If you had any doubts about Italy being a beer country, AB-InBev’s acquisition of Leonardo Di Vincenzo’s brewery Del Borgo makes a strong case. Del Borgo was an early player in the Italian beer history and one of its most influential.
Opened in 2005, Del Borgo became a stabilizer in the Italian beer world at a time when there was strong growth. Leonardo brewed with one of Italy’s early pioneers, the American brewer Mike Murphy at Rome Brewing Company, the first brewer/brewery in downtown Rome. Here Leonardo cut his teeth on hoppy beer styles that Murphy was introducing to Italy. Unfortunately for Mike, Rome wasn’t a very conducive environment for the new brewer and the Italian palette hadn’t quite reached the hoppy styles that Mike was brewing. Leonardo changed this.
Mike eventually shut down his operations in Rome and moved to Denmark. Today Mike is the brewmaster at Lervig in Norway where he continues his extraordinary legacy. Leonardo continued to build on those hoppy beers he loved, gently swaying the fussy Italian palettes. Today, those American IPAs are very much sought after, in great part because of Leonardo. With brewers like Toccalmalto, Brewfist and even founding fathers like Lambrate, hoppy beers are a common place. But it took some time and Leonardo certainly had his part in the turn around.
Leonardo also had a large part in helping the Italian beer scene find its wings by creating a craft beer market in Italy. There was no such thing as a craft beer market up until the mid-2000s, some ten years after the first four started the movement. With pioneers like Teo Musso, who had a huge part in building this market, the trailblazing publican Manuele Colonna and Leonardo built pubs across Rome that would continue to influence the Italian beer palette. Because of places that Leonardo co-owns like No.Au, Bir e Fud and Open Baladin, beer was being sold to the novice and the passionate alike. These were the architects that made Rome the engine that has been driving the beer scene in Italy.
After decades of the US craft beer being ignored, snubbed and finally made fun of by goliath industrialized beer, now we watch in horror as craft breweries like Ballast Point, Goose Island, Elysian and many more get gobbled up. In a sense, the beast finally turned its head and now it has reared it upon Italy. Watching Italy lose Del Borgo to AB-InBev in essence is a sad confirmation that Italy has come unto its own as a craft beer country.