We tasted a lot of beer over the semester, here Antiqua Tours intern Anna Aguillard shares our top 9.
Top 9: Italian Craft Beers
Most Italian traditions are ancient: Ancient wine, ancient food, ancient religions, and ancient architecture. But amidst the country’s thousand-year-old ruins, a new trend is gaining momentum: craft beer.
Emerging in 1996 when Teo Musso founded Birrificio Baladin, one of the country’s leading breweries, the craft beer movement has taken off within the past five years. Like all things Italian, the country’s craft breweries seek to produce beers that reflect their respective regions’ unique cultures and crafts. Bursting with seasonal, regional, and natural ingredients, the craft beer movement embodies modern Italy: a combination of traditional respect for quality ingredients, and innovative culinary trajectory.
Because the craft beer industry is so young, it is obviously still in a state of evolution. Even so, with hundreds of breweries turning out an overwhelming variety of brews, understanding the Italian craft beer world can seem daunting - especially to the casual beer drinker, who doesn’t know the difference between an ale and a lager.
Depending on the type of yeast used to ferment the beer, all brews can be categorized as either ales or lagers. Ales are brewed with ale yeast, and are fermented at warmer temperatures. Lagers, in contrast, are brewed with lager yeast at cooler temperatures. The most flavorful, robust, and complex brews tend to fall within the many, many distinct categories of ales; which explains why most Italian breweries produce ales – from Weizens to Pale Ales, Italy’s craft beer industry knows no boundaries.
Weizen (or Blanche) beer is a style of ale brewed using a large proportion of wheat malt, with a light, refreshing, and distinctly yeasty flavor. Saisons are light, dry, and citric seasonal brews made in farmhouse breweries using local, unique grains. Belgian ales are brewed with Belgian yeast, and are usually complex and spicy. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are strong, bitter brews with an extra dose of hops and alcohol, born out of necessity when British beer kept spoiling during long sea voyages. Sour Fruit Ales are brewed with wild yeast, bacteria, and fruit, and can take years to ferment and mature. Radlers are ales infused with sparkling juice moments before serving, and are just as refreshing as the process suggests.
Overwhelmed? This is just a small glance into the endless categories of ales. With so many options, the real difficulty comes in choosing only one. And, as Rome is quickly becoming known as the “capital” of Italian craft beer, the options are almost limitless. After sampling, approving, and rejecting nearly too many craft beers to count, we have compiled a list of nine of our personal favorites.
Top 9 Italian Craft Beers:
- ReAle Extra, Birra del Borgo - IPA
A product of Lazio’s Birra del Borgo, this IPA lives up to its name: it is definitely extra hoppy. Crisp and sharp with lingering notes of caramel, this brew is perfect for IPA fans looking to sample an Italian take on the British classic.
- Patela, Troll – Belgian Ale
Birrifico Troll brews this fruity, sweet ale fermented with Belgian yeast. Patela is a very drinkable beer, perfect for fans of yeasty beers. Slightly funky and very ripe, it has a much stronger aroma than it does taste.
- Imperial Zest, Extraomnes – Belgian Ale
Lombardia-based brewery Extraomnes produces this rugged, persistent Belgian strong ale. This beer is light in weight but most certainly not in flavor. Bursting with distinct fruitiness and delicate spice, its finish is dry, sharp, and prolonged; a great example of an Italian take on Belgian style ale.
- Yellow Monster, Toccalmatto – Imperial Radler
Definitely the most unique brew sampled, this Radler was pumped through a special citrus juice-infuser moments before it was served. Brewed by Toccalmatto brewery in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy, it has strong, lingering flavors of lemon and ginger.
- Farrotta, Almond 22 – Specialty grain
Another very unique brew, Almond 22’s Farrotta is brewed with organic spelt and organic acacia honey from local beekeepers in Abruzzo. A perfect example of the typical Italian utilization of regional ingredients, this golden beer is dry, grassy, and very distinct in flavor.
- D’uvabeer, Loverbeer – Sour Fruit Ale
D’uvabeer is one of Piemonte-based Loverbeer’s most popular sour ales, and for good reason: the perfect starting point for those new to sour ales, it is infused with intense fruit flavors like grapes and berries. Savor this beer – each sip offers a unique combination of sweet, sour, smooth flavors.
- Midgal Bavel, Extraomnes – Saison
Extraomnes makes a second appearance on our list with this aromatic, seasonal brew with a funky, sour aftertaste. Its flavor is robust and very complex; its uncommon taste made this one of the most interesting beers tested.
- Duchessa, Birra del Borgo – Saison
This beer made by Birra del Borgo in Lazio is made from faro and spelt, ancient grains nearing extinction. This brew is sharp, bitter, and almost spicy, with a mouth-watering, lingering finish.
- Open White, Birrificio Baladin – Blanche/Weizen
Brewed in Piemonte by the very Birrificio Baladin that started the craft-beer revolution, this light, summery blanche brew is a beautiful, clear, golden color. Its initially sweet, citrus flavor fades into a nutty aftertaste; this beer is fruity, without an overwhelming taste of hops, and a perfect, crispy, refreshing brew.