Have you visited Microbreweries when you travel?
I’ve just come back from overseas. In fact I traveled all over Sicily and southern parts of mainland Italy.
Sicily is my place of origin as my parents came from a village called Valguarnera. It happens to be the same town Tina Arena’s parents come from.
I can say that I now traveled extensively around the places of origin of my parents, and in summer, with my wife.
I also was silly enough to drive but I think it was well worth it despite the fast traffic overtaking me all the time which made me feel insecure. There should be a sign you can put at the back of the hire car which warns locals that you are Australian or at least a foreigner! They must of known because I was the only one, it seemed, to use my blinkers.
And, of course, depending on a GPS can prove both useful and disastrous, especially when it leads you up steep, narrow roads that would require a skinny four wheel drive and nerves of steel.
Sicily is rich in many ways. Although, it appears, that there is high unemployment, it is rich in history, culture and of course its cuisine.
The craft brewing scene is set to become part of the food culture which has existed there for as long as I can remember.
Wine has been a part of daily life with the daily meal and we visited one of the most famous wineries in Marsala, Florio.
The first microbrewery we went to was difficult to find but because we were meeting cousins there we persisted. There was no address but just a region as its address. We stopped many times asking locals if they had heard of it. Even when we got there we discovered that the name of the brewery was different and that Tari was somehow how they promoted the brewery,
Quite strange and frustrating. How on earth could they promote and market their beers and place of manufacture.
We found a nice setup with a bar and glassed area to observe the brewery. I also managed to score a nice beer goblet to take home.
The presentation of the beers was a step ahead of what we find in Australia but the beers were generally standard craft beers. The cost of a 750ml bottle was around 8-9 Euro, so not cheap.
Then we went to to a small home made brewery (Paul-Brictus) in Vittoria that was set up in the owner’s grandmother’s old house which had high ceilings. The entire house was laden with different sized rooms with brewery equipment, including a bottling line.
The kettle/mash tun was made with 3 agitators in an open rectangular vessel. The cooling system comprised 3 unusual copper coils that could be lowered into position when the boil was completed; a sort of glorified home brewing system.
We toured Sicily and came across many Greek temples and roman amphitheaters. Before Palermo we went to a small medieval village called Erice which was perched on top of a mountain. This quaint town had cobblestone narrow roads and exceptional restaurants, one of which we celebrated Father’s day at. I must say it was one of the highlights of our tour.
Further towards Messina we reached Milazzo, a harbour town and gateway to the famous Aoelian Islands. Due to inclement weather we could not sail to the beautiful Islands which included 2 volcano Islands.
I did manage to track down our third brewery in Milazzo which was also small. As we were running out of time I knocked on the door to be greeted by a lady who quickly reminded me they were closed but my persistence paid off and had a quick tour and bought some beers as well.
Finally we reached Avenzzano in Abbruzzo and the next day we ventured to find Biere del Borgo brewery of which their beers are being imported into Australia.
Again, our GPS lead us astray and we ended up in a dead end street in the village nearby with an old man sitting perched in front of his modest house. He was hard of hearing and got absolutely nothing out of him. In the village we asked around and at the cafe asked the owner if he could direct us.
A short distance away and we finally found the brewery. Upon entering the bottle shop I was greeted with one of the office staff and introduced myself and kindly asked if the brewer was available.
Unfortunately, no, and I couldn’t get a tour of the place. It looked like a reasonably big microbrewery, perhaps about 25hL brewhouse. The beers I tasted were good and took some to bring home.
And by chance I came across a brewery in Rome in an interesting restaurant that covered 3 floors of gastronomic delights at a place called Eataly, a newly converted train station.
Strange enough, Dogfish Head brewer Sam Calignoni did a collaboration brew with 2 brewers from the region at this brewery.
Eataly incorporated a high class supermarket and restaurant style shop and had hundreds of craft beers on sale.
Anyway, the tour ended in Rome and we had a great gastronomic (didn’t add kilos as we were walking a lot), cultural and historic experience we will always remember.
In terms of microbrewing I can say that it is growing in Italy and although quite young had a vast number of microbreweries, many of which we did not see.
There is a worldwide growth in craft beer and unfortunately it is apparent that there is a need for knowledge. One craft beer bar owner in the old town of Lecce lamented on the lack of training available in Italy.
Costanzo Brewing Academy is committed to teaching at a high level not only how to make beer but make it with its shelf life a major consideration.
Should you wish to learn more about our school why not visit our website here.
Should you be in the position of wanting to join the running of your own microbrewery we can help in that regard as well. For more information click here.