If you thought the craft beer revolution was petering out and suffering from over-saturation then you’d be mistaken. We have previously travelled to everywhere from Tokyo to Sao Paulo in pursuit of a good pint, now we head to the culinary powerhouse (via an East London market) of Italy. ORA, from Modena, are the innovators adding a touch of la dolce vita to fine beer. We sat down with one of the team Daniele Costa Zaccarelli to find out more.
How did ORA begin? Essentially – why do you do what you do?
As I always say “behind each bottle there is a small piece of us”. We always remember when we were in our garage, brewing beers for our family and friends in Modena at the age of 18.
Then 5 years ago in Norway, on the way to Lofoten island, we decided to bring our passion to the next level. It was nighttime and incredibly freezing and to heat up we were drinking some good beers on the Ferry, remembering the old days in our garage producing beers after school. So Pietro (one of my business partners) asked me: we should do that again, but this time we’re going to make it big. I didn’t even think for a minute, I just said: let’s do it
Can you share a little about your backgrounds before you started your own business?
We all have a business background. Pietro (the guy behind production) sits in the quality department of a multinational company, I am a management consultant and Emanuele works in HR. Our knowledge of business is helping a lot to make a living out of our passion. We met in Modena, the place where we were born about 30 years ago. The city of Balsamic Vinegar, Ferrari and Pavarotti: a small city with global excellences.
What brings Italian Craft Beer to the streets of London?
London is a huge market, full of Italians, and Brexit or not, people will always be keen to try Italian products. So that’s why we started knocking on pub doors last year in East London. And just over one year later we have now 25 clients within the M25, including top tier restaurants like Theo Randall and craft beer top spots like Smokehouse Islington
Can you tell us a bit about your chief influences when creating your beer? What has inspired you?
As we say, we don’t follow trends. We like to bring simple tastes of beers back to the stage. This is why we believe hops are important, but that’s not enough to make a good beer: we want to be revolutionary as we believe barley is key to making a good beer. That’s what gives the fine colour and the depth of flavour that you enjoy straight from your first sip, just like when you fall in love with a girl at first sight. We brew a scotch ale and a pilsner, which are anti-trend beers. We want to emphasise the pure taste of the beer, not follow a trend.
And your ingredients?
Over the years we understood the importance of ingredients. Our brewer has traveled throughout US and UK to identify the right barleys and has fine tuned the recipe in his laboratory in Italy. For example he fell in love with a barley he found in the Highlands, he studied that for a long time and this is now the main malt we use in our Italian Ale.
For the American Pale Ale we take hops from US West Coast (Citra, columbus, amarillo), which are key to give a soft bouquet and a citrousy taste to the beers, without giving too much bitterness to the beer and balancing quite well the malty note.
You can see the Italian twist in the product and in the nature of our project. We use Italian water (of course) and use some local hops, like we do in the Scotch Ale. And you can see our Italian spirit in the DNA of our project. This is what we call “Italian passion”: passion for ingredients, long research to develop unique recipes with great ingredients.
What has the journey been like running your own company?
We invest our time and energy to make an outstanding product for our customers. Let me give you an example: last Sunday our brewer organised a last minute delivery of five pallets between Milan and London, while Emanuele (the third business partner) was busy delivering beers in more than ten Panini Durini shops in Milan, Annalisa and Giulia were running a stall in East London’s Netil Market, and Matteo was busy delivering some cases to the Mercato Metropolitano (a great Italian street food market in Borough), and I has just secured a supply to Theo Randall, one of the best Italian restaurants in the UK. We don’t have an arms of people working for us: passion is only what makes it happen. Sometimes there is a lot of stress, so everybody has to do a bit of everything. But when we see our customers happy and our beers on the shelves – oh god, that feeling is magic.
The Craft Beer Revolution is global now – how have the Italians back at home taken to the craze?
The Italian craft beer scene is less mature then in the UK, although it’s growing at very fast fast pace. However it’s still a very regional business, and in Italy there is more a wine culture. We want to replace wine with beers in the Italian kitchens, which is a very ambitious plan.. but you could argue that selling Italian beers in London is a similar challenge, almost like exporting pizza to Naples…
What is in the future for you and your company?
Our business is constantly growing between London and Italy, and we are in the process of launching an American Pale Ale, which is an experiment as it’s brewed by a brewing partner in the UK based on our own recipe. With this beer we want to target pubs and start to sell kegs as well – so far it’s working very well as we recently sold the first kegs to a few craft beer pubs in East London!
For this year our plan is to share our Italian passion with more customers in the UK, and want everybody to become familiar and love the ORA brand.
Find out more about ORA at orabeer.com