This story is about an American brewer, a Canadian brewer, and an Italian brewer is bound to entertain you with laughter, happiness, and fulfillment. Making friends and brewing beer all over the world!
On Saturday Feb.17th, after spending the previous night out at a few craft beer bars in Rome with my new friends from Italy (@cogito_ergo_brew , @aambraan , @btbrewingliam on Instagram) we had a three way international collaboration brew at the awesome home and hospitality of Cogito and his amazing girlfriend.
My Canadian brewer friend Liam, who you might remember from my "Valencia" blog post , decided to return from a few weeks in Morocco to meet me out in Rome, Italy for a few days. When we got back to our hostel Friday night we knew that Saturday morning was brew day and we had to take a 30 minute metro ride to a smaller city south east of Rome called Frascati. The train was planned to leave at 8:54AM and it was 8:44AM and no word or sight of Liam yet as he had to transfer hostels over to my hostel earlier that morning. I got a text saying to meet at metro station, 5 min. away. I sped walked over to the station, and 8:52 comes around and I see Liam with the train tickets, we find out were way down the train station so we started running, with backpacks on both our backs.
We arrive at the train and jump on in, and within 3 seconds of getting in, the train takes off to our destination, Frascati. After the 30 minute train ride, we arrive at the train station in Frascati. The last message I was able to send to Cogito was that we weren't going to make the train. We had to aimlessly walk around this outskirts city where we knew nothing, so we decided to munch on some sandwiches while figuring out what to do.
After walking around for 20 minutes searching for WiFi, we find a spot with free WiFi and were able to send out a message via Instagram to Cogito. He meet us at the coffee shop across the street where we got an espresso and croissant before starting to drink beer all day.
Cogito meets us at the coffee shop and walks us around the corner, up a little path, to a small field that is the garden of the palace of Frascati. We walked back down and ended up walking another 0.3 miles to the apartment complex they lived at. Amber's cousin, Giordano who was a 21yo rugby player/cook was with us the whole time too, but didn't speak much English but was being awesome for trying.
We walk in to their apartment and see their black lab and tabby cat hanging out, and the first thing they wanted to show me was their beer wall of all the beers they previously drank, which was pretty spectacular!
His temp controlled fermentation cooler/fridge was also in that room.
We ended up spending most of the time in the kitchen, where we would be brewing as well. He pulls out something that was an all in one electric brew system that measured temperature (and can set temperature) and had a timer on it, something similar to the Grainfather. We were brewing an Imperial Porter this day and he pulled out his brewing log, it was very detailed, especially for a homebrewer. He also shows us his yeast bank and hops in the freezer. He collected yeast from professional beers and harvested it up to a 5gal pitching rate and saved many different styles of beer like that. Some varieties of hops may not be so easy/cheap to obtain here in Italy, like it is in the USA, let alone outskirt cities of the main cities.
He brings out very soft mineral leveled water, and the guys start filling the brewing system with water, 20L, and brought the water to roughly 72 degrees Celsius, where we would then pitch all of the base malt, which was marris otter.
We mashed in, put the gypsum, calcium chloride, and epsom salt in and put the lid on to rest for a 90 minute mash with a slow consistent vorlauf, recirc.
At the 75 minute mark we added the remaining dark malt to the mash along with the little amount of baking soda and whirfloc. We re-stirred the mash, and let sit for 15 more minutes.
By this point we are on our third homebrew that Cogito graciously provided to us. The first beer of the day was a Bohemian Pilsner. I rated this one a 7.4/10 but was still impressed. It tasted just like I would expect homebrews to taste even in the USA. The second beer we tried was a 8% Belgian Tripel that he had brewed roughly 4 months ago.
This beer I rated a 8.2/10 and was a pretty good beer! It finished fairly dry with a FG of roughly 1.006 and had that subtle farmhouse aroma like your traditional Belgian would. The third brew we tried was an Imperial Porter (Like we were brewing today) and I rated this one a 8/10. It had great chocolate flavor, good mouthfeel, a little metallic on the back end, and finished a little dry, but can be common among porters. Good beers thus far!
At about this time Giordano starts heating up some water for the spaghetti, starts cutting up the Italian bacon and onions, eggs, and commences making the spaghetti chiccorelli to be ready to eat during the brew.
One thing that I've noticed so far in my short stay in Italy is that Italians love their food and love to share their food. This whole brew Amber was offering us chips on chips, little donut hole things, peanuts, espresso's, and everything.
I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for their hospitality and will never forget what they did for me. Sitting down at the table in the kitchen, we all scarfed down this home made spaghetti dish and a glass of red wine from a traditional winery from Frascati. and quickly returned to the brew and drinking more beer.
Cogito brings out the last couple bottles of a kettled sour that he had saved for the last year for us to sip on. This beer was just about perfect for my taste buds. I gave this a 9.2/10.
It was a light colored, 6%, sour beer that was harvested from a professional breweries Geuze yeast and bottle conditioned for a year. Not too tart, fairly fruity, great carbonation and color, poundable!
The boil was now just about over so he pulled out his stainless steel wort chiller to sanitize in the boil for 15 minutes. We then started chilling the wort down as fast as possible.
During this time, we finished the sour and cracked his last bottles of that Imperial Porter we drank earlier. After the wort was cool enough, we opened the bottom valve to release the wort into the sanitized fermentation chamber (plastic bucket), adding oxygen for yeast health before pitching the yeast starter of English ale yeast. We added the yeast and threw the fermentor in to his temp. controlled fermentation fridge set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just like that the brew was done! It was a 5 hour brew day, not including the cleaning. Brewing usually took me 6 hours - 8hours at most so this was a little shorter brew.
I was lugging around my last bottle of Pliny the Elder that I brought with me to Europe and decided to give him my last one. He threw it in the fridge when we arrived and decided to pull it out for all of us to try together, it was everyone, besides me, first time trying it. They were all amazed! I was so glad that after a month traveling with the beer in my backpack it was still good and that everyone liked it!
After that final beer, we decided to go out to the local craft beer shop where Cogito knew the owner of course, and we drank some beer there, talking to the owner and learning about different breweries in Italy. Finally, after drinking beer all day, we needed one more bite to eat before taking the last train back to Rome.
We stopped at a Pizzeria, which are everywhere in Italy, for some awesome pizza. We said our goodbyes to our long lost friends and were guided on how to get the train ticket back to Rome from them. We get on the train and head back to the city of Rome...
This was one of the best day's I've had since being abroad! Finally got to have my hands in on a homebrew, my true love.
I got to understand a little of the culture of Italy by being taken under their wings and am eternally grateful for that.
I hope to brew again with Cogito, Amber, Giordano, and Liam soon!
Until the next brew my friends!