Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
A s an old-fashioned beer drinker, I enthusiastically cheered the arrival of #FlagshipFebruary. But, I do not consider it just an exercise in nostalgia or a “when we were young” affair, but as a tribute to those products that changed the perception of beer during a time when the opening a small brewery was a massive challenge, a true leap into the unknown. Those beers form the foundation of what happened next and, at the same time, they are still greatly enjoyable.
So, my only problem when asked to write a few lines on what I consider should be a “flagship beer” in Italy was to choose just one. The Italian craft beer movement started around 1996 with a bunch of pioneers and some of them are still leading the pack in terms of quality and consistency.
Many points directed me towards this conclusion. To start with, Tipopils set the parameters for an entire generation of similar craft beers and it remains the benchmark for the style. But even more importantly, it demonstrated that the difference between industrial lagers and craft beers wasn’t simply the crazy wave of different, sometime strange, ingredients: fruit, grapes, wine wort, flowers, tobacco and barrels used by craft brewers. Even if those elements were helped prove that beer could be a different thing from just a yellow, foamy, slightly bitter drink, Tipopils firmly established that a different beer was possible using the same basic ingredients, but at a completely different level of character and quality.
When Agostino Arioli, founder and head brewer of Birrificio Italiano, designed Tipopils, his aim was to create a beer that was at once simple but also boasted a great drinkability and specific personality. So: 5.2% alcohol; just two malts, Pilsener and Caramunich; a popular German yeast; and German hops for bittering and aroma. Innovation was added in the form of nothing more than a simple dry-hopping at the finish, which gives the beer a more aromatic, fragrant profile.
The success and popularity of Tipopils continues to spread both within and outside of Italy. As for its influence, that has spread as far as California, where Matt Bryndilson of the multiple award-winning Firestone Walker brewery admits that he found inspiration for his Pivo Pilsner in Arioli’s Tipopils. It is an influence likely to spread even further, since the beer is now available in the US – in cans, no less! –and also in the UK and many other countries.
As an “easy” craft beer to approach, with an appearance similar to what people commonly consider to be ‘beer,’ at least in Italy, Tipopils can make the unique claim to having changed the way Italians think about beer. Truly, it is a ‘gateway beer’ in many senses of the term, or as the brewery itself puts it, l’autocoscienza, or self-awareness. Likely because the first time you drink it, you become almost instantly aware of how a proper, pale, bottom-fermented and dry-finishing ‘normal’ beer ought to taste.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.