When Paul and I were setting out to write this book, we weren’t very sure how we would be taken amongst the Italian craft brewers, publicans, critics, writers, etc. Mostly, the brewers. After all, they were the people that counted most in our story. We had decided in a flash, almost as an afterthought, that the best manner to tackle these interviews was to start north and work our way to Rome, to just jump in and hit as many breweries as we could. We wanted very much to visit Torino to speak with Teo Musso and view the surrounding area where great breweries like Troll, Grado Plato, Loverbeer, Montegioco and many more were located, but it was more feasible to start in Milan.
We had just decided, what the hell, let’s reach out to these people and see what they say.
Of course, if we were going to go to Milan, we had to speak with the great Agostino. But would he want to speak with us? In the wee hours of the morning we sent our email out to Agostino. In no time his office responded to us. We were instructed to create a contact for Agostino on Skype, this would be the best manner. We were certainly nervous, just a little, I have to admit. But that call changed everything for us. When he offered to pick us up at the airport and set us up with a hotel room, we were sure this was the right first step.
Ago was beyond gracious, as were nearly every person we spoke to. But what made our visit with Ago special was that he had set the standard for us as he had done for the Italian craft beer movement. He spent an enormous amount of his time, two days’ worth, explaining what we had only read. He opened our eyes and many doors. On our last day, as he drove us to the train station, we told him of our plans to stop in at Lambrate. We had just planned to walk in, have a beer and see who we might end up talking to. Instead, Ago reached for his cell and called Alessandra. His words, words we would hear and humble us again and again from many more brewers, were, “My friends from America…”
That meeting with Alessandra, Giampaolo, Davide, Stefano and Fabio was more than we could have asked for and we had Agostino to thank for having introduced us and initiated that friendship.
So it was with great honor and fortune that we should have concluded our run for personal interviews by having Ago here with us in Denver. I was freshly back from Italy, I hadn’t even been back a week and here I could say in person, thank you, Ago. It was an absolute pleasure to return the favor to him and his brewers, Giacomo, Giulio and Maurizio who also had a hand in taking care of us at Birrificio Italiano.
We had set up a meet and greet and sat on the airy patio of the Falling Rock while another event, the tapping of Full Sail Session beers, went on in the background. They poured their beers, we poured ours, beers that Ago had brought along, with a few beers we provided. When I walked into the Falling Rock, I was introduced to the Full Sail brewer/owner Jamie Emmerson who was talking to Chris Black, owner of the Falling Rock. Jamie told me of his first Italian beer experience. It was at Disney World/Epcot Center. He saw that there was an Italian craft beer called Tipo Pils. He gave it a whirl and was shocked to have found his favorite beer.
I said to him, “Would you like to meet the brewer?” He didn’t know quite what I meant. “He’s sitting on the patio right now. Would you like to meet him?” His jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe it.
“Are you serious?”
Yes, yes I was.
But the proudest moment for me personally was to have been complimented by Agostino for my pour. “Bravo, Bryan.” Ago said to me. Italians, like all things food, are particular and they are very particular about how their beers are poured. Much like a Guinness, you pour the beer straight in and allow the head to rise, with some time to let the head settle and harden before filling the rest of the glass.
“Bravo, Bryan.” he said to me. “I learned from you, the masters,” I responded.
And so we have.