“London calling”, Modena answers – ORA Brewing

I can say I like to fill “A4 sheets” with words and random punctuation.
Maybe it’s because I’m lucky, but every time something good comes over, like today.
Today I am going to tell you about a dream which turned into reality.
If we follow the trends, we fell in terrible mistakes. Say you’re in a supermarket, what would you buy? You’re in a rush from work, and you just get the first bottle on the shelves. True, but you might be missing something unique.
Let’s for a moment pretend we have more time. To wonder around and look at the bottle, the labels, the colors, the flavours of what you’re buying. You could bump into a new world: the craft beer market.

The commitment and diversity of the craft beer market could open a completely different world.
People with passion brewing in a garage of your suburbs.
People who don’t give up at the first terrible flavors, but keep going looking for higher quality.
People who transforms passion into job, knowing that they are offering something unique.
This is the story of three young Italians who went abroad to make beer.
We’re going to talk about it with Daniele, one of these brave boys who left Modena and went to London to fulfill his dreams.

Hi Daniele, just to start, could you give us a little portrait of each of you?
Daniele moved to London in 2014 and he was the owner of the garage where it all started in the late 2000. Emanuele has always lived in Milan and met Daniele at uni.
Pietro is an engineer and lives in Modena with his family.
Simone is also from Modena and started making beer with us last year. Matteo is from Sardinia and met Daniele in London: from three friends we became five.

Modena… the first things that jumps to me it’s Ferrari or Panini.
“Mom I’m going to be a Formula 1 driver, but I want to complete the sticker album first…”.
What were your dreams when you were kids and what are your dreams now?
“I am gonna be a pilot” “ an astronaut” “a fireman” – sure… but not for us. We knew we wanted to create something new and innovative. I wanted to open a restaurant but frankly there are too many trattorias in Modena … so with Emanuele we tried to create a social network for events called “One night on” … a complete disaster! We published the website but nobody used it.

Who had the idea of making the first boil in the garage?
We were kids, money was not enough, our aim was to drink anything cheap. So we started to make beer.
Each brew was just enough to drink beer during the following brew. So we had to brew more. A friend gave us a steel pot and a fridge – that was heaven! So we started to brew cold fermentation. Our pilsner was born. And our passion was very quickly taking over, “cheap” wasn’t enough.
Hazy, fruity, juicy, malty – we started to brew more and different styles and we very quickly realised it was just the beginning.

What has changed from the garage to Tottenham?
We have now moved our passion to the next level, now we lead a team of creative talents.
We are dealing with a world where ideas are constantly changing and we want to have a say in this by continually proposing something interesting.
From the garage our ideas have grown and we have took inspiration from our love for food: ORA is now an independent London brewery dedicated to creating beers that marry the finest Italian ingredients with contemporary beer styles.

Your brewery is called ORA. Why this name?
comes from Modenese dialect. It means “shade”. In our mind we were thinking about a farmer working in the countryside for long hours, and then sits under a tree to enjoy the shade and drink a fresh beer.

Why did you decide to move to London, Instead of growing Italy? London is a city of 8 million people, with lots of great breweries. Why?
The number of Italians who moved to London in the last 10 years is just crazy. It’s not that brave, it’s actually quite common to move to London… What’s difficult is to set up a brewery in a city with 150 breweries, where the majority of pubs are tied chains and the room for another brewery is very small.
You’re right, just like an American moving to Naples to open a pizzeria… London is one of the world’s brewing capitals and there isn’t much room for mistakes there.
Not easy, but we thought it was the only place where we could achieve what we wanted.
Italy has a very recent brewing history and in Modena 5 years ago it was difficult to find customers constantly looking for new brews. I mean, the average customers used to order a “lager” or a “Tennent’s super” … (Things are finally changing now).

Open a brewery in England, is it easier than in Italy?
Unfortunately yes. Clear rules, not much bureaucracy and you can pretty much do everything online.
Italy is great for food and holidays, but running a business requires more strength than we had.

Italians in England.
It reminds me of a movie called “Smoke of London” where the great Alberto Sordi plays the role of Dante, who gets in the City and turns into the stereotypical British gentleman starting to deny his Italian nature.
It looks like you took a different path: you made your “Italian DNA” your unique selling point. Why?
In London we started by exporting beers we used to produce in Italy under contract brewing. This didn’t really work as we immediately realised customers wanted fresh beer.
Then the plan was: let’s be local and start to make beer in London! But there are more than100 breweries in Greater London, we soon realised having a brewery wasn’t enough.
Then the idea, born during after quite a few beers in Angel: mix our Italian DNA with some contemporary beer styles.
Combine who we are with what we like to drink.
The first beer had to be a bomb, something that represented us at best: hence the idea of ORA Balsamic, a milk stout with 10 years barrel aged balsamic vinegar from Spilamberto.
The beer was awarded by CAMRA as one the most innovative beer in 2018. That was just the beginning.

