Brewer’s Exchange: Henry’s Blog Part 1

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. 


Alright, I’d like to start this off by saying I’m not a blogger nor am I a writer. I’m just an alright brewer who’s good at drinking beer and loves to talk about it. Now that we have that straight, I’m Henry Myers at the brewery everyone calls me “Hank”. I have worked at Left Hand Brewing for 7 years. I started at Left Hand on the packaging line, was a brewer for a couple of years, and now I’m the Cellar manager. I love drinking good beer, eating great food and most of all I love enjoying both of those with great people.

Being a part of this brewer’s exchange is absolutely an honor and I still can’t believe it’s true even after being in Italy for more than a week. Thanks Birrificio Italiano and Left Hand!

One of the things that I was most worried about was not being able to speak Italian with everyone at the brewery. As soon as I got here I realized that most of the people at the brewery could speak some English (some great) and some Spanish. It was so nice that everyone was helping me out by speaking English! Thanks Birrificio Italiano! One of the nicest things about brewing is that it is a universal language, so even if we couldn’t speak the same language we all understand what the other is doing or trying to stay.

One thing that Fra talked about in her blog was that size difference in the two breweries. Fra told me that their brewery was super small. That is not the case, yeah they don’t make a shit load of beer, but it’s not a small operation at their brewery. It’s a full blown Microbrewery! All the people at the brewery are super passionate about what they are doing and really care about the beers they’re making. They brew 5 days a week one brew a day about 23 HL (~20 BBL’s) batches, lots of Dry Hopping, no filtration, Bottle/Keg their beers in many different sizes, do a lot of fun and different barrel age beers. One of the nice things about their brewery is that they only run one shift, so everyone knows what’s going on because they’re all there working together. No 2nd shift or 3rd shift hand offs everyone knows what the other person is doing. They meet in the morning at the begin of their shift to figure out what needs to get done, then it’s off to the races. One other thing that is nice is that I get to say goodnight to all the beer in tank. Fra and I do a walk around the cellar at the end of the day and check tank pressure, if everything is clean, if everything is off and if everything is put away. Then it lights out Ciao, Buona notte!

Now let’s talk food. Wow!!! Everything is unbelievable! The pasta is unreal, but the best of them all is Pizzoccheri (pasta made with Buckwheat) cooked in a Parmesan Reggiano, garlic, brown butter sauce with potato’s. My mouth is watering writing this. Pizza is the greatest food item to ever be made and Italy does it damn well! Needless to say I have had a couple pizzas so far. The prosciutto here is absolutely wonderful!!!

Ciao!

Henry Myers Aka “Hank”

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Brewer’s Exchange: Francesca’s Blog Part 4

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!

Beer Tech

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.

Craziness

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!).

Music

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!
Dreams

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…

Luggage

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.

Conclusions

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”!

 

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Brewer’s Exchange: Francesca’s Blog Part 3

Francesa has been a busy woman! This past week, she spent time with our Logistics and Sales teams, learning how we forecast sales and plan for materials, and what the world looks like for our beer when it leaves the brewery. Her adventures have taken her to Odell where she learned more about how they store & use hop cones, to Avery to learn more about the barrel program, and to Falling Rock where she met two team members that penned Italy Beer Country! Her latest food samplings have included fried pickles and chicken wings, and a pancetta er – bacon flight in Denver. Read more about her time with the Tetris masters and her 12 account visit in Denver!

Learning about Logistics & Sales

At any moment, a brewery is immersed in rigid order and total chaos.

While for a brewer, order and discipline within the kettles and tanks are the ONLY rule, the one that allows for good, consistent beer to be made… What’s happening AROUND the kettles and tanks, well, that’s the aforementioned chaos.

Several processes are happening at the same time: cleaning, brewing, packaging, dry-hopping, sanitizing… Tools, information, materials, people are moved around constantly, and it’s hard at times to find that exact thing (or co-worker!) you are looking for.

Here at Left Hand, the answer to this classic needle-in-the-haystack problem is called Pete: he is the Tetris champion in charge of the management of warehouses where ingredients, tools and finished beer are stocked.

Pete works by one “simple” rule: “The right thing, at the right time, in the right place, the right quantity and the right condition”. God knows how he can keep track of everything, but well, he does.

The Five R’s named by Pete are what keeps a brewery secretly running. My idea is that they apply not only to work inside the brewery, but to sales and the craft beer market in general: what’s a better commercial strategy than delivering the right beer, at the right time and place, in the right quantity and – especially – in the right condition?

This is easier said than done, but a good scheduling and knowledge of the market make it possible to find viable solutions to distribute the beer in ideal conditions, to the right places, with a good timing; so that it can reach a widespread audience at its full potential.

Both in the USA and Europe beer corporations, empty in contents and soul, seek new sources of revenue by acquiring craft breweries; in order to fill the said “voids” which are in their nature. Nick, my guide among Left Hand’s customers in Denver, told me that he feels this is an opportunity – rather than a threat – for craft products. “Why?” – I asked. “So any regular Joe can enter any bar, order both beers, taste the difference… And never come back!” was his reply.

As you may have noticed in the past blogs, one of the things I tried to do most during my time in the USA has been finding for every field I explored a silver thread which links members of the craft movement worldwide. So I wanted to understand more in depth the situation of the market, and when I asked how can the American craft brewers stand out in an industry which day after day grows more difficult to decode for the average drinker, and why does he think a huge number of breweries go craft notwithstanding the hard work and possible hardships… Nick smiled, picked a bottle and showed it to me; his finger pointing to the wording “RIGHTEOUSLY INDEPENDENT”.

So is written on every label at Left Hand. So we want our beer to be. So we, the brewers and craft drinkers, feel. All of us.

Read Blog 1 and Blog 2.

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