Journey to Italian breweries: La Petrognola

Journey to Italian breweries: La Petrognola

We were in the province of Lucca to visit Roberto Giannarelli’s La Petrognola brewery: this is the story of this reality in Garfagnana.

It all started in 2002, when Roberto Giannarelli began his brewing experiments in the pot in which his mother prepared the minestrone by the fireplace. The only tools available to him at the time were a ladle and a thermometer.the brewery emphasizes a close connection with the Garfagnana areaIn 2005 he set up a small 100-liter system in two rooms of his house, used as a microbrewery. In a short time the business takes off and Roberto decides to renovate a stable and buy a larger 5 hectolitre plant. After a couple of removals and the gradual purchase of various fermenters, La Petrognola in 2013 settled in its current headquarters (Piazza al Serchio, province of Lucca ), bringing the production capacity to 20 hectoliters. Starting from the name, the brewery emphasizes a close connection with Garfagnana , and this despite the fact that beer, by force of circumstances, is the agricultural product most difficult to link to the concept of territory.

the petrognola

Roberto what did you do before becoming a brewer?
I did a good job: the transporter. Let’s say that when I got on the truck I rested ( laughs ), the cabin was my office from which I managed the small scrap trading company. For 7 years I did both jobs, all week around and then on Saturday and Sunday I was dedicated to beer.

How many beers do you have in production now?
There are 12! It works and the product is fine. They are all top-fermented beers: something of English inspiration, others that look more to Belgium.

The first beer you made?
The 100% spelled, which to call it beer is a blasphemy. For the very first cooked dishes I used to mix the spelled in the oven at home… I don’t know how my wife didn’t drive me out of the house!

Is it still in production?
Yes, even if the recipe has been completely changed, as happened with another early beer: Ambrata. We must always grow and then we must inevitably meet the needs of the market: at the time, beers were required to be shifted to sweet, nowadays we go more on bitter. At first I took spelled here in the area and took it to malt in Germany. It was problematic, also because it is a cereal that does not have all the enzymes of barley. Later I preferred to follow a recipe with the addition of natural enzymes and a part of raw spelled.


In addition to the spelled one, do you have other products from the Garfagnana area?
There is that of barley malt only but with the addition, in mashing, of 9% of our dried chestnuts, smoked for 40 days in the metati and then ground. It is actually the most linked to our territory, because it is good to reiterate it: although it has always made spelled beers, for which Garfagnana is famous, only this year I was able to use the local IGP one, because I finally found it with the characteristics that I wish. In our area it rains a lot and the ears are tempting for thiseasily, with the consequent formation of mold on the peel and obviously I cannot end up toxins in the beer. Normally I get it from Mugello, in part it comes from organic farming. In fact, we are thinking of making a completely organic line.

The beer that has given you the most personal satisfaction and the one most appreciated by the market?
My favorite is the Black even if it is not the one I drink most often, it should be consumed at the right time. It should be a Stout, but having a percentage of spelled and being one of my very first recipes let’s say it’s more a style of my imagination. The best sellers are the Ambrata, the Bianca and the Bionda which would be a golden ale.

the petrognola

Is there a type of beer that you have never produced that you would like to try your hand at?
My initial dream was to make a 100% Garfagnana beer: a utopia, not very sustainable from an economic point of view, especially as regards hops. With barley we are trying and in fact this year I started to sow it. I also had a native species analyzed, called Scandella, but it’s not good for beer, it’s good for animal husbandry. In the end I fell back on Concerto quality, used for example by the Scottish Simpson malting, which gives excellent results. After all, our climate is not very different from what it is in Scotland. Among other things, I was one of the first to produce an Italian Grape Aleand I used the must of an important wine, but then I stopped because I don’t want to mess in the brewery.

How many people currently work in the brewery?
We are five, three of the family and two employees. In the end, the one who earns the least is me ( laughs ).

A preview for Agrodolce: tell us about the next beer from La Petrognola
We have just created a spelled saison in the pilot plant, with a new yeast, flavored with hibiscus flowers and obviously with the right amount of hops. The name is still secret, it will probably have to do with my country of origin …

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