Magalotti Brewery was in operation in the Umbrian town of Terni from 1845 to 1936. At the height of its production, it made ice and soft beverages in addition to beer, putting to use the natural spring waters abundant in the area. Magalotti was a thriving business in the old center of Terni, where today the original brewery structure still exists, though damaged and currently unused, on a tiny side street named for this enterprise once so vital to the town, Vico Birreria.
Last month I spent two fast-paced, spirited days in Terni as a guest of Chef Academy Italy, an experience probably best described as enlightening. I learned some valuable tricks and techniques and gained familiarity with a professional kitchen, to be sure, yet what I really took away from those two days was something more substantial, weightier, if you will, than practical skill. As those circa 48 whirlwind hours passed—hours filled with tours, chats, laughter both nervous and hearty, kitchen work, a seemingly endless succession of gorgeous dishes, some 300 plus photos—I felt at times I was undergoing a kind of information and sensory saturation. Nearly every moment brought some new piece of knowledge, fascinating factoid, flavor, or quasi-mini-epiphany, sustaining a state of cerebral overdrive (and aching feet) until the moment I flat-lined on my hotel bed. I learned, saw, and tasted so much that even a month later the many ideas ignited by the experience have not yet died out, but rather have stayed in my memory bank like embers of enduring inspiration. In the midst of this, something even more remarkable was happening—meeting awesome people.
Back to the beer. Andrea Goracci is a professional chef and instructor at the Academy who specializes in, among other things, cooking with beer. In 2000 Andrea, together with two friends, brought Magalotti beer production back to life. Their research led to a rediscovery of the original Magalotti recipe, and through a partnership they arranged with a top quality Austrian beer maker, they reinstated the Magalotti label, once so fundamental to their town. At the Magalotti Restaurant, Andrea and his partners serve traditional Umbrian as well as international cuisine, and, you guessed it, dishes prepared with their beers. These include meatballs with pine nuts and pilsner; ciriole (pasta) in a sauce of guanciale, stout, marjoram and pecorino; and slow-cooked pork shank braised in stout.
Nothing piques my curiosity like a forgotten food-related custom or tradition, so when our guide pointed out the old brewery during a tour of Terni, I immediately made a mental note to look into it and was thrilled to learn shortly after that one of the chefs we were working with was involved! When it came time to say farewell to our gracious hosts at the Chef Academy Italy, we bloggers were given hefty gift bags filled with all sorts of amazing yummies and local specialties, among them, some samples of this brew with a history, reborn thanks to the efforts of one of the very special chefs I had the fortune to meet last month.