But in August, it really wasn’t that conversation. It was just idle BS-ing. I had just been home for the holidays visiting my family in Rome where I grew up. A friend of mine suggested that I check out the beer scene in Trastevere. So my wife and I took a night and went to see what was up. And oh, it was up. We were giddy with beer joy. I was telling Paul this very story. It didn’t strike home until a few days later when Paul called me early in the morning. It’s not common for bartenders to call fellow bartenders early in the morning, so I was surprised and answered.
“We should write a book about the Italian craft beer movement.”
Duh? Why hadn’t we thought of that the other day? We realized no one had been following this. There were only a few articles here and there, but nothing concrete and nothing that explained, why now?
We turned to one man we knew could give us some solid advice, our boss, Chris Black. To our surprise, he too had not heard about Italian craft beer, at least, not to this extent. The Great American Beer Festival week was upon us, so Paul and I set to making as much money as we could. The only logical step was to go to the source and find out for ourselves. But would they accept us?
We had plotted out an ambitious trip. After all, we didn’t have much money or time. But from the first phone call we found a welcoming audience. We started at Birrificio Italiano and interviewed Agostino Arioli, one of the two most important founders of the movement. We had lunch at Lambrate, one of the four remaining foundational breweries that started with Agostino in 1996. We headed south to Busseto where we met the great Giovanni Campari from Del Ducato, a student of Agostino’s and the most award-winning brewer in Italy. We moved south to Parma and talked for several awesome hours to Bruno Carilli, owner/brewer of Toccalmalto who was a great source of information. We had a hell of a night at the Oyster Day Festival with the entire scene at Leonardo Di Vincenzo’s amazing brewery, Del Borgo. He invited us to meet him at his bar in Rome, Open Baladin, that he co-owns with Teo Musso. Teo Musso is the other most important brewer and founder of the movement from Baladin brewery—a master beer maker, an innovator, entrepreneur, farmer, artist, visionary. We wouldn’t be able to interview Teo because we couldn’t afford to go to Torino on this trip.
The Open Baladin is like the Falling Rock of Italy. Forty Italian craft beers on tap in a modern industrial architectural space that’ll make your eyes pop when you find the wall filled with hundreds of bottles of Italian craft beers.
At Open Baladin we were guests to a tasting of Extraomnes’ beers. We met the great bartender Alessandro Leone; Marco Valente, one of the first to own a multi-tap pub featuring Italian craft beers, Luca Giaccone, beer critic and outspoken cheerleader for Italian craft beer. We ate food made from the best pizza maker in Italy (perhaps the world), Chef Bonci.
Then, as if Jesus had arrived, we saw the great Teo Musso. Like star-struck teen girls, the crowd flocked to him. We were introduced and we have to admit, we too were a bit start struck. You just can’t help it. He carries that charismatic glow of a super star. We had a moment to talk to him. It wasn’t the place for an interview, but Teo invited us to his brewery on our next trip. That was that. We had to return.
As we prepare to embark on our next trip to Italy, we realize that we’ve reached the pinnacle of this project. We can’t thank enough our families, who are left at home while we carouse the Italian beer world, our friends for their support, the Falling Rock for the time off, the priceless advice and for all of you who contributed or passed the word on to fund us through Kickstarter, without whom there might not have been a second trip.
We are humbled by the extraordinary love we have received from everybody. We are committed to making a great book for them, for you, for us.
Stick with us as we turn this journey into a book to be published April 2014, just in time for the Craft Brewer’s Conference/World Beer Cup where many of these brewers will be making their first appearance in America.
Because of you, our next blog will be from Italy. So till then, Cin Cin