Birrificio Beba: pure tradition
Birrificio Beba, located inside a former factory in Villar Perosa (Turin), is still loyal to the old Bavarian rule that used to regulate beer production and sales in part of what five centuries ago was the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Known as “Reinheitsgebot”, or “Beer Purity Law”, it was passed in Ingolstadt in 1516 by William IV, Duke of Bavaria, and included a list of ingredients allowed in brewing Lager beer.
Water, malted barley, yeast, hops: Beba beer needs nothing else, nor has it ever employed carbon dioxide, preservatives or antioxidants. Needless to say, it is unpasteurized and unfiltered. It’s been made this way since 1996, before craft beer became a relatively popular trend. We talked to the owners of this brewery and pub.
You can consider yourselves some of Italy’s craft beer pioneers.
Definitely: in the late 1990s there were only eight microbreweries in the country, and now there are almost four hundred. We opened in 1996, when there were no other small-scale, high-quality producers in Italy. The situation was very different for other products such as cheese and wine, but beer was our goal… and our challenge.
You drew inspiration from very distant times, going all the way back to 1516.
Yes, that was the year of the famous German “Beer Purity Law”, which we abide by. We never process our beers in order to artificially prolong their shelf life, and always use top-quality ingredients. We want our products to be founded on simplicity, so we avoid peculiar recipes and bizarre flavors.
You also seem to have a strong environmental awareness.
We use photovoltaic and thermal panels and equipment designed to save energy, time, and raw materials. We also collect our clients’ empty bottles, which is laborious but very rewarding.
Speaking of laborious tasks… do you think you have a hard job in general?
It has its challenges, like any other job. It is essential to believe in it, and to have the utmost respect for it. It’s tiring at times, because both the inputs and the output are physically heavy to move around, and certain phases need to happen in rooms – such as where brew kettles are kept and the refrigerating room – with very different temperature and humidity levels.
What has been the Italian market’s response?
Italy still lags behind in craft beer culture, after decades dominated by monotone, industrial products. Unfortunately, few efforts are being made to change the situation. Suffice it to say that there is no legal requirement to label a beer as “craft”; in fact, using the term on a label is illegal, and some microbrewers have been fined for it. There are no Italian laws for craft beer.
Are you considering expanding your sales abroad to make up for this?
We hope to never be forced to such grand sales objectives. Thanks to our choices so far, we are able to keep our eye on simple goals. We have had the same equipment since 1996, and our production is almost entirely sold only in our region, if not our province. We distribute in Italy and a little abroad too, but the quantities are definitely minor.