Grado Plato microbrewery: understatement and high quality
Sergio Ormea, founder of Birrificio Pub Grado Plato in Chieri (Turin), had an adventurous start in homemade beer: it was before the Internet Age, when finding reliable technical information was a problematic issue. “I bought a 50-kilo bag of two-row barley from a mill, malted part of it in my garage, and made my first beer”.
With humble understatement, Ormea says that the success of that debut among his friends was just “beginner’s luck”. He continued to experiment, building and altering various devices to malt barley, which he also used to make whisky: “My mysterious activities often produced fumes that took over the apartment building’s garages… but my neighbors stopped complaining as soon as we started drinking together. At the same time, I also realized my wife truly loved me unconditionally. That is how my passion began: from being handy and liking the idea of mastering an entire production process, from beginning to end.”
Then, in 2003 he founded his brewpub in Chieri: Birrificio Grado Plato. His whole production was sold to customers there, until he diversified the range and had to open a new factory. In 2009, his plant moved to Montaldo Torinese. Over the years, a lot has changed since Ormea’s first attempts at brewery – but his enthusiasm is unwavering, as we discovered during a recent interview.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Germany and Great Britain are the great beer making countries that I aspire to recall in my personal interpretation. My beers are usually not spicy, but I do like to play with different grains: barley, wheat, oat, rye, rice, millet… I also use uncommon ingredients like carobs, chestnuts, honey, and cocoa.
Do you have a “company philosophy”?
We strive to make elegant beers that are relatively easy-to-drink beers, considering their complex structure. Even in our most peculiar and “extreme” products we seek balance and avoid sensorial journeys that are too tortuous. We are happy when someone says our beers have a common personality, and that they can recognize our imprint in both the more simple and in the more complex ones.
A brewers’ job is more complicated than it seems…
Our field is weighed down by many difficulties, including a muddled fiscal regime. Luckily, consumers in Italy and abroad repay us with their appreciation, and balance the frustration of endless bureaucratic obligations.
Speaking of consumers, how widespread and solid is craft beer culture in Italy?
The average Italian consumer is becoming less captive to large multinationals’ marketing, and more curious to try special, different beers instead of the usual all-the-same products that have always been prominently displayed in supermarkets. There definitely is an increasing attention for craft beer, and most people have at least heard about our brand.
We cannot say that beer culture is particularly widespread: Italy is traditionally more of a wine-drinking country. But beer’s “social vibe”, its lower alcohol content, and the deep social changes sparked by the industrial and post-industrial ages are all factors that encourage beer culture.
What are your commercial goals? Are you considering the foreign market at all?
We don’t want to grow too much because we don’t want quantity to increase to the detriment of quality. We have strong expectations for our presence on foreign markets. We still have great potential for development, and would like to reach that optimal level of production that allows us to make more without compromising on manual processes or rushing artisanal phases. That is where we want to stop!