New Wave of Microbreweries Putting Italy on the Beer Map

Collesi’s success leads a beer industry growing rapidly in a wine country.

APECCHIO, Italy – On  June 21 Guiseppi Collesi answered his phone, surprised to hear someone from London on the other line. The caller informed him of  recent awards just won for his famous Italian-made beverage.

No, not wine – beer.

No one comes to Italy to drink beer, they come to drink what the country is known for, wine.  But microbreweries in Italy are on the rise, and the Collesi  brewery has become a  leader in the market.

And it was all something of an accident.

Guiseppi Collesi

Guiseppi Collesi pours a glass of his award-winning amber beer.

Guiseppi grew up on his family’s 100 acre farm,  one of the oldest in The Marche region, and worked as waiter in their restaurant from 1994 to 2007. His job was to serve his father’s homemade grappa, aromatized with honey or orange, to all the customers at the end of their meal. He studied electronics in college, but once he realized how much people loved his father’s grappa, he had the idea to open a distillery.

When Guiseppi told his friends about his idea, they took him for a madman.

“(The said) Grappa is from Veneto, it’s from Trentino, grappa comes from the north, grappa is absolutely not from Le Marche,”  Collesi recalled, speaking through an interpreter.

He  told them that he has always been a man of spirit, and he went on to prove them wrong. After traveling through Italy and visiting a variety of other grappa distilleries, Guiseppi opened his own in 2000 and started selling his grappa a year later.

In 2005, Collesi’s product was included in a grappa tasting  held at the Senate of the Republic attended by representatives from 40 different embassies, including the U.S., The president of the Oscar Association, a sponsor of the event, suggested Collesi try making beer, offering to introduce him to a good brew master

Collesi worked with the brew master to get his beer line started, and after trying 220 different formulas, decided on the five flavors that he has today.

He currently crafts two blonde beers, Alter and Ego, one amber beer, Flat Lux, one red beer, Ubi, one black beer, Maior, and a limited edition beer, Magnum, available each year on July 4th. Each of his beers is sold in  wine bottles, with a label and seal colored to match the hue of each beer flavor.

All of his beers, which are unpasteurized and naturally fermented in the bottle, are characterized by strong flavors and aromas of various fruits, nuts, and spices. The blonde beers are typically filled with fruity flavors and have intense aromas of yeast, vanilla, and honey, or malt and citrus. The amber beer is full of intense flavor and has a rich scent of autumn fruits. His darker black beer, Maior, has aromas that evoke the roasting of barley, coffee, cocoa, licorice, and rhubarb.

Guiseppi Collessi

Guiseppi Collessi with bags of hops at his brewery.

All of the barely used in the beer production is  grown on 100 acres  of land surrounding his brewery. Guiseppi and other brew masters call this type of beer a “0-km beer” because it travels zero kilometers from the time the ingredients are grown to the time it is sealed and sold.

The key ingredient to his beer is the water that comes from Monte Nerone, the tallest mountain in Le Marche region of the  Apennines mountain range. This limestone mountain produces water of great purity, making Collesi’s location the most optimal for brewing his artisan beer.

Collesi’s efforts have already brought numerous prestigious awards, including International Brewery of the Year in 2012 from the New York International Beer Competition. His most recent award was received from London and included a gold medal for the blonde beer, a silver medal for the black and red beers, and a bronze medal for the amber beer.

In a country where wine is the most popular drink, brewmasters such as Collesi are still able to run a successful beer-brewing business.

“While it is true that in Italy we mostly drink wine, beer is the most consumed drink in the world,” explains Collesi.

[pullquote]While it is true that in Italy we mostly drink wine, beer is the most consumed drink in the world.[/pullquote]

Collesi is just one of the many Italian microbreweries that have been opened in the past couple of years, growing from 86 to 397 between 2003 and 2011, according to a study done by the Centre for Economic and International Studies. The breweries are mainly located in the north but others regions are quickly catching up.

Collesi is one of the most successful and well-known breweries in his market and plan to continue his rate of growth and success. In September he expects to open an expanded  plant where he can host events, such as fashion shows, as well as increase his production. He currently sells 600,000 bottles per year, but once the new structure is ready, he hopes to reach 6 million. Since 2008, his company has had a yearly growth increment of 50 percent but with his new factory he predicts it will rise to 200 percent in the next 5 years

Collesi’s passion and spirit for brewing beer will help him continue to rise to the top of the beer market in Italy.

“Producing beer is very charming,” said Collesi