Several hundred Italian craft breweries, thousands of craft beers, some great, some less, a few old friends, master brewers I have known for several years, and people, plenty of visitors.
This was my first time at Beer Attraction, a craft beer fair, and I never thought there will be so many Italian craft breweries and craft beers under one roof, and plenty of passion, enthusiasm, with the majority of brewers driven by passion, because there isn’t much money to be made in craft beer in Italy yet. Three days, dozens of breweries, hundreds of craft beers tasted, and despite what anyone reading this post can think of, it was a very tough trip.
The craft beer movement in Italy is still going strong even though, from my conversations with my brewer friends, the consolidation process has started, and many very small or very new craft breweries have started either closing down or being acquired by bigger ones, but there are still plenty of craft breweries and craft beer left, this process is still at the very beginning. And that the movement was still strong was also evident from looking at the craft beer awards winners, plenty of new names and styles, craft beer has evolved from ale and lager 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 craft 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 thanks to the craft beer movement.
Almost every brewery had at least one IGA, Italian Grape Ale, a beer made adding grape must in the brewing process, must from grapes grown in the area, and since Italy makes thousands of wines, there were hundreds of IGA with each brewer following a different recipe and adding the must at a different stage of the brewing process.
The result was sometime a craft beer with grape flavours, sometime it looked and tasted more like a wine with beer flavours, often it was a light sparkling or a big, bold, aged, wine, an evolution of the barley wine. From someone coming from the wine world, it was interesting to recognise the grape characteristics in the craft beer, from aromas to flavours, from acidity to tannins and notice that not all grapes are suitable for a beer.
The craft breweries I visited, and craft beers I tasted, were mainly of two types. Traditional breweries with a limited number of beers, the classic styles, the ones that every brewery 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 passion is clearly evident, where experimentation is the driving factor, and you want to taste every single beer because you know it wont be like anything you tasted so far.
These are the exciting breweries, breweries that were not making beers for the market, but more for themselves, sales are a bonus, and once the batch is finished, back in the brewery, for a new experiment, with a new recipe, for a new craft beer.
Italian craft beer in the UK is not yet widely known and appreciated, there are a few craft 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 most exciting at the moment, craft beer is still driven by passion and love for the beer and Italian craft breweries keep pushing the boundaries. Any lover of beer, cannot ignore Italian craft beers, Italian beers are not Moretti and Peroni, but the thousands of unknown craft breweries.
Now check our range of Italian craft beer here