For the Love of the Craft
In a town that is riddled with “pay-to-play” multi-layered corpo-beverage programs, it is easy to get caught up in the web of profits, losses, numbers & ratios. Where the essence of what we do and even why we got into this vibrant F&B industry gets lost, and our work digresses into just a series of soulless monetary transactions. But once in a while there comes along someone who is not willing to play by those rules. Whose passion comes before profit and is still able to be very successful at what he does. Selling beer is not for the light hearted but this Sicilian stallion is up to the challenge. While he is gregarious and joyful about life, he is adamant about quality and unapologetic about standards. His passion for the craft is relentless and he can be described as a freedom fighter on the front lines battling to bring us what is true! His name is Massimo D’Arrigo and he is the owner/operator of Bevi-Beverages. I sat with him and enjoyed some Amari, IGA’s, and talked about the “Craft in Liquid Form.”
Las Vegas has become a beverage epicenter for the world with an abundance of infrastructure built around it. The mass produced products are an easy sell but for some artisan products it becomes a burden for places to carry new or small items. How do you work around that?
I don’t care about the infrastructure; I’m extremely focused on people. The quality and value of a product is ZERO when the human part is missed. Think of why every great restaurant has a very knowledgeable sommelier. Because without him a bottle of Romanee Conti will have the same appeal of Franza bag in a box for a guest who doesn’t know about it.
The word “craft” is a bit of a buzz word right now. What is your definition of craft?
First of all I have to say that it’s one of the most raped words in the industry. It has been used to confuse the masses by those that want to have the connotation of quality. Come on, you can’t make 600 million barrels and be considered craft; that’s ridiculous. To sum it up, craft means quality, artisan and consistency.
Due to quality and amount of labor involved, artisan products demand a premium price. How do you navigate the waters in a “pay to play” ocean where products, prizes, trips and cash are given to those who are doing the purchasing?
I don’t deal with it. I feel that giving your product away lowers the value of your brand and of your product.
Your home country of Italy is now making some amazing beers. They seem to be using influences from the three great brewing traditions as well as with American tradition. Where do you see the scene in Italy?
It has an ark like that of the American craft beer scene but it just started a little later and is smaller. Italy has about 400 breweries now but about 50 that are really good. We don’t have a real beer tradition but we have a history of being artisans. But now brewmasters from other traditions are taking note. Especially from Germany, where they don’t have the freedom to experiment.
What are some new trends for brewing in Italy?
The Beer Judge Certification Program BJCP just added a new one to its list of styles. One Italian style that was added was the IGA, Italian Grape Ale. One great example is “Caos” from Birra del Borgo, which in this case is 75% Saison and 25% grapes, with must made from Malvasia.
Where are some places that you like to imbibe?
Anywhere where there is good conversation and where the staff can be trusted. But some places that have great products and I love to go to are Todd English P.U.B., Retroscena, BARDOT Brasserie, Andrea’s, CarneVino and Twist at Mandarin Oriental.
How do you value tradition vs new innovation?
From tradition is the reason why we have amazing products for today. Technology has changed but an amazing beer is eternal!