English-Style Ale That Tastes Like Sicily – Introducing Bruno Ribadi

bruno ribadi beer keighley uk sicily

English-Style Ale That Tastes Like Sicily – Introducing Bruno Ribadi

Not many would dare to mess with traditional beers, especially the ones countries claim as their national pride. English Ale is famous all over the world for being English. Pilsner is named after the Czech city of Pezhan, making it the most authentic Czech beer in history. So, when a couple of Sicilian guys decided to add Mediterranean tangerines and barriers into the mix, the tension was high.

“The idea is to put something Sicilian in every bottle,” say Sandro Biundo, the master brewer of the Bruno Ribadi beer, as he and his team prepare to visit Keighley as part of a Sicilian food market.

Sandro’s Sicilian brewery overlooks the sea and is surrounded by plain fields that tint in the sunset. The building is surrounded by palm trees, a wine press and a storage shed, all reminders of the famous winery the place used to be. Now, this small team use this garden to dry fruits, which they take into the house to add a Sicilian spirit to the classic ale, pilsner and white Belgian beer.

Shipping boxes all over Europe, there now seems to be little reminiscence of the rocky beginnings and the unexpected turn their lives took when the idea came about.

bruno ribadi beer keighley uk sicilian boat

“Travelled the world on a beer tasting tour”

“There were no jobs in Sicily, so we were messing around with a lot of time on our hands”, says Biundo while packing the beers into a box. “One day, we were cleaning my uncle’s loft and I found this really old hand-written book. We got curious and started turning the pages to find out what it was about. In it, we found beer, beer and more beer. The book was full of brewing methods from all over the world,” says Biundo.

After doing some research online and asking the locals about the recent find, Biundo and his team found out that the author, Bruno Ribadi,who came from the small Sicilian town of Cinisa. He was an orphan and was sent to a monastery to get a religious education, where he used his time to get in touch with a Belgian monk, who specialised in brewing beer. After learning the basics, Ribadi decided to travel the world on a tasting tour to discover the secrets of beer, from every corner of the planet.

Years later, Ribadi turned up in his hometown, with his tiny book, containing recipes from all around world. After brewing a few barrels, Cinisa suddenly got too small, and Ribadi decided to hit the road in search of more beer. No one heard from him again until, two hundred years later, he re-appeared on a bottle of beer with his name on it.

“Twice as strong and double the size”

Inspired by the story, the team started fantasising and making jokes about the lifestyle Ribadi would have lived. What would he wear and how did it feel to be the only Sicilian in a northern European town?

“We made Bruno Ribadi travel the world again,” says Biundo while pointing at colourful bottles stacked in the office located in small the corner of the brewery. “Here’s Ribadi on the road to England,” continues Biundo when holding blue-labelled bottle proudly showing Big Ben and the Union Jack. Ribadi himself is dressed like any colourful, creative Londoner, walking the streets at night.

bruno ribadi beer keighley uk

If you’re used to drinking pints in an English pub, you might want to take it a bit easy with Bruno’s beer as it’s twice as strong and double the size. The ingredients might also be quite surprising – it contains raisins and dried carobs, the tree that served the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean as a healthy alternative to chocolate for almost 4000 years. It’s recommended to be topped up with a ‘Pignotala’, a fried Sicilian dessert with pasta and honey.

On the bottle next to it, Ribadi is wearing a traditional ‘sari’, as he makes his way to India. This one contains leaves from Sicilian citrus and is recommended to drink with grilled meat from Ribadi’s home town of Cinisi.

“Mandarins give it a sweet taste”

In the Czech Republic, Ribadi seems to be feeling the cold of mainland Europe. Here, he appears in a huge jacket boldly replacing the classic Czech wheat with a Sicilian alternative. Brewed with, literally, colourful ingredients, it contains ‘tumminìa’ and ‘russello’, Sicilian black and red coloured grains. In the Czech Republic, this beer would inevitably be served with potatoes but, for its Sicilian cousin, pasta is the only way forward.

As he takes off to Belgium, the beer gets lighter and whiter. Instead of leaves, this bottle with Ribadi in a quiff, wearing a white suit, contains mandarins giving it a sweet taste similar to Hoegaarden with a slice of orange. As any proud Belgian beer, it is to be drunk with seafood or, if you’re feeling particularly Sicilian, try marinated anchovies.

In the end, Ribadi returns to Sicily for a grand-finale. The Sicilian Pale Ale has it all. Citrus, Rhus Corlarla berries, which are commonly used for lemonade and pink peppercorns. Through this mix, the beer gets a slight kick of bitterness.

As the sun sets over the Sicilian fields the team has packed the boxes and sits down for a cold beer. They still do not know whether Ribadi ever made it to Keighley, the West Yorkshire town they are heading to next. But knowing Ribadi as they do now, it makes them think that it was highly likely. Looking at the colourful bottles in their hands, they’re thinking that a Keighley-inspired Bruno Ribadi is definitely next in one line.



1 comment

  1. Paul Howard 11 December, 2017 at 21:14 Reply

    I bought a mixed case of these when Sandro visited Keighley in the summer. And very good they were, the IPA being particularly memorable. PS it was a good Sicilian market that deserved better attendance and I also bought wine, cheese, olives, olive oil and arancini. Hope it gets put on next year but they need to sort the Marketing out.

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