Italy is a nation long associated with quality. The country’s clothes, shoes and, of course, food, are renowned the world over. Italian brewing, however, has yet to have that same impact. This month, we chat to one of the Italian breweries who seek to diversify their nation’s offerings when it comes to beer. ORA Brewing Company started 10 years ago within the confines of a messy garage in the northern Italian town of Modena. Three school friends – Pietro, Emanuele and Daniele soon discovered that a passion for making beer was something they shared.
Flavourly spoke to one of the founding trio, Daniele. He told us that ORA, in his dialect, means ‘shade’.
“For us the word ushered images of a farmer working in the countryside, and after a hard days work getting some rest under the shade of a tree and enjoying a fresh beer”.
The trio learned to brew in the aforementioned garage, before Pietro took a brewing course and became the company’s head brewer. Soon they fine-tuned a couple of recipes and since then ORA has gone from strength to strength, expanding the team to eight.
The company’s ethos is, parallel to much of Italian culture, focused on quality above all else. “Sometimes it feels like people are more interested in the colour and haziness of a beer than the actual taste”, explained Daniele. ORA take cues from Italian culinary tradition of an emphasis on taste and quality of ingredients. “We appreciate “simple” tastes, like the ones from our pils and our brown ale. Italian food is traditionally made with simple recipes, we apply the same concept to brewing, and try to put the pure taste of beer centre stage rather than what the drink looks like.”
And the beer they brew isn’t the tried and tested, well-known lager style that is so common in Italy. In fact, ORA are big fans of British traditional style ales and take inspiration from some of the foremost British craft breweries such as Hackney’s Five Points Brewing Company, Orbit Beers and Signature Brew. Their roster includes a brown ale, ‘Giole’, based on a British ale recipe with some american hops, and bestseller ‘Lupo’ – the result of beer-drinking journeys in the US and UK to find the best ingredients possible.
These brews are getting noticed, and Daniele told us that some of ORA’s proudest moment’s have been gaining recognition in the UK. He explained how getting their beer stocked in some London pubs like the Salisbury Hotel, the Mirth Marvel and Maud and the Well and Bucket have been real achievements that all the team are proud of, especially as it was a challenge to initially get stocked outside of Italian restaurants.
Now that their UK presence is growing, the company has made the decision to open a new brewery in London to provide fresher beer to their customers in the city and UK at large.
“Our model is about to change, as our beers will soon be 100% brewed in the UK. We are going to complement our core range with new, small experimental batches using some local Italian ingredients for our brews. We are also taking this as an opportunity to review some of our core range recipes. The water profile in the UK is very different from Italy, so we are refreshing and renewing some of our older recipes… Very exciting times!”
ORA are currently working between two countries hundreds of miles from each other, a situation that obviously has its challenges. One of these is deciding what beer to brew next and what flavours to choose. Daniele explained how they get round the issue: “Last year we did a very funny Skype tasting, where we tried different batches of our APA and we shortlisted the best two.” After the team had decided that all was OK, they saw what their drinkers thought before going to production. “We then we did a customer trial at the Netil market, where we let customers try two beers and they decided the final recipe – and the name as well!”
A London location does not mean that the ORA team will diverge from their roots. When it comes to creating new recipes, they are keen to give their drinks an Italian identity. “Italians have always been great chefs. We would like to do some more exploring into how great flavours from our own local ingredients can enhance the taste of some beers”. One of these ingredients is set to feature in the first brew from their new home in Bermondsey. A balsamic vinegar milk stout with vanilla, it’s a fusion of Italian and British flavours and due for release in February and it’s going to be launched at Craft Beer Rising.
Alongside this, it is new flavours and styles that are the main focus of ORA. They have used the recent Christmas break to take some time at home and discover more Italian ingredients to use in their beers in 2018 so watch this space!