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Craft Brewing Thrives In The Heart Of Italy’s Wine Country

Craft beer’s meteoric rise has happened within the last few decades. Across the world in the middle of Italy’s wine country something similar is taking place. It’s possibly the last place you’d think a craft beer movement could start.

Colorado authors Brian Jansing and Paul Vismara were determined to tell the story of small Italian breweries (think Loverbeer or Baladin) making a go of it in the middle of wine country, and making a big splash here in the states.

The result? Their book, Italy Beer Country: The Story of Italian Craft Beer. Jansing wrote the book and Vismara created the artwork throughout.

“We work at the Falling Rock [Tap House in Denver],” said Vismara. “There are incredibly knowledgeable craft beer lovers who walk into the bar who know way more than we do -- and we’re knowledgeable.

“Yet none of them, or hardly any of them knew anything about Italian Craft Beer.”

Jansing and Vismara realized they were on the front of a wave of Italian beers coming to America, and wanted to learn more. A lot more.

“And as we’ve been working on our project, more and more [beers] are coming,” said Vismara.

Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC
Authors Paul Vismara and Bryan Jansing.

And they’re coming from places like Piozzo, Italy – the birthplace of the Italian craft beer movement. It’s a town so small most Italian’s don’t even know where it is. If you want an idea of how small Piozzo really is, the authors compare it to Fowler, Colorado.

Italy Beer Country takes readers back to the beginning of the Italian craft beer movement, introducing the key players and brewers who took the first steps. It guides potential travelers to the exact pubs and points of interest that are important in the overall history of the Italian craft brewing industry, and provides craft beer enthusiasts a guide to the best beers coming out of Italy today.

Interview highlights

Who in Colorado helped you get your foot in the door of the Italian craft beer movement?

Paul Vismara: “One of the first people we turned to was Eric Wallace, the founder of Left Hand Brewing Company up in Longmont. He spent many years in Italy, his wife is Italian, he speaks fluent Italian.  And you can walk into a number of breweries and pubs and see Left Hand paraphernalia and stickers… And he just checked off a bunch of names of places, there were a number of places he wasn’t familiar with, but he said go here, here, here, here. And that’s kind of how our map developed.”  

The tax situation between wine makers, politicians, and beer makers was a concern for the growing industry wasn’t it?

Brian Jansing:  “Every politician owns a vineyard. The same tax form that a wine maker fills out is the same tax form that a beer maker fills out. A wine maker puts zero. A brewer is putting a lot of numbers into that tax form, so that’s a big struggle for them. But I believe that they are making a little bit of head on that change.”

There’s a sense of inclusiveness and openness in the U.S. Beer Industry isn’t there? But that’s not the case necessarily in Italy?

Jansing: “They’re very wide open, and that was a big cultural lesson, and makes the craft beer movement unique worldwide. Because we have given that example. This is an American idea. We are American’s we say we’re American’s. Italians don’t say I’m Italian. I’m not from Italy -- I’m from Verona, I’m from Rome.

Vismara: “And that concept, it’s called campanilismo, is something that even though I’ve traveled to Italy a number of times, I was unaware of it, of how ingrained it was. My mentality was American.”

Jansing:  “The brewers, you know, they had their moments of fighting but they had to collaborate.  And they also realized that collaborating together only helps them. And so, what was the phrase that they always used that they brought home to them in Italy?”

Vismara: “An incoming tide lifts all boats.”

The book, Italy Beer Country: The Story of Italian Craft Beeris available April 1st.