Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world for thousands of generations, but it is also the oldest. Nowadays it is a trendy symbol of social life: its massive consumption has made Italian (and non-Italian) palates more demanding, always looking for new taste experiences. In this scenario, Jurij Ferri’s Almond 22 brewery fits in, between craftsmanship, musical inspirations and trips around the world.
All it takes is four magic ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Mixing them, the result is the essence of social life: the beer, the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world. Suffice it to say that its origin dates back as far as 5000 years ago. During the construction of the Great Pyramids in Giza, in Egypt, each worker received a daily ration ranging from four to five liters of beer. They thus ensured nutrition and refreshment. Not bad as fuel for the construction of the pyramids!
Beer has an organoleptic content of bioflavonoids, sugar and nitrogenous substances. There is also the presence of antioxidants and supplements, such as tannins, dextrins and B vitamins. At least, it contains folic acid, very important to prevent anemia and spina bifida in the fetus. We can therefore define this drink a sort of “liquid bread“, a nourishment that popular culture has embraced, determining the historical saying Who drinks beer lives a hundred years.
There are three types of beer fermentation: high induced fermentation, low induced fermentation, spontaneous fermentation. Over the centuries, beer production has changed, improved and diversified. In today’s world there are hundreds of styles and hybridizations. It has also become a niche product. Think about the beer produced by Trappist monks. To be so defined, this beer must necessarily be produced within an abbey; then, monks strictly control its elaboration; lastly, all the profits from its sale must go to finance charity activities.
Among industrial processes, craft and amateur production, the appeal for this iconic drink is growing more and more. The latest trend is the homemade beer, which we could define as “garage beer”. However, it is reaching a quality such as to equal the standards of production of beers famous throughout the world.
Jurij Ferri also approached this magical world of fermentation more than twenty years ago. In 1999, almost by chance at a festival in Abruzzo, Jurij saw some young people surrounded by a big pot and he surprisingly discovered that they were making beer, without trappings. From that moment, an intuition was triggered: he wanted to try to produce it too. Totally enraptured by the scents of cereals, the floral fragrances of hops and the delicacy of honey, also encouraged by his wife Valeria Saraceni, in 2003 Jurij founded Almond 22 brewery. His mission is not the simple brewing, but much more. What stands out sure enough is an authentic narration of his territory, through the exaltation of some local raw materials, such as honey from the Abruzzo National Park or the pure water of Farindola.
Jurij also keeps a watchful eye for details. In particular, his prized malts allcome directly from Germany, England and Belgium. As do his aroma hops, while his spelt is organic, a Dinkel type. Particular attention is also given to the yeasts used, which are largely dry, designed to give the beers their elegant flavour. But Jurij, for his many experimentations, does not miss other raw materials from all over the world. He uses, for example, the cinnamon from Ceylon, the pepper from the forests of Borneo, the Indian cardamom and coriander, the orange peel from Iran. And still the gentian and Calabrian orange blossom, or the Mascobato organic sugar from the Philippines.
Thanks to masterful and innovative combinations of different flavours, Almond 22 beers stand distinctively for the original character of its producers. But these beers have also the extraordinary ability to maintain a 100% Italian spirit. This is evident from Jurij’s desire to range from low to high fermentation of his beers, from creations with unusual cereals, to the imaginative use of fruit (grapes, currants, raspberries and cherries, among others) and refinements in woods of various essences.
For Jurij it’s not simply a matter of drinking beer, he firmly believes in his extraordinarily social power. That’s why he created a TapRoom in Loreto Aprutino, among the wonderful hills of Abruzzo. A place he calls “a pub with the brewery around it, but also a brewery with the pub inside, it depends on the point of view“. A space totally surrounded by greenery, where a 900-year-old olive tree emerges . It is a perfect location to appreciate six of the varieties of beer on tap and twenty types of Almond 22 in bottles. All accompanied by selection of cold cuts and cheeses.
But there are also special dishes, where among the ingredients you can find these beers. “We like to think of it as a second home where we can spend pleasant evenings with good beers, good music and meet people who like to chat over a pint“, adds Ferri.
We asked him a few questions, curious to know more about his vision of beers.
Almond 22 is an unusual name for a beer. What’s behind this choice?
Your beers have received many awards and important recognitions. In your opinion, what is the strength of this brewery compared to the others?
First of all, the first feature that distinguishes us is certainly our passion. There is indeed a great desire to make beers with personality, whimsical, out of the ordinary; but these beers are also, at the same time, simple and easily loved by all. As Italians we are lucky, we have an exceptional education on good food and good drinking. In short, we have a trained palate. So my beers may have complex names and particular mixes, but they are immediate to appreciate. Probably because they marry very well the Italian taste.
After the coronavirus emergency, as we well know, things have changed for everyone. How much has this great “unexpected” affected you? What do you think could be the possible scenarios for sharing future events?
It’s not an easy question, nor a pleasant one to answer. If the State does not activate important support measures, I foresee a real disaster.
Your new collection, Just For Fun, intends to take beer to a new sensory level. Tell us more about this project.
My music, my travels as a brewer and all best memories of good beers drunk inspired my Just For Fun collection. So there is a different expression of myself poured into them, which differs from the other Almond 22s. It is as if with them I imagine a second life.
So let’s play a game: choose five of your favourite songs and try to associate them with five of your beers.
If I drink Pink Ipa, I’m thinking Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley. Maybe it’s because this beer, with sweet and fruity scents like tropical fruit and grapefruit, reminds me of the colourful, warm and festive atmosphere of Jamaica. Another favourite song is Wish you where here, by Pink Floyd. I can only match to it the Torbata, a light amber beer that releases a complex scent, thanks to the skillful blend of leather, tobacco and dried fruit. So on the palate it is soft and sweet, due to the notes of honey (chestnut or honeydew) and fruit in syrup. It is therefore velvety, like the melancholy notes of the song.
Another favourite song of mine, also by Pink Floyd, is Shine on you crazy diamond. To this, I link the Boogeyman: a beer crafted in the style of Imperial Porter, with a strong taste. You can perceive smells like barley coffee, dark chocolate, licorice and dried fruit. An unexpected explosion of pleasure with a fruity taste, which does not immediately reveal its high alcohol content. Sort of like with the song, which reaches its climax only after seven minutes.
Then I love Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody: this musical masterpiece must be listened to while drinking the Pret a Porter. In the end, if I put on Message in a Bottle by the Police, a good glass of Farrotta is a must. Its mixture, given by a high percentage of organic spelt, makes it silky; the scent that emanates is that given by a mix of cereals, chamomile and citrus fruits. A delicate beer, but at the same time it leaves its mark. Just like the beauty of Police music.
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