Vignette 18: Andrea Bravi (Birrificio di Como)
Chestnuts are a big deal in Italy; a major crop, they find their way into dozens of recipes. Milled into flour and used something like wheat, they can be made into cakes. And, as Italian craft brewers soon discovered, beer. Chestnut beers are one of the early wholly indigenous products to come out of the Italian brewing renaissance, which is just two decades old.
“I use chestnut in the mash. It’s twenty percent of the mash. It’s very difficult to filter. We mash first at 167 degrees F because the starch has to become gelatinized. Then we add the malt and water to get a good sacchrification. You can taste smoke, due to the drying system of chestnut. And you can also taste the chestnut. They collect the chestnut, then dry it with the smoke of a beechwood, so it gives the beer a smoky flavor. We tried five different types of chestnuts and found one that worked for us. A little bit, but not too much—some made it seem like a rauchbier not a chestnut beer. In Italy there are a lot of people all with our individual [preferences], so I do milled chestnut, someone else will use roasted chestnut, some others with boiled chestnuts, some with raw chestnuts—so, a lot of different beers.”