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There’s much abuzz about Italian beer –it seems that interest in this tasty, budget-friendly beverage is only growing. In fact, more and more people want to make the discovery of Italian beer – both microbrews and commercial brands – a part of their trip to Italy. In recent years Italian beer culture has been experiencing its own Renaissance and deserves to be acknowledged not only within Italy’s borders, but also by the rest of the world. So next time you find yourself in a bar or restaurant in Italy, order a Peroni, Moretti, or a Menabrea – these are the three most famous Italian beer brands. Peroni is the oldest one among them, founded in 1846 in Vigevano near Milan, but Menabrea is the only one still owned by an Italian family. All three have won medals at the World Beer Championships or at the European Grand Prix.
Sometimes you can make a random beer discovery, too. While traveling in Italy, Dr. Allen Lechtman of California enjoyed Messina brand beer, which he discovered in Sicily. “It was light, not bitter as some other beers can be, particularly some German ones whose names I won’t mention,” he says. “Messina is a great thirst quencher, and also cheaper than some of the other
Brands I tried.” Dr. Lechtman says drinking more Messina beer — which is still not available in the U.S. – is part of his “prescription” for a perfect trip to Taormina and nearby Sicilian hill towns.
However, to try something really unique, go for one of the Italian craft beers, produced in one of the numerous microbreweries that have sprung up all over Italy. Like everything they put their hands on, Italians have turned the craft of beer-making into an art, trying to change the public’s perception that beer is to be drunk only with pizza. Pairing fine Italian cuisine with a glass of beer instead of wine might seem strange, but this is exactly what brew masters are doing. In fact, the stylish packaging of many of these new microbrews is meant to remind you of a good bottle of Italian wine.
Birra artigianale has a special flavor that matches certain types of foods, something that requires sommeliers to be excellent connoisseurs of craft beers, just as they are with fine wines. Each microbrewery features their own flavor(s) of beer, pertaining to the traditions of the place where they are located, and to the herbs and spices that are used in the local cuisine. Each brew master strives to create a unique blend of flavors that will produce a high-quality beer of exceptional taste. They are considered true artisans, and just like famous chefs, their creations are seasonal to take advantage of Italy’s rich bounty of fresh products.
One celebrated brew master is Fabiano Toffoli from 32 Via dei Birrai, a small artisan brewery in Pederobba in the Veneto, only a few miles from Valdobbiadene. An audacious choice, to set up shop right in the heart of “Prosecco country,” but the mountain water is pure here and is perfect for brewing beer. Toffoli makes