“While I was attending primary school, one day me and my Dutch friend Mike decided we would engage in trying brewing and winemaking. At home beer was more or less unknown, and my dad, such as many others at those times (and still today), would often comb the Po river banks around Pavia or Piacenza searching for precious wine demijohns. Thus, I think maybe it’s Mike the one deserving all the credit for my first attempt at brewing, for the eureka moment, for everything that followed that initiation to the joys of Bacchus and Ceres. I can’t recall the recipe, surely incomplete and erratic, but from time to time a trace of the hops we cold-infused comes visit my nostrils; shaking me from within. As a brewer and beer lover sometimes I still search, in a subtly manic way, that scent.” – Agostino Arioli.
IN THE BEGINNING it was a dream. A latent dream dwelling inside Agostino, who couldn’t brew but desired the Beer. This dream was made of ahead-of-their-times pubs lost at the heart of unsuspected little towns in the Como province, pushing in the 80s rare beers for the times, Bulldog, Courage Bitter, Martins Pale Ale, George Killian’s feeding the feasts of clans of youngsters.
The first beer Ago brews only comes during the University days, with home-malted organic barley, bread yeast and a big jug. The result is scary. A second batch follows, then a third one, and yet one more; until Ago’s father manages to put him in contact with Gianni Pasa, one of the pioneers on the scene of Italian beer, licensed Bräumeister. His teachings become gold for Agostino and Mario, his friend and original brewing partner. The first ‘real’, drinkable beers are born!
Perfected with the training at important local industrial facilities (Poretti, Von Wunster), completed by the drafting of an experimental graduation thesis about innovative beer technologies, they are beers taking advantage of the advice and suggestions of real masters such as Lorenzo Pilotto and prof. Gaspare Volonterio.
The techniques and outcomes improve constantly, moving to the rhythm of backpacking: trips are made to Marghera and back to buy some malts, to Germany with the aim of practicing at several different breweries, finally to Canada, where the brewpub obsession makes way for itself in Agostino’s mind. Brewpub which is at last actually born, in Lurago Marinone, on April the 3rd, 1996, first in Lombardia and among the first ones in all of Italy. The cooking room has a capacity of 200 liters and has been custom-designed and realized by the OMAP Workshops in Sabbioneta. Two ‘progenitor’ beers are to be produced – Tipopils and Rossoscura.
THE FIRST YEAR goes by slowly. Ago and Stefano, his brother and one of the business associates of “Nuovo Birrificio Italiano inc.”, spend it between one batch and another, gazing the road hoping for it to bring some kind of customer along…
Gazing in vain, most of the times.
This kind of beer is not appreciated by the lovers of industrial lagers: it’s not ice cold, it’s flat, it has too much foam and it takes ten minutes to have it!
The brewery can’t sport the huge stills of industrial plants, the only element acknowledged by locals as an overt sign of beer production: the skeptical reactions recorded among the audience oscillate between a “come on, it’s not true you make beer, here!” and a “… is this a pizza oven?” – pointing at the mash tuns; to reach outstanding peeks which sometimes fly beyond the borders of reality (an old man from the town once joined us at the brewery with the frown of who had found out our guilty secret: “I know what you do here!” – he said – “I will never drink your beers! …Because I know you put WATER in them!”)…
Still, brick by brick, while other breweries were opening and contributing to the capillarization of craft beer culture, the tables turn. After some time, finally, notwithstanding a couple of heavy budgetary crisis, hard moments, partners abandoning the ship; the good stuff starts streaming along: who comes to our pub never asks for a lager, but for a “Tipo”; then he (or she) sits down, chills and waits happily for his (or hers) flat, warm and cloudy beer. Victory!
TIPOPILS goes with a swing, big time, Rossoscura perishes – it’s the Law of the Strongest – replaced by a new, über-powerful species: Bibock is born.
Then it’s the turn for Amber Shock, based on Ago and Mario’s first-ever homebrewed recipe, almost about the same time it’s showtime for Negra, Prima and Cassissiona (born after a long experimentation on Champagne yeasts and the employment of fruit).
1999 is the birth year to VuDù, Weizen Dunkel inspired to the great tradition of Baden Württemberg: Maurizio Folli, also known as Mao, enters the brewing team after having been probably our best customer since day one.
During those days, our counter and tapline are particularly well-attended: Beppe and Roberto (the to-be BiDù team) as well as Danko, Giampa and Fabio from Lambrate are regulars… The brand grows, the beer travels within and across the National borders, until in 2000 the brewing plant grows up to a capacity of 700 liters. Giulio Marini, “the Doc”, becomes part of the team; flanking Agostino and Mao on the brewing side, while Stefano takes care of the pub… Fleurette, generated by the wish for lightness (and by the love for Katia) and Sciresona – the modern days Scires, a weird, amazing wild-cherried farmhouse pigswill – are born.
Following our first time at the Great British Beer Festival, a craving for England takes over us: Cinnamon Bitter, our hommage to Real Ales, is born. October 2005: growth plays a bad trick on us. The brewing plant’s capacity is increased up to 20hls – as a result, our beers suffer the blow with a sequence of quality issues… Which we confront with a scientific spirit, exploiting them as a chance to improve; learning to understand better the evolution of what we create, and to set up the ideal conditions for the alchemic process to be accomplished in the most natural and perfect way possible.
This is the biggest raise of the bar Birrificio Italiano has ever made – until now, of course! And what we learned thanks to it is what finally has made of our beers the beers they are: good to drink, straightforward nectars, consistent enough to keep who gets to drink them hooked… With little chances to escape!