Italians and Beer

Italy is a country known for its world class wines. Is it really that much of a surprise to learn that Italy is home to some pretty tasty brews? If not, would it surprise you to learn that even among Italian winemakers, there is a passion for artisanal beer? A while back, I had a chance to talk with just such a winemaker from Montepulciano. I suppose it should not come as a surprise that someone, such as Giovanni, who knows the skill and art inherent in a bottle of wine would have a deep appreciation for the skill and art of brewing. Over the course of our conversation, he spoke very highly of his local Tuscan artisanal brewers.  

Many of these beers are produced in such limited quantities; they simply are not available outside of Tuscany. Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued. I sought out some locally available Italian craft beer andwas not disappointed. Please allow me to share some of my favorites with you.

Contessa from Birra Amiata in Arcidosso, ItalyContessa IPA

This is Birra Amiata’s take on the traditional India pale ale style, according to the write-up on the bottle. I would call it a superb, food-friendly pale ale. While it has a similar nose to what one might expect in an American IPA, it has an unexpected softness to the mouthfeel which I really enjoyed.

L’equilibrista from Birra del Borgo in Borgorose, ItalyL'equilibrista

This offering from Birra del Borgo is an ale brewed with Chianti grapes, fermented with Chianti wine yeast and bottle conditioned with Champagne yeast according to the méthode traditionelle. Slightly sweet, slightly tart, this beer is light and somewhat grape-y. It pours a rosé color, which, if served, in a Champagne flute, might be confused with a sec Champagne. I must say that I have a special place in my heart for tart beers, and this beer delivered with notes of tart cherries and granny smith apples.

Other interesting Italian brews to try: 

Pink IPA from Almond ’22 in Pescara, Italy – a pink peppercorn IPA

Strada San Felice from Gardo Plato in Chieri, Italy – an amber ale brewed with chestnuts

Wayan Sour from Birrificio Le Baladin in Piozzo, Italy – a farmhouse style sour ale

Birra Etrusca from Dogfish Head, Birra del Borgo and Birrificio Le Baladin – ale brewed with a myriad of
ingredients including hazelnut flour, pomegranates, Italian chestnut honey, Delaware wildflower honey and clover honey. A handful of whole-flower hops are added, but the bulk of the bitterness comes fromgentian root and Ethiopian myrrh resin.

While some of these beers may not currently be carried in ABC stores, they are all available as a special order. As with any beer, if you don’t see it in our stores; then ask for it.  If it is available to us, then we will be happy to get it for you.

Rick Swartz, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits beer consultant

Follow me on Twitter @abcbeerrick

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