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.
Francesa has made her return to home with Henry in tow! Stay tuned for our next post, sharing Henry’s first week at Birrificio Italiano.
High Fives, Absent Eagles, & Shotgunning – Fra’s Final Thoughts
So my adventure at Left Hand ends: but Sharevolution goes on, with Henry coming to Birrificio Italiano this week! So it’s time to gather my final thoughts on the experience, the analogies and differences between brewing craft in Italy and in Colorado. Enjoy!
At Birrificio Italiano we use movable piping, so moving the beer from point A to point B is quite easy from a logical point of view. At Left Hand, the tech is quite different: fixed piping is used, each out letting to a specific nozzle located on a panel. Each pipe and nozzle link two specific points of the brewery (kettles, tanks etc.). This means that the pipe map at Left Hand turns out to be a real maze for a newbie; although once the system is mastered it makes the brewing operations a lot easier. After having gotten lost multiple times while following the path of a pipe with my eyes, I’m glad to say I learned to manage the fixed piping, with its loops, panels and nozzles. I also learned to hi-five like a pro American brewer. Both these things are precious!
Absent Animals and Alternative Discoveries
I spent my month in Colorado searching for bald eagles and raccoons. In order to get a glimpse of them I also went to Overlook Hotel (yes, the one from The Shining). I found a good number of specimens, that is, zero. In return I found out what shotgunning is (piercing a hole on the bottom of a beer can, then opening it and flashing the beer at zero friction in a matter of seconds). I only did this once, that one time maybe some eagles and raccoons passed me by, but I didn’t notice them at all.
Clamps and Swearing
The bracket used in a brewery to conjoin two pieces of piping is called a clamp. It’s basically two pieces of metal held together by a screw, and it must be positioned around the two ends of the pipes and tightened in order to keep them together. Now imagine you’re holding the ends of the two pipes with one hand, using another hand to place the clamp and a third one to tighten the screw… Always keeping in mind you don’t really have three hands available. Besides, the clamps at Left Hand are slightly different from the ones we use at Birrificio Italiano. During my month in Longmont I learned to use them – Left Hand’s staff, in exchange, got from me a free Ph.D. on Italian swearwords.
We were chatting one night. “We roast the hops for Nigredo” I say, almost worried of how crazy that would sound. “Well… we SMOKE THE MALT” the guys at Left Hand admit, as if we had suddenly turned into a self-help group. So I’m encouraged to let myself go: “When we brew Scires, we spend DAYS de-pitting the cherries…” – Left Hand: “and we spend days juicing pounds of ginger for Good Juju!”. Tears. Commotion. Group hugs. (Jokes apart: craziness – which consists in going through very complex and time-consuming processes just to obtain a perfect result rather than one that’s merely satisfying… That’s the craft. That’s Love!).
Exactly like we do at Birrificio Italiano, at Left Hand heavy metal is played in the brewhouse and reggaeton in packaging. Choose your dance floor!
One thing I’ll never envy enough of my fellow brewers at Left Hand is the small pilot brewhouse, they have available for their passion projects. Wow!
Another great thing was seeing all the beer cold-stored in fridges at the supermarket: it would be great to see such attention to the product and the culture of freshness spreading to Italy; but likely it will still take time for such a thing to happen. In return, though, the same supermarket kept fresh cheeses at room temperature. Well you can’t always get what you want…
I’m not telling how many amazing experiences I’m taking in my metaphorical luggage, nor how much of my heart I left in Longmont: I put in my very material luggage quite a load of beers, and I left in Colorado a good share of the clothes my suitcase and a pair of shoes. To make room for the beers, of course.
Sharevolution is a challenge: a thing on which I’d bet by instinct, which is gonna change the rules if it works like it should. But maybe it is working already… As it let me meet people with the same “thirst” I feel… A beautiful thirst, which just needs the right beer (to drink, or to brew) in order to spark a light inside. Sharing this passion is something unique and huge, and no words can really explain how we feel when it’s on. So let’s aim for the future, pop another bottle open… And Cheers, Left Hand, “alla vostra”!