By Gary Monterosso
Tony Coffaro, the Director of Operations at a thriving party bar, just happened to have a family recipe for beer that went back to 1884. Larry Genta owned and operated a bartending school in Florida, became nightclub manager, then a renowned liquor salesman. Oh, he also wrote a highly successful book on a former partner and current pal, professional wrestler Page Falkinburg, more commonly known as Diamond Dallas Page. Take the talents, abilities and marketing acumen of both and bring in Leo Orlandini, Master Brewer of The Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA and winner of three gold medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and you have the birth of Coffaro "Italian Style" Beer.
Generally, two questions come to mind: "Do Italians drink beer?" and "What makes this beer Italian?" The answer to the first question is obvious. There are a number of beers made in Italy, more than one might imagine, though most people would be hard pressed to name more than two.
The ethnicity of Coffaro "Italian Style" Beer is derived from Tony Coffaro's grandfather, Antonio, who homebrewed a drink which was crafted to pair with the flavors of many Italian dishes. As Larry Genta said, "Beer often is called 'liquid bread,' so it made perfect sense that Antonio mastered a homemade brewing process that produced beer that he and other family members affectionately referred to as his 'Italian Style' beer." Tony Coffaro added, "Our beer really tastes great with all types of food, but one of the characteristics of the original family recipe was that the taste of the beer wouldn't overpower the natural flavor of the spices found in the food. Rather than leave the aftertaste of a sharp beer, Coffaro "Italian Style" finishes with a smoothness that compliments the spices found in so many cuisines."
Securing the services of Leo Orlandini to produce the beer was a coup. Larry recalls how diligent Tony was in the process of evaluating the many breweries that were offering to brew proprietary recipes or brand names: "We just felt comfortable with Leo Orlandini from the start. He is an exceptional guy who just happens to be one of the rising stars of the brewing industry and although we were scheduled to look at other breweries, our choice was made soon after our first meeting with Leo. He continued to win awards while our project was back burnered for a time and just as we were reviving and restructuring our business plan, he was chosen as Mid-Sized Brewmaster of the Year at the 1999 Great American Beer Festival."
Orlandini takes enormous pride in his brewing. He said, "I am extremely happy with the product. I am very critical of what we produce (at The Lion Brewery and contracting with Coffaro) and I always am striving to make the best possible product." Leo uses Pale malt along with some Dextrin, contributing to the beer's smoothness. Magnum hops are used for bittering, delivering a crispness stabilized by the Mt. Hood hops used to provide the aroma. The yeast used is an exclusive strain. Alcohol by volume is 5.2%.
Though the first bottle of Coffaro "Italian Style" Beer was sold in May of 2001, the origin of the company goes back to when both Tony Coffaro and Larry Genta chose to move their families back to New Jersey from Florida, taking that action in 2000. Presently, the beer is available throughout the Garden State, but the possibility exists for expansion into other locales. Similarly, there are plans for additions to the product line.
Tony Coffaro and Larry Genta spend long hours touring and promoting their product. Their enthusiasm remains at a fever pitch, as Genta confirmed: "I think the most rewarding and interesting part of the appearances are the wonderful people that we have met, wishing us luck and vowing to help spread the word about Coffaro Beer."
For more, check them out on the web at: www.coffarobeer.com.
Coffaro Beer, 307 Madison Ct., Brick, NJ 08724. 732-840-9611.
®Gary Monterosso. All Rights Reserved