American craft breweries have been shaking up the European beer world over the past few years by exporting their big bold flavors overseas. Now an Italian brewer wants to bring Italian-style beers to the United States. Alex Liberati, a restaurateur and owner of the Revelation Cat gypsy brewery in Rome, has been living in Denver for the past three months, searching for a location for Brewery Liberati, which he plans to open in early 2017, along with a cluster of complementary eateries and food shops.
He has since signed a lease in a building near downtown, but doesn’t want to disclose the location until he takes possession sometime next spring.
What are Italian-style beers? Liberati describes them like this: “Italy developed as a Galapagos of beer. We didn’t have a strong brewing tradition, and we weren’t exposed to other traditions, like in Belgium or Germany or England. So our beer has been developed in a very Italian way: by looking inward.” As a result, he says, Italian beers are made creatively with local ingredients and resources, like lemons and wine-grape must. Some Italian brewers even oxidize their beers on purpose to play with flavors.
In Denver, Liberati and his three business partners plan to hydroponically grow their own produce from seeds, like Sorrento lemons, that will be brought from Italy — and then use those ingredients in their beers. They have a ten-hectoliter brewing system (roughly nine barrels), along with fifteen fermenters. "We want to replicated that Italian flavor profile, that terroir," he says.
The project also calls for a restaurant in the space, along with shops selling different Italian specialties or street-food such as coffee, soup, polenta, frittata and gelato. The shops will aligned indoors as if they were on a street.
Liberati says he didn’t want to open a brewery in Rome because regulations and other factors make it too difficult; Revelation Cat, which specialized in Belgian-style lambics and American-style IPAs, no longer operates there, and he’s also closed the two restaurants he once owned in the Eternal City. Instead, he looked around the world for the perfect location for his vision. “We looked in Singapore, Tokyo, on the East Coast of the United States, on the West Coast, Hawaii, Chicago. Denverites are the best,” he explains. “The camaraderie is something that once you are in it, you can’t step away from.
"I come from Italy, and things work in a different way here," Liberati continues. "It's hard to get business done, while Denver has been welcoming to our business. It's such a growing city. A smart city. There is everything there. The food scene — the people in Denver appear to be very educated on food and taste."
He named a few of his favorite restaurants so far, including Marco's Coal Fired Pizza, which he said would be among the five best pizza places in Rome — a city with 5,000 of them. He also likes Sushi Den, Mercantile Dining & Provision, Old Major and the Populist.
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But he's also a big fan of the local beer scene. As a member of Italy’s brewers’ guild, Liberati organized a Colorado-themed beer festival in Rome and got to know several breweries that way, including Left Hand, Avery, Steamworks, Ska and Odell.
He is also friends with the owners of Spangalang Brewing on Welton Street, where he did a collaboration beer during the Great American Beer Festival, and with Paul Vismara and Bryan Jansing, bartenders at Falling Rock Tap House and co-authors of Italy: Beer Country — the Story of Italian Craft Beer, and Falling Rock owner Chris Black.
“Those guys have been a real big part of us moving there,” he notes.
Liberati plans to begin work on his building this spring. He says it will take about a year to get the facility up and running.