Journey through Italian breweries: Ritual Lab, brewery of the year 2020

Journey through Italian breweries: Ritual Lab, brewery of the year 2020

Ritual Lab, a craft brewery in Formello (province of Rome), won the Brewery of the Year award: we tell you the story with its founder.

Beer Attraction in Rimini, the largest Italian fair in the beer sector, was once again the setting for Beer of the Year , a competition organized by Unionbirrai, a trade association that brings together small artisan producers.ritual lab was declared the brewery of the year 2020 at the beer attraction in riminiA large panel of experts evaluated an impressive number of samples, divided into 42 styles. For each of these, a ranking with a podium has been drawn up. In the end, the most awarded brewery was Ritual Lab of Formello (RM) which, thanks to three golds (Head Space among the American Pale Ales, Black Belt among the Stouts and Papa Nero among the Imperial Stouts) graduated from Birrificio dell ‘ year 2020 . A victory that comes a few weeks after another prestigious placement, in the contest organized by Fermento Magazine that rewards individual brewers for the work done in the last 12 months: in that case Giovanni Faenzafinished second. And with Giovanni we talked about this magical moment, retracing the steps that preceded the goals we have just reached and taking the opportunity to let us reveal a preview of the news.

When was Ritual Lab born?
Ritual Lab was born as a game in 2011. My father and I started as homebrewers but, being a bit megalomaniac, we immediately equipped ourselves with a 200-liter system. At our side was Emilio Maddalozzo, an experienced brewer who has worked for major industrial brands. I went to his house and his courses for a couple of years. In 2013 we became a beer firm, going to produce in a brewery in Valtellina. In December 2015 we purchased our system, practically installing it in our home, in Formello. The definitive leap in quality was accomplished with the modernization and expansion of the machinery, which took place in January last year.

What is the brewing tradition that inspired your training?
I definitely come from the German school. As I said, my teacher was Emilio Maddalozzo, who in turn was trained in Germany in the 1960s. For the first four years I practically only brewed Pilsner. Lagers in general are the basis of my background, then I became interested in the more extreme hops and American styles.

Ritual Lab Brewery of the Year 2020. Did you expect it?
I would say no, especially as there were so many other great breweries competing. It was a fantastic surprise. Honestly, however, I was hoping for it, because this year we have worked very well and the success in terms of sales has confirmed this.

Besides Italy, which are the most important markets for you?
Despite the investments that have allowed us to expand production volumes, we remain a small family business. We have little beer to export abroad, however we are present in those places of worship, especially in Northern Europe, which for us represent a beautiful showcase.

What was the first beer produced with the Ritual Lab brand and what was the latest creation?
The first was Ritual Pils, a pilsner initially of German style which then gradually became Italian, thanks to a more decisive hopping , following in the wake of the founders of this genre: Tipopils and Via Emilia above all. The latest product is the Papa Nero made with Voodoo, an American brewery: an Imperial Stout with a great personality that has literally changed our approach to this style.

Which Ritual Lab beer do you prefer?
Without a doubt the first love: the Ritual Pils.

Is there a beer that, for whatever reason, you would not make again?
Paradoxically, our weak point has always been dark beers: I perceived the Black Belt to be below our average level, despite the efforts to improve it. The nice thing is that at Beer of the Year we got a decisive gold with that! Until a few days ago I was almost regretting having done it and instead, it gave us a great satisfaction.

What is the beer from another Italian brewery that you would have liked to make?
A beer that drives me crazy in its simplicity is Hilltop Brewery’s mild ale.

Among your beers, is there one that is little understood by the market or that is struggling to be appreciated?
Perhaps our Black Ipa, despite being one of Ritual Lab’s best productions, did not have the response we expected. It is probably due to the fact that it is a style that is no longer in vogue.

In your opinion, what is the state of health of Italian craft beer? 
In my opinion it is a very positive moment. We had a significant discount on excise duties, moreover the numbers of the entire sector are on the rise.

Are there any critical issues?
Those are not lacking. The biggest problem in my opinion concerns the modest size of some breweries. Below a certain threshold of liters produced it is difficult to achieve economic sustainability.

A preview for Agrodolce, tell us about the news planned for the coming months.
In April we will open, next to the brewery, our tap room with beer garden and gastronomic laboratory, where my brother Matteo, a young chef who can already boast some experience, will be busy. We will not make complicated dishes but very tasty snacks, we will serve the vegetables from our garden and we will make bread, recovering the threshers used for the production of beer. Another nice news is that we started with the barrels project. We have already brought the first four barrels to our controlled humidity cellar. They contained Laphroaig and we will fill them with the Black Pope. Others of Piccolit will arrive that we will use for a Barley Wine that we will produce in May.

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