Over the last five years, Italy has emerged as the home of one of Europe’s most exciting craft beer scenes. Its lack of tradition and heritage in the craft sector gives brewers the freedom to be creative and experiment with a wide variety of ingredients and styles. Although brewers are not bound by traditional styles, the influence of Belgium’s fruit-based beers has inspired some of the most exciting beers coming out of Italy today.
One of the greatest aspects of Italian craft brewing is the use of fresh, local produce. From its inception, brewers have made a conscious effort to create beers that feel uniquely Italian, with each ingredient carefully selected to evoke a clear sense of place. Another trademark of Italian brewing is the use of rare or ancient grains, bringing a historical element to the youthful beer scene. ‘Etrusca’, from the Lazio-based Birra del Borgo, uses an ancient wheat that was introduced to Italy in the 4th century AD.
Another factor that has clearly impacted Italy’s craft beer scene is its heritage and expertise in the wine industry. This can be seen right through the brewing process, with breweries such as Lover Beer, in Piedmont, using Barbera grape must and wild yeast to spark fermentation and create a truly Italian feel. It is also common to see brews presented in 75cl wine-style bottles, demonstrating a clear attempt to elevate beer to the same level. This is emphasised by the fact that drinking beer with food adds a whole new dimension to the experience – another parallel with the nation’s favourite beverage.
The greatest triumph of Italy’s craft beer scene is its ability to combine all of these elements and make them not only work, but compliment each other. International influences are combined with ancient ingredients, regional produce and wine-inspired brewing methods to create something that is truly unique and truly Italian.