Your brewery is in Tottenham, 10 mins walking from Beavertown. Is it hard from an Italian to get the locals to come and visit the taproom?
Well, we’ve just started. We still got a long way to go, every month is a struggle to grow and bring something new to the community. The challenge for us is to grow our customer base and at the same time brew something new and interesting for our customers. And the taproom is key for us: every week we’re launching a new beer brewed in a very small scale, for example two weeks ago we launched an Imperial stout with chocolate, waffles and mussels… a tribute to the city of Brussles which our brewer loves. This is what we want to give our community: innovation and diversity. Tottenham is changing rapidly – it’s still a poor area but with lots of small businesses who are all about bringing innovation to the local community. And we want to be part of this.

What about the political-economic context: let’s not talk about the Italian situation – very sad – what is the situation with Brexit approaching (again)?
I would like to give you some answers but the harsh truth is that… nobody knows!
A lot of people who voted for Brexit have had the opportunity to change their minds now – but there won’t be a second vote.
We can only hope in the common sense of the politicians and continue to do what we do best.
From a commercial point of view, unfortunately, things have already started to change.
Some suppliers are no longer dealing with the British market, at least not before a final agreement with the European Union and even exporting our beers is starting to become more difficult.

Let’s move to your new project.
For two of your new beers “Ermes” and “Panaro” you have created labels inspired by surrealism.
What was behind this choice?
We wanted to give a flavour of home behind the labels. An iconic representation of our origins that represents the fundamental elements for which Modena is famous in the world. We also love surrealism and the ability to deconstruct the world in a psychedelic way. So we merged the two.

I know you are constantly looking for Italian flavors to add in your beers. Tell us about this idea?
The idea comes from what we believe beer is all about: every brew has to give emotions and a story behind it.
We are all foodie and we know that the best way to break’s into people’s heart is by food.
Food creates emotions which are unique and very subjective. With our beers we want to recreate some of these emotions. For example, at StreetXo in London we had an amazing panna cotta dessert with strawberries, basil, chilli and chocolate. And we re-created with a pale ale with the same flavour profile: a 6% pale ale infused with chocolate, strawberry and basil in dry hop, and with Cayenne and Scotch Bonnet chilli. The idea was to balance off the sweetness with the chilli – and it delivered so well, the beer flew in a week!
This is what ORA is about – gastronomic research applied to brewing.

Finally, you have now your own brewery and you brew with the same enthusiasm when you started in your garage … What are your new projects?
Now we want to focus even more on the quality of the beers, we want to grow and it is one of the main reasons why we decided to buy our own brewery.
We have just launched a new series called Italian Gelato, a series of collab brews with other British breweries to promote some classic Italian gelato flavours. We brewed some amazing beers which were really popular – like an Affogato pale with Ampersand, a Stracciatella porter with Brew York, a Bacio chocolate stout with Unbarred or an Apricot pale with Box Social.
With the new year we would love to start to export back home… Then who knows… maybe one day we will open our own pub.

You are almost settled here… latest news from Buckingham Palace?
The first week at the taproom we were so close to see Tottenham winning the Champions league (the stadium is only 5 mins walking from us)… would have been the best way to celebrate our opening!

I’m glad I met Daniele, Pietro and Simone (whom I called Emanuele for an entire afternoon)
When I had the opportunity to meet the guys from ORA Brewing in Ferrara, at the Italian British Beer Festival “Acido Acida” organized by Davide Franchini, I immediately realized that they have the right enthusiasm to succeed. They actually show the same energy of winners that Fabio Capello had in 1973 when he scored the goal at Wembley Stadium.
It might seem an isolated case, but this is one of the numerous stories of our Italian fellows who live working experiences abroad, sometimes successfully sometimes not..
I could also mention Stefano Bisogno from Croft Ales Brewery in Bristol, Mario Canestrelli from Braybrooke Beer Brewery in Leicester, Vincenzo Conte and the guys from Brewheadz in London or Alessandra Confessore from Ilkley Brewery …
I hope they all set an example for other young Italians to make their dreams come true.
It is not important if you do it in Italy or abroad, what matters is you believe in your passions.

Drink Beer is the damn support for this life”

Many thanks to Sara Piciucchi for the article in english and Fabio “Pixel” Colinelli for the original head illustration.

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