Besides growing their own barley and hops, at Altavia they also breed bees, from which they obtain the honey they use to make “Monterama”, one of the five labels produced all year round.
One of the five labels produced all year round
All Altavia labels bear the logo «Gustosi per natura», (Naturally tasty), which is granted to fresh and processed products that are made locally and come from the municipalities of the Parco del Beigua.
Even the names of the beers tell the story of the local territory. “Deiva”, a Bock, is a state-owned forest behind the village of Sassello; “Monterama”, a Belgian Strong Ale with honey, is one of the peaks in the Parco del Beigua (“from the top of Monte Rama, you can see Corsica” notes Giorgio Masio); “Badani”, a Pils, is the outlying hamlet in the municipality of Sassello where the agro-brewery is based; “Contamusse”, an American IPA, means fibber in Ligurian dialect; and, finally, “Scau”, a Rauch (smoked beer), is the name given in Val Bormida to the small one-room stone buildings with wood shingle roofs that are used for drying chestnuts. Altavia uses one in Murialdo, in Val Bormida, a Slow Food Presidium designation.
Reference to the Apennines wildlife is made also in the Altavia logo: a wild boar, just like many others that, during the summer, roam the land around the brewery, whose windows open onto a forest.
Badani also provides another key raw material: water. “It is the water from the local hamlet supply system and it is extremely light, with a very small quantity of dissolved salts, just 8 French degrees, which for certain types of beer – like the low temperature fermentation beers that we love – is just perfect”.
Low temperature fermentation
The basic recipe for beer is not complex: malt, hops, yeasts and water. Unlike natural wines, which ferment with indigenous yeasts, craft beers need external yeasts.
There is only one type of beer that is able to ferment spontaneously, Lambic, a Belgian beer with a significant level of acidity.
“The industry offers 7 or 8 types of yeasts. We visited a few ‘yeast banks’ and then choose some slightly unusual yeasts – notes Masio – We then gave them to a lab, which keeps them in store for us at minus 80 degrees and, when we need them for production, propagates them and sends them to us via a courier”.
There are two families of yeasts, one for high temperature fermentation beer and one for low temperature fermentation beer (“high or low temperature is like white or red in wine” simplifies Masio). High temperature fermentation is fermentation that takes place between 16 °C and 30 °C, while low temperature fermentation only needs between 8.5 °C and 12 °C. Low temperature fermentation allows to preserve the properties of raw materials a lot more.
The equipment (which cost approximately € 200 thousand and was funded through a loan from a local cooperative bank and a 40% grant from the EU Rural Development Programme, via the Liguria Regional Council) has a production capacity of 50 thousand litres of beer per year. In 2019, two new fermenters will be installed, taking output potential up to70 thousand litres.