Langhe e Roero Secondo: Birra Brasati Costatine con Grappa Smalto

Week 3 Challenge: La Carne e il Secondo (Meat in the Second Course)
We’re on to week 3 in this year’s food blogging/photography challenge from the Tourist Union of the Langhe and Roero (details here, in Italian). Our week 3 challenge is the Secondo course, which always means meat.  Beef in the Piemonte is prized as they have a local type of cattle, the Fassone, that has a very lean but tender meat.  There are a few producers in the US raising Piemontese beef cattle, but it isn’t found in Minnesota, so I’m opting to use local pasture raised, grass fed beef.

Short ribs braised for hours in a bath of onions, carrots and dark beer

Short ribs braised for hours in a bath of onions, carrots and dark beer

Birra Brasati Costatine con Grappa Smalto (Beer Braised Short Ribs with Grappa Glaze)
The Langhe and Roero are renowned for their wines, so why braise our short ribs in beer? On our visit to the region in May, we were traveling with our daughter Casey and her boyfriend Kevin.

Birrificio Citabiunda has converted an old schoolhouse in a brewery and restaurant.

Birrificio Citabiunda has converted an old schoolhouse in a brewery and restaurant.

They are craft beer fans, and I had heard about an emerging artisan beer culture in the region, so I did a little research.  Presto! Birrificio Citabiunda is a craft brewery located in Bricco di Neive, a “suburb” of the village of Neive.

We enjoyed beers and dinner with our expat friend, Valerie

Good beer, good food, good friends!

We enjoyed beer & dinner there one evening, with our expat friend Valerie, who lives in nearby Alba.  I thought braising in beer would be a bit of an unusual touch, clearly retaining a tie to the Langhe & Roero.

Barolo is at once powerful and light on it's feet, a favorite of mine

Barolo is at once powerful and light on it’s feet, a favorite of mine

The top wines of this region are all made from the Nebbiolo grape.  With few exceptions, this is the only region in the world where Nebbiolo is grown and here it achieves greatness. Nebbiolo produces a very powerful wine with good acidity and very strong tannins, but it’s not at all heavy.  Barolo is the most famous, but I can highly recommend each of the regions (Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero) as producing excellent wines well worth exploring.


Az. Agr. Voerzio Alberto Barolo 2010 (20€ at the winery in La Morra)
We had the good fortune of meeting Alberto Voerzio at his winery in La Morra in the fall of 2013. A passionate young winegrower, he is tending several small vineyard parcels in and around La Morra.  He takes great care in the vineyard, using only natural products, no chemicals or herbicides.  He’s related to the very famous Roberto Voerzio, but Alberto is going his own way with his wines.
Eye: Clear and transparent, but a bit darker than some Barolos. Pretty, orange edge.
Nose: Red fruit and evergreen.
Mouth: Red fruit, immediately tannic, very strong.  Best to enjoy with rich food.

As fits the secondo, you choose a top wine to accompany the dish

As fits the secondo, you choose a top wine to accompany the dish

Wine Pairing
As a 2010 vintage, this Barolo is very young with strong tannins.  Not a wine for drinking on its’ own at this point, it shines with rich, meaty dishes.  The tannins in the wine balance the richness of the meat, and seem to disappear.  They effectively refresh and cleanse your palate and leave you ready for your next bite. While a powerful wine, it doesn’t overpower the dish and provides a perfect partner at the table.

Meaty beer braised short ribs

Meaty beer braised short ribs

Birra Brasati Costatine con Grappa Smalto

(Beer Braised Short Ribs with Grappa Glaze)
Use a nice Porter for braising, unless you’re in Piemonte.  In which case, the Birrificio Citabiunda MILF would do nicely.

Short Ribs Braise Ingredients

  • 1.5-2kgs (3-4 lbs) of beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, cut in half, then sliced about 10mm thick
  • 2 carrots, sliced in 10mm thick rounds
  • 0.5 L of Birrificio Citabiunda MILF
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh bay leaf


  • Note the initial braising step can be done early in the day or the day before, simply refrigerate the ribs overnight after braising
  • Pre-heat oven to 150° C (300° F)
  • Salt and pepper the ribs prior to cooking
  • Pre-heat a dutch oven on the stove to medium heat
  • Pour in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Add the ribs and brown well, about 4 minutes on every side
  • Remove the ribs to a plate
  • Drain excess oil & fat, leaving about 1 Tbsp in the dutch oven
  • Brown the onions and carrots, about 5 minutes
  • Add the beer, bring to a boil, then turn the burner off
  • Add the ribs, the rosemary, the bay leaf
  • Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven
  • Braise for at least 2 1/2 hours, carefully turning the ribs every 30 minutes
  • Once the meat is done, tender, and nearly falling off the bone, carefully remove the ribs to an ovenproof glass dish.  If you are doing this in advance, place the dish in the refrigerator
  • Pass the liquid from the dutch oven through a strainer, saving the carrots and onions. Discard the herbs. Either spoon off the fat from the surface, or use a gravy separator to save the liquid without the fat.
  • Reduce the braising liquid to the consistency of a thick sauce or syrup on the stove over a medium flame.

Grappa Glaze Ingredients Note the glaze can also be prepared a day in advance

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) honey
  • 2 Tbsp Grappa
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Glaze Instructions

  • In a small saucepan over a medium flame
  • Combine the honey, grappa and rosemary sprig
  • Stir and bring the mixture up to the boiling point briefly
  • Allow the mixture to cool, leaving the rosemary in the liquid.
  • If preparing in advance, leave the rosemary in the liquid and refrigerate
  • When ready to serve, warm the liquid, remove the rosemary, being careful to wipe as much of the glaze off as possible

Finishing the Dish

  • Pre-heat oven to 150° C (300° F)
  • Place the covered casserole dish with the ribs in the oven for about 30 minutes prior to final preparation
  • On the stove-top, warm the braising liquid to use as a sauce at the table
  • Remove the casserole dish from the oven and set the oven to broil
  • Place the ribs on a broiler pan and brush generously with the grappa glaze
  • Set the oven to broil
  • Broil the ribs for 4-5 minutes until the glaze starts to bubble and sizzle
  • Serve the ribs with the onions and carrots on a bed of spaghetti squash, polenta or potatoes with the braising sauce on the side at the table


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