Tuscan Taste

Exploring the Fascinating History and Culinary Delights of Beer

The story of beer spans millennia, its origins a serendipitous discovery as nearly any sugar-containing cereal could ferment naturally.

Ancient records, dating back 6000 years to Mesopotamia, offer some of the earliest insights into beer. The Sumerians gifted humanity the first known recipe for “kas,” akin to beer, discovered in a 4000-year-old poem. Beer’s significance soared when the Egyptians used it as currency for paying pyramid builders, and it acquired symbolic and religious importance, tied to Isis and Osiris.

In ancient Greece, beer was linked to the feminine cults of Demetra, deemed “not masculine enough” and reserved for men during the Olympic Games for its lighter nature compared to wine. The Romans, during the Republican period and beyond, viewed beer as a drink for “barbarians,” a perception upheld through the Empire and early Christianity’s preference for wine as the symbol of the “blood of Christ.”

In Italy, traces of beer consumption date back to 560 BC in Northern Piedmont’s Novara province. As Europe embraced beer, the Celts in Northern France and the Netherlands refined brewing techniques and introduced wooden barrels around 0 AD, replacing the cumbersome Roman amphorae.

Beer flourished in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages, while in Italy, it remained associated with lower social classes as wine reigned among the wealthy. Hops, introduced by Germans, revolutionized beer production, replacing traditional herb and spice blends with superior preservation abilities.

England’s ale, devoid of hops until the 16th century, relied on imports from the Netherlands. Beer culture emerged in Italy during Ludovico il Moro’s era, even being freely distributed at his wedding.

The early 19th century saw the birth of Italian beer factories, with beer consumption peaking in the 1920s until taxes prompted a return to wine. Despite Italy’s lower beer consumption compared to other European countries, craft beer’s rise, defined in 2016, heralded a new era of creativity. Microbreweries embraced local ingredients like spelt, fruit, and chestnuts, alongside exotic additions such as ginger, leveraging Italy’s winemaking expertise to produce exceptional brews.

Traditional beer-inspired recipes are challenging to find, yet chefs have recently experimented with beer in the kitchen. Here, we offer a beer-centric menu featuring beer and sausage risotto, followed by beer chicken.

Here, we offer a beer-centric menu featuring beer and sausage risotto, followed by beer chicken and tiramisù:

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Photo by Pink Press from Pexels

Beer and Sausage Risotto

  • 1/2 Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 300g sausage, chopped
  • 250g Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 2 glasses of lager with medium hops content
  • 650ml broth (vegetable or meat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 25ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmigiano

Start by sautéing the finely chopped Spanish onion in olive oil until soft. Then, add Carnaroli or Arborio rice and toast it for 3-4 minutes. Next, add the chopped sausage and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Pour in 2 glasses of lager and let it evaporate, then gradually add vegetable or meat broth, allowing it to absorb each time. Cook for 15-18 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cold butter and grated Parmigiano.

Delicious and Simple Beer Chicken Scaloppine

  • 1 organic chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • Corn starch for coating
  • Small bottle of red ale
  • 1 tbsp fresh mixed herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage), chopped
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start by coating thinly sliced chicken breast with corn starch. Heat butter and olive oil in a non-stick pan, then add chicken slices and cook until golden. Pour in red ale and let it evaporate. Season with salt, pepper, and chopped mixed herbs. Serve hot with boiled potatoes.

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Photo by K Zoltan from Pexels

Stout Tiramisù

  • 2 organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 250g fresh mascarpone
  • 8 halved savoiardi
  • 1/2 can of stout
  • Powdered cocoa

Begin by beating eggs and sugar until frothy, then add fresh mascarpone and mix until creamy. Lightly soak halved savoiardi in stout and place them at the bottom of glasses. Layer with mascarpone mixture, then another layer of savoiardi. Chill in the fridge, then sprinkle with cocoa before serving.

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