and malty. In order of complexity they are Bionda, Chiara, Ambrata, Rossa, Nera, and Triplo Malto.
Birra Collesi Ambrata
This Amber Ale form Italy’s most awarded craft brewery is made from organic grains from the Collesi estate high atop the Apennine Mountains. It has an intense aroma of cereals, haps and dried fruit. It makes a nice accompaniment to grilled meats. Retail price for a 500ml (16oz) bottles is about $8.00
Birra Collesi Rossa
Collesi is one of the best Italian craft beer producers in Italy. This Red Ale is made from organically grown grain from their own estate. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized allowing it to continue to develop in the bottle. It has a spicy aroma with hits of caramel and hazelnuts. I think it goes well with cheese and even with cantucci after dinner. Retail price for a 500ml (16oz) bottles is about $8.00