There are few better ways to spend an evening than with a view of the Alps, pleasant Northern Italy sunshine and a cold refreshing beer close to hand. But for the locals of the small town of Biella, located in the foothills of the Bo mountain range, this is just a way of life. They do after all have one of Italy’s oldest brewery’s at there doorstep creating the premium Birra Menabrea. For a weekend Street Gentry were lucky enough to experience a taste of this Northern Italian lifestyle with a visit to the historic Menabrea brewery.

After enjoying many a tasty and refined sample fresh off the production line and chatting with the owner Franco Thedy  it is our pleasure to report that the beer long favoured in the stylish bars of Milan and Turin is soon to become a much more common sight in the restaurants of pubs of the UK. Salute to that! Read on to discover the three elements we picked up on during our visit that we feel are key to the Italian’s lager appeal.

 

The Brewery

Walking around the 19th century brewery you can’t help but get a sense of the history and heritage of the place with retro (and very cool!) Menabrea advertising posters decorating the walls, characterful original buildings still intact and an impressive wooden roof overhead as you enter. Still in the same location as in 1846 many of these original features are intertwined with the modern equipment, technology and bottling plant hinting at the brewery’s proud tradition and ambitious future. Franco was also perhaps not what you might expect from a managing director; relaxed, conversational and evidently proud of his family business he was only too eager to offer us a bottle or two straight off of the production line. Even if it was only 11am all were in agreement that this was easily one of the nicest tasting beers we’ve had the pleasure of drinking – why can’t all beer be brewery fresh? Those lucky Biella locals.

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The Tradition

 

With a brewery that is over 150 years old you would probably expect there to be a few relics from the past hiding here and there, but the sheer scale of history on display at Menabrea was something else entirely with treasures to be found around each corner and on every other wall. Perhaps this was the reasoning behind the creation of the fascinating museum located on site filled with a whole range of oddities and objects tracing the long proud history of Menbrea and providing a fascinating glimpse at how the brewing of beer has evolved over time. What was particularly striking about being in the presence of all this heritage was that it brought to life the progression of the craft, brand and production process since Giuseppe Menabrea travelled to Biella all those generations ago with the bright idea of establishing a brewery.

In the fast paced globalized 21st century it is refreshing to see a family business successfully honing its craft like this over many lifetimes and it’s particularity great to taste a beer that has been made on the same site, in the same way and by the same family for generations. This tradition, knowledge and passion has certainly paid dividends for Menabrea with a host of awards to their name and surely more to come.

 
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The Town

 

With travellers flocking to the more well-known or obvious holiday hotspots of nearby Turin and Milan, Biella enjoys a relatively tourist free existence meaning non-locals can savour an authentic Northern Italy small town experience. There is a sense of anticipation as you step around each new corner not knowing whether you’ll step into a charming piazza, a street of beautifully antiquated town houses or a rabble of cafes and bars. We topped off our tour of the town in style by taking in a stunning panoramic view of the Alps. For us this was a wonderful novelty but for Franco and the other Menabrea employees such a view is a normal part of the post-work ritual, accompanied by a beer and some aperitivos of course!

Beyond the perfect brewery conditions of cold fresh air and pure mountain water that the town offers a sense of provenance has become increasingly important for modern businesses and brands so it is easy to understand why Menabrea have kept their roots firmly planted in Biella. A beautiful town for a beautiful tasting beer.

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With years of traditions and heritage, a historic brewery and a beautiful small town setting, the family run Menabrea has discovered a perfetto recipe for success and it’s Street Gentry’s hope that they will continue to create delicious beers for many generations to come.

About The Author

Admirer of classic style and design with an unhealthy obsession for good coffee.

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