Growing up, my favorite dish was quail and polenta. My parents are immigrants who have spent their whole life in the restaurant business. Eating delicious foods prepared by my parents would later expand my beer horizons and influence me profoundly as a brewer.
I remember loving beer earlier in my life than perhaps I should have. My older brother Stefano desired to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a chef. One day he said to me, “You should open a brewery and I can sell your beer in my restaurant.” It was something I never forgot. I committed myself to becoming a Brewmaster and opening my own brewery.
My dream was a motivating factor in obtaining my business degree from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. On my way to making my dream a reality, I enrolled in the Siebel Institute of Technology to study brewing at the very beginnings of the craft beer craze. The training included a three-week tour of various German and Belgian breweries. It was here where I discovered my favorite beer – the Augustiner Helles. Upon graduation, I moved to Dallas to start my career.
What better place to talk the former Brewmaster of Two Rows and Franconia into a job than my parent’s restaurant? After some red wine and Italian food, Dennis Wehrmann hired me. He would become my mentor and life-long friend. For almost 5 years, I worked hard to learn from Dennis and gain as much knowledge as I could during my time with him. He even sent me to work in his hometown of Nuremberg, Germany at a wonderful brewery called the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof.
During those early years, I was fortunate to spend a year with another craft beer trail-blazer named Fritz Rahr, the founder of Rahr and Sons in Fort Worth. Dennis and Fritz were instrumental in my development, but I knew it was time for me to put what I learned to work. Goose Island in Chicago gave me an opportunity to move to a new city and put my craft to work. This was my first big step towards establishing 3 Nations Brewing.
Brett Porter was another influential brewer in my development. He came to Goose Island from Deschuttes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. It was here that I learned about brewing Belgian and English style ales. I learned a great deal during this time from both Brett Porter and Brian Taylor. We loved to brew and drink sours and bold stouts.
The eventual final stop on my way to 3 Nations Brewing was Karbach Brewing Company in Houston. My mentor and friend at Karbach was a 30-year veteran of craft beer, Eric Warner, with whom I shared a love of German beer. Eric continues to find time to help an old friend at a smaller brewery when we are short on hops and packaging materials, or key contacts when I am in need.
In 2013, I returned to Dallas with no plan other than to do whatever it took to fulfill my dream of starting 3 Nations Brewing. My brother, Gianni, was one of the original people behind the brand and drew our first logo. We found out that brewing was easier than finding start-up money, so he eventually moved on to graphic design.
Gordon Jago, a close family friend, introduced me to a small capital group led by Bill Massie and John Royer. We met at the Flying Saucer in Addison and discussed the brewery concept. The holidays were longer than usual waiting to hear back on the opportunity. The wheels of finance never seem to turn very fast. I went to the 2014 Super Bowl with friends and hoped to take my mind off the stressful wait. Monday morning after I returned to Dallas with a big headache, but got a phone call from a brewery looking for consulting help. I joined Grapevine Craft Brewery in Farmers Branch with a handshake agreement to purchase their equipment when their planned move to Grapevine (now Hop & Sting) occurred.
Bill and John called me back just two weeks into my consulting gig and four months after our first discussion: They were interested! We worked together to sharpen our business plan. I brewed 6 different beers on a small batch system for potential investors and on October 31, 2014, my dream came true. 3 Nations Brewing LLC became a reality. Wow! My part of the bargain was complete. I wondered when my brother was going to open up his own restaurant.
I have the original business plan still hanging in my garage with the start and end dates of my journey. Above it is an important acronym:
December 15, 2004 – October 31, 2014
J.D.E.G.U. (Just Don’t Ever Give Up)
3 Nations’ first batch was brewed on May 29, 2015. Here we are five years later with a new facility and a talented team working hard to reach the next level. There is always another goal.
John has become the business mentor I always wanted. Grant, his lovely wife and mother lend the helping hands needed to control the financial ship. Steve Smith has spent countless hours making the facility better and moving the brewery. My parents still own and run two restaurants in DFW and, without their help and support, 3 Nations Brewing would not have been possible. My best friend and investor, Michael Duda, passed in 2019. He was always there to pour the other half in my glass when I started seeing things half empty.
I have been so fortunate on this long journey. I have met people who have changed my life. They showed me how to brew, they taught me life-lessons and they encouraged me to keep following my dream. Today, I am surrounded by a great team of people that are committed to making delicious 3 Nations brews, that care about our customers and continually invest themselves and their talents into making 3 Nations a top Texas brewery. I still have dreams after all these years!
My absolute best regards,
PS: In July 2019, I had that 3 Nations beer with my brother in his fancy, award-winning New York City restaurant called Rezdora. It was a magical moment. Dreams do come true!