Montecassino – The Birthplace of Modern Beer

In the mountains of central Italy, northeast of the border of Lazio and Campagnia sits the commune of Cassino. It’s a town our family is very familiar with being only 45 km away from our home village of Arpino in the province of Frosinone.

Overlooking the valley, and town, is the stunning Abbey of Montecassino; a site of modern pilgrimage, utter devastation and the death of 20,000 men (not to mention civilian casualties) during World War 2 (See the battle of Monte Cassino), and also the birthplace of modern beer.

The Balcony of Heaven in the Abbey of Montecassino

On the balcony of heaven in the abbey of Montecassino is a well and the statues of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica

In 529 AD Benedict of Nursia, the monk and founder of the Benedictine order, came upon a former Roman temple to Apollo and decided to set up a monastery. As well as following the motto of ‘Ora e Labora’ prayer and work, Benedict was an advocate of brewing beer.

The birra d’abbazia (Abbey Beer) became well renowned throughout Europe but sadly this 1500 year old beer disappeared during the 20th Century, until a half-Yorkshire half-Italian entrepreneur called Daniele Miri decided to resurrect this brewing tradition on the monastic land of Albaneta. Here they not only grow crops for their beers but also produce local honey.

The monastery accounts for 700,000 visitors per year on a pilgrimage who mostly visit the abbey and leave. There are also visitors to the various war memorials, especially around armistice day but otherwise, despite being a fairly industrialised part of Italy, Cassino has little else in the way of regional identity; there isn’t even a regional dish as in many other parts of Italy.

Launched in 2018, Birra Montecassino is available nationwide in Italy and is a source of local pride in Cassino. As a result, Daniele hopes the small brewery of Birrificio Montecassino will become a place of pilgrimage for a different type of traveller.

Inside the Brewery of Birrificio Montecassino

Inside the brewery of Montecassino tourists can visit and learn more about this exceptional beer.

When Giordano Antonio, the director of Birra Montecassino UK, contacted us about their UK launch it’s fair to say we were more than just a little excited. An authentic Italian experience is what Punto is all about, Birra Montecassino follow a similar ethos too; local ingredients from local suppliers and the desire to produce a product of exceptional quality.

We got to try the first product to be released in the UK in September when Giordano came to visit us at Punto Italian Kitchen in Heaton. Made using water from Santissima Madonna di Canneto, the exclusive water source for the monastery and the brewery, Birra Montecassino Alba is a spectacular naturally carbonated, unfiltered, trappist-style blonde ale characterised by a deep golden colour. Thus the name, Alba, meaning sunrise in Italian.

The first sip I took had a pleasant sweetness, I’m told by Giordano this comes from the caramel hops they use. Then comes a slight bitterness that is perfectly balanced by the malty body.

What surprises me most is how incredibly light Alba is. The natural carbonation makes it incredibly easy to drink and not at all ‘bloaty’. As such, it pairs exceptionally well with our sourdough pizzas, which we prove slowly at a low temperature for a rich flavour and easy digestion.

Daniele Miri, CEO of Birra Montecassino in Italy, shared his thoughts stating “ I am very proud of the massive success Birra Montecassino has been receiving considering it has been in the UK for just a few weeks thanks to the launch of Birra Montecassino UK. Birra Montecassino is really excited to have Punto Italian Kitchen as part of the project being so close to the town of Cassino. We hope this partnership helps to tell the story of Montecassino as well as displaying traditional Italian culture and values”.

Giordano Antonio adds “ We are delighted to have Punto Italian Kitchens as part of our project. Birra Montecassino only works with the very best Italian venues and Punto Italian Kitchen certainly fits into that criteria – Zeno and his amazing team offer a truly authentic Italian dining experience. The family-run tradition creates a very welcoming atmosphere which is something Birra Montecassino loves. We cannot wait for Birra Montecassino to be enjoyed exclusively at Punto.”

It’s fair to say that we are thrilled to be the exclusive stockiest of Birra Montecassino Alba in Newcastle and look forward to giving our customers a real taste of Lazio along with our modern experience of Italian hospitality.

Birrificio Montecassino - Albaneta

The monastic land of Albaneta where Birra Montecassino is Brewed.

Zeno Meynell-Rea. Operations Director. Punto Italian Kitchen

Read our other blog posts here: Punto Italian Kitchen Blog

Punto is a modern Italian kitchen specialising in authentic, high quality, delicious sourdough pizza and fresh pasta, made in-house with expertly sourced ingredients by our team of chefs, pastai and pizzaioli. It is fast becoming considered one of the best restaurants in Newcastle for Pizza, Pasta, Italian food and Sunday Lunch.

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