Italy’s Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food (And Beer)

Italy's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

Every other September Slow Food International hosts the Slow Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. Since I live just a short train ride away I headed over to see what all the fuss is about. I mean with a focus on cheese it seems criminal to miss it, no? Know what else? I stumbled upon the Italian Craft Beer area. GirlsGottaDrink is decidedly a wino, but I have a special place in my heart for suds. Beer me!

>>> Slow Food: 

The Slow Food movement originated in Bra, Italy, the hometown of Founder Carlo Petrini.  The long and short? It’s living the slow life, startin’ at the table. 

The event lasts four days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Cheese 2013 ran September 20 to 23. The event features The Cheese Market, Slow Food Education, Workshops, The Great Hall of Cheese and Enoteca, and other tasting activities.

The Cheese Market

Admission: Free Italy's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food The Cheese Market is truly the core of the event with rows and rows of cheese makers handing out samples and selling product. It’s quite a sight and a great way to fill your belly.

The Great Hall of Cheese and Enoteca

Admission: Free to enter, costs vary per taste Wine Glass: 2 euros Cheese Tasting: 2 euros/each Wine Tasting: 3 euros and up Cheese 2013 featured 150 international cheeses to pair with 800 wines from across Italy. I purchased my wine glass, which came with a program, and tasting vouchers at the entry cashier. Super simple. Then, everyone walks around with their wine glass in a pouch around the neck. Now there’s some form and function.

Emmentaler + Erbaluce BrutItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

The Beer Piazza

Admission: Free to enter, tastings free I’m not gonna lie, I taste wine frequently. I live in Piedmont after all. But, the Colorado girl in me misses craft beer terribly. As if led by a sixth sense I happened upon the beer tent after leaving the Cheese and Wine Enoteca. I found craft beer producer, Baladin, arguably the brewery that sparked the Italian craft beer revolution. Great beers. Baladin gave me recommendations on four other producers to try. It was a nice change from the all wine tasting I’m lucky enough to do.

Baladin: See website for 4 tasting locationsItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

A Piedmont Brewery, Baladin opened its doors as a beer pub in 1986 in Piozzo in the Province of Cuneo. Beer production started 10 years later with Blonde and Ambrée. On Tap: Baladin produces 27 beers from seven categories. The list is too expansive to include everything (and somehow it just doesn’t seem right since I’ve only tasted a few), so here’s notes on beers from 3 categories:

  • Spiced: The Spiced beer list features three beers, The fresh Isaac is a Blanche style, made from raw wheat and flavored with coriander and orange zest; inspired by Saison beers, Wayan is made with five different cereals and nine spices; Nora, is dedicated to ancient Egypt, brewed with organic khorasan KAMUT® wheat and the addition of myrrh and ginger.
  • Pure Malt: These three beers are meant to demonstrate that four classic ingredients can make great, complex products. Super, an amber ale inspired by Belgian Abbey beers (the first beer bottled by Baladin!); Leön, a dark ale; Elixir, a mellow beer due to yeast derived from whisky.
  • Hoppy Beers: Nazionale is made with hops grown a few kms from the brewery in Cussanio – my Baladin of choice (so far)Super Bitter is a hoppier version of Super; Open Rolling Stone features strong hoppy aromas and bitterness – Il Ragazzo loves it.

Read up on the rest of the beers here. PS – the Special Beers category is just cool.

Birrificio Troll: Via Valle Grande 15. 12O19 Vernante, CNItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

Troll features 10 beers including an IPA called Blanche.

Birra del Borgo: Via del Colle Rosso snc – Loc. Piana di Spedino – 02021 BorgoroseItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

Yum, I spent a bit of time here. They opened in 2005 in a small village about an hour outside of Rome. Owner Leonardo Di Vincenzo gave up a BioChem PhD to go for beer. 

On Tap: They do 8 beers year-round (Le Classiche), various seasonal beer (Seasonal), and their experimental brews (Le Bizzaree). All unfiltered, unpasteurized, and “strictly craft-made”. Some highlights:

  • ReSale: A hoppy, amber ale – their first beer! Loved it!
  • Duchess: A crowd favorite, Duchess is a golden, unmalted spelt beer with moderate hops. One of my faves for the freshness.
  • Ducale: A dark, full bodied Belgian style, “meditation” beer (their words, not mine – I dig it.)
  • ReSales EXTRA: Extra hoppy edition of The Original. Birra del Borgo warns: It can be addicting.
  • My Antonia: A Pils with American and European hops – 60-min long hopping. Mmmhhmmm – who doesn’t love a Pils!
  • L’Equilibrista: An experimental beers made of a youthful Chianti and Duchess. A beautiful fruity blend. I took one home!

Nuovo Birrificio Nicese: Via Francesco Cirio, 41, 14049 Nizza Monferrato, ATItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

Not only are the beers great, but the guys were so much fun! Partner Carlo was a fantastic host, talking me through all the beers, introducing me to his neighbors, and always making sure my glass was more than half full. The brewery was born in a renovated old building in the center of Nizza, Monferrato in January 2006.
On Tap:
They feature 7 artisanal beers, all unfiltered, unpasteurized, and100% passion.

Get to know a few:

  • Elegia: Their Blond, a combo of Blanche + Blond. Spicy aromas, malty and fruity on the palate, and not so bitter. Mi piace (I like).  
  • Weiss: German-style wheat beer with malty, yeasty tastes.
  • Nicea: Red, Irish ale. Yum
  • Medea: Belgian ale, bitter.
  • Venticinquedodici: A Belgian strong ale (9% alchol!), not very bitter, great structure and good spices. I took one home. 

Brewfist: Via Molinari 5 26845 CodognoItaly's Big Cheese Festival: Bra Slow Food

Founded in 2010, BrewFist features 10 beers. On Tap: BrewFist’s 10 beers have super fun names (click for full list):

  • 24k: Golden Ale
  • Fear: Milk Chocolate Stout
  • Czech Norris: Imperial Pils
  • Green Petrol: Black IPA. I love me a good black IPA!

More on Slow Food and Cheese 2013

It was a really cool day and a fun way to experience Bra. The international event is busy and crowded (fair warning). Check out the Cheese 2013 website if you want to know more about the festivities. See the Slow Food website for more information on Slow Food and other Slow Food Events. As much as I love wine and cheese, I have to say, this satisfied my beer cravings. Now if someone could just introduce spicy Bloody Mary’s to Italy… Ciao ciao! V-dawg OUT. What’s your favorite craft beer (doesn’t have to be Italian!)

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