Italian Craft Beer, breweries and people
February 25, 2019
Several hundred Italian craft breweries, thousands of beers, some great, some less, a few old friends, brewers I have known for several years, and people, plenty of visitors.
This was my first time at Beer Attraction and I never thought there will be so many Italian craft breweries under one roof, and passion, plenty, the majority of brewers are still driven by passion, even though there isn’t much money to be made in craft beer yet. Three days, dozens of breweries, hundreds of beers tasted, my trip, and despite what anyone reading this can think, it was a very tough one.
The craft beer movement in Italy is still going strong even though, from my conversations with my friends, the consolidation process has started and the very small breweries have started closing down, but still plenty of craft breweries left, this was also evident when looking at the beer awards winners, plenty of new names and styles, craft beer has evolved and keeps evolving. I also noticed an increase of “birrificio agricolo” amongst the participants, farms/breweries that control the whole process, from field to bottle, with some brewery becoming self sufficient even in the hops production.
I will be lying if I say that all beers I tasted were great, I tasted great beers, good beers and a few, very few, bad beers but I hope that the bad beers were only part of the learning process. Italy has always been known for its wines, never for its beers, the two brands associated with Italy, Peroni and Moretti, are not even Italian, but the boundary between wine and beer is becoming more and more feeble.
Almost every brewery had at least one IGA, Italian Grape Ale, a beer made adding grape must in the process, must from grapes grown in the area, with each brewer following a different recipe and adding the must at a different stage of the process. The result was sometimes a beer, sometimes it looked and tasted more like a wine, a light sparkling or a big, bold, aged wine. From someone coming from the wine world, it was interesting to recognise the grape characteristics in the beer, from aromas to flavours, from acidity to tannins and also that not all grapes are suitable for a beer.
The breweries I visited and the beers I tasted, were mainly of two types, traditional brewers with a limited number of beers, the classic beers, the ones that almost every brewer has, the ones that everyone know and either like or don’t, they are what they say on the label, and the other breweries, the ones I liked the most. Breweries with too many beers to taste, a choice that makes little sense from a commercial point of view, but where the love and the passion is clearly evident, where experimentation is the driving factor.
These are the exciting breweries, breweries that were not making beers for the market, but themselves, sales are a bonus, and once the batch is finished, back in the brewery, for a new experiment, with a new recipe.
Italian craft beer in the UK is not yet known, there are a few breweries, the biggest ones, but there is very little available in terms of styles. Italian craft beer is exciting, yes, it is slightly more expensive than the others, but it is certainly the more exciting at the moment, beer recipes are still driven by passion and love for the drink and Italian breweries keep pushing the boundaries. If you love craft beer and you want to drink something different, something you haven’t tried yet, then you cant ignore Italy, and you cant ignore small breweries.
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