Big B energy
Italy's Mister B brews big beers with a bigger attitude
Monday 30 December 2019
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Mauro Bertoletti’s beer journey began 10 years ago in Mantova, Italy, when by chance the restaurant on his home street, Osteria Tripoli, also turned out to be the headquarters of Circolo Del Luppolo, a club dedicated to historic Italian beers. Mauro was quickly sucked into this world, drinking, studying, homebrewing and eventually traveling in pursuit of what he simply describes as “just very good beer”.
By 2014 he was finally ready to set out on his own, as a nomadic brewer under the monkier Le Signore, subsequently opening a pub called Teatro Delle Birre in his home town, with a group of his Circolo Del Luppolo comrades.
The pub and the beer were enough of a success that, in September 2017, Mauro began brewing a few doors down from Osteria Tripoli, and Mister B was born, quickly making a name for itself as the only small Italian brewery to sell exclusively in cans. The following 12 months saw the brewery shift about 150,000 cans and a lot of kegs all over Italy, before moving into export with an expanded range including IPAs, sours, lagers and dark beers. Last year, it picked up a clutch of awards at ceremonies including Italian Beer of The Year and Brussels Beer Challenge.
All in all then, a busy couple of years for Mauro and his team, but it doesn’t seem to have worn him down; he talks about his beer and his business with infectious enthusiasm.
“From day one, we’ve tried to put a capital B on our beers! We keep them simple and fun, and my over-riding goal is that everyone should be able to find their new ‘beer hero’ in our large core range, because every beer should be the best we can make.
Mauro’s approach to recipe creation is disarmingly direct: he drinks as widely as he can, and when he finds a beer he loves, he tries to create something in the same vein, but with a Mister B twist. “Everything we brew has to be easy to drink. There are too many great beers out there for people to waste their time on boring beer,” he says.
BAMBA, in the Beer52 box, is Mister B’s core NEIPA, hopped with Azacca, Citra and Ekuanot cryo. This was the first of Mauro’s beers that we tried on the Beer52 tasting panel and it blew us all away with its huge, bombastic character.
There are too many great beers out there for people to waste their time on boring beer
“When we brewed the first batch of this IPA, we used a lot of Ekuanot Cryo hop in powder form; it was citrusy, tropical and bit spicy. We said: ‘Wow, it's like a drug,’ which is why we called it Bamba. There’s a lots of funny meaning in that word, and the face you find on the label is a tribute to Pablo Escobar. For some, he is a huge criminal, for others a hero.”
Each of Mister B’s labels is designed by long-time artistic collaborator Notawonderboy (known to his mum as Gianluca Barilli). Even in a scene where wild labels are two-a-euro-cent, Gianluca’s psychedelic, eye-popping primary artwork stands out from the crowd and, more importantly, perfectly reflects the attention grabbing liquid it contains. “I love working with Gianluca on our labels; once I have the name I contact him straight away and he’ll always imagine something crazy and, by his hand, we find a design that’s just right for the beer. The labels must be as easy and funny as our beer,” he says.
Beer-wise, Italy has really emerged onto the global stage over the past couple of years, and Mauro is hugely positive, both about his brewing peers and the passion of the country’s growing crowd of enthusiasts.
“Italy is a new exciting craft beer world,” he says. “We are famous for the quality of our food and wine, but there’s no a large tradition in beer. In under than 20 years, we’ve topped 1000 producers of craft beer in this small country. It started with lager, maybe some Belgian styles and English until the boom of American IPAs. Now brewers are trying to find the Italian way to brew the best beer and create our own Italian styles, such as Italian Grape Ale, Italian Pils, Chestnut Ale, sour beer.
“Craft beer is still a young Italian passion and a small part of the overall beverage market, but now you can find a lot of good craft beer bar in any town, with lots of great local beers. There’s also respect and care for service here; publicans understand and respect the right way of serving a beer. So, it’s new culture, but it's a good culture and it’s only going to get better.”
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