Since I started drinking (1981) and homebrewing beers (1985), German Brewmasters have been my Gods. From here – 30 km north of Milan – Germany was “the land of beer”. I had friends in Karlsruhe and Heidelberg and they brought me to visit some “new style” Gasthaus-Brauereien. Thanks to them I finally decided to turn my brewing hobby into a job, and in 1996 we opened Birrificio Italiano, the first Brewpub in Lombardy and third in Italy.
Immediately, I started travelling to Germany every August/September (Spalt, Wolnzach and Tettnang) looking for good, fresh hops. Hop growers would stare at me as if I was a man from Mars! An Italian craft brewer looking for good hops?! Yes, it took a while to convince them that I was not sent by “the Godfather” to penetrate the beer market! I had a lot of fun and at times a certain dose of frustration too, but Birrificio Italiano was growing and I had to keep on searching and working. I finally met the right suppliers and some good friends. The Locher family in Tettnang above all: hop growers full of passion and “savoire faire”.
In those years I convinced myself that: German hops are the best on Earth, German brewers are the best on Earth and that German beers were so perfect and so much “gebraut nach dem Reinheitsgebot” that ultimately they were pretty much all the same or, at least, most of the consumers used to drink the same beers. German beer specialties were very difficult to find around.I often thought: If my German friends were to start brewing new beers, mixing their excellent raw materials freely in a new way and hence creating new flavours, they would brew the best beer on Earth … finally!
Those were the years when I was discovering the USA’s craft beer world, an incredible melting pot of crazy and wonderful brewers; they were and are creating new “things”, without being constrained by strict beer style guidelines. These Americans were “beer-culture free”, like I was. “Ignorance” is one of the entrances to creativity and to the invention of something new, exciting, with a capacity of moving your senses and possibly your soul.
So, to cut a long story short, I have always been a great fan of the German brewing school, but for many years I felt frustrated: the craft beer movement was exploding everywhere but in the land of my brewing Gods! What a pity …
But things change very fast in Germany! First I met Eric Toft, an American brewer (and a great friend !) naturalized German, brewing new and amazing beers at Schoenramer Brauerei. Then, three years ago, I was contacted by BraufactuM and asked to “export beer to Germany”. I thought it was a joke and I stared at Dr. Marc Rauschmann as if he was a man from Mars (it was my turn, finally)! Italian beer (my beer!) exported to the “land of beer”?! Amazing and a little scary, to tell you the truth. Well, despite this, Marc convinced me that BraufactuM’s project will be successful. I just couldn’t imagine the German consumers rejecting the opportunity to drink something new, maybe odd to them, but well done and full of character. Time proves that Marc and BraufactuM were right: the German beer drinkers were ready for a new age, a new journey in the pursuit of beer emotion. But Marc’s visit brought even more surprising news: Radeberger Group was going to start brewing specialty beers! This was a “shock” indeed!
Two years ago I had a further demonstration that Germans were moving fast: I attended Munich’s “Braukunst Live” and I found out that many brewers were already sailing towards the discovery of new wonderful “brewing landscapes”.
The point is, if you are sailing on board of a solid and top quality vessel, you are very likely to get very far away. Well, the vessel that German brewers are sailing on is outstanding, with the state of the art of brewing techniques and brewing equipment available in Germany – surely the best on Earth!
I therefore wish you a pleasant trip, my friends! I however feel urged to add my personal suggestion: please do not forget about your traditional beers. Innovate them, but do not forget about them. And aside from the new style German hops, or hops from far away lands, please do not forget to explore ways to valorize traditional German hops, they still have a lot to express!
I end here, with a pleasant image in my mind: me and my business partners Giulio and Maurizio, together with Marc,Thorsten and the other people of BraufactuM, having a beer together at Firestone Walker’s Invitational Beer Fest (California) a couple of weeks ago, where Birrificio Italiano and Braufactum were both invited to pour their beers. This is the amazing world of craft beer!