Left Hand Brewing Co. and Birrificio Italiano have partnered for Sharevolution: a Brewer’s Exchange program, sending a brewer to each other’s facility to cross-train, promoting mutual enrichment and idea sharing. From January through March, Francesca Guzzetti of Northern Italy’s Birrificio Italiano and Henry Myers of Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing will step into the other’s shoes, experiencing each brewery’s operations and culture.
We will be documenting the exchange, sharing both Francesca and Henry’s experiences. Check out Francesca’s first week at Left Hand!
The First Week @ Left Hand – Francesca Guzzetti
Hi, I’m Fra, part brewer, part fan at Birrificio Italiano. I originally got to Birrificio Italiano as nothing is more intriguing than the science behind a glass of beer, and no sentence motivates you more than “we brewed it good, but we can brew it better!” It’s an honor (even though I should probably say it’s the coolest of all cool things) to have been chosen to be one of the halves of Sharevolution, the brewer’s exchange program activated between Birrificio Italiano and Left Hand Brewing Company.
In my head, the word “America” itself is supersized… So I sort of expected it: Left Hand Brewing is going to be big! I am in awe of the overall size and automation at Left Hand. I come from Birrificio Italiano, a brewery in Lago Como in North Italy with an annual barrelage of 6500 HL. So it is now fascinating to be at a brewery, with 10x the employees and 14x the barrelage. The best way I can compare it, is to a machine – the brewing operations and all of its team members are like a constant wave, never faltering with new team members coming in. At my brewery, I am used to turning off the light and saying goodnight to the beer. Here – things continue, the baton is passed. The automation is also new to me. At Birrificio Italiano, I am familiar with a more hands-on system – physically working with the brewing equipment, using a hand to open a valve vs. moving beer through a button.
While the volume and level of technology can be overwhelming, I easily recognize the universal truths of brewery culture across Left Hand. It can be hard to see at first, but the Left Hand brewers and the Birrificio Italiano brewers are performing the same process across different levels of brewing. A brewery (a real, craft brewery) is made of… Brewers: people who love what they do, and love drinking what they brew. I feel the same craft beer spirit with the greater Left Hand team, each enthusiastically working on a different piece of the puzzle, a part of a greater team. This is how you find yourself crossing an ocean, working at a structure which is a number of times bigger than your habitual workplace, and still you feel at total ease… You feel at home, and throughout your day you meet a range of familiar characters I immediately recognize:
- The brewhouse puppeteer: they manage and oversee from above the ballet of the physical, biochemical and mechanical interactions going on in the kettles; they know every detail and it gives you the impression of being standing still, staring at the plant. That is only if you don’t know what they’re really doing, though.
- The cellar marathon runner: working properly, at a brewery, means spending 80 to 90% of the time and hassle in preparation and cleaning! And the brewer in charge always has 4 different processes going on at the same time… At the 4 corners of the fermenting&conditioning room, and jolts from one to another, nonstop.
- The packaging line wrestler: every morning he gets up knowing they’ll have to fight the less-than-uncollaborative nature of his machines. To them “a working bottling-line means a boring bottling-day”. Before shift starts they call their team together in a circle, left hands are put forward and… “one, two, three: LET’S GO KICKING ASS!”
Odds & Ends
I have found surprises and familiar comforts with Left Hand’s beer. Their kolsch tastes like home – it is easy and comfortable to drink like Tipopils. Dark beer is fairly new to me, but I am enjoying them! I like the malt, chocolate, and velvet qualities found in Black Jack Porter and Milk Stout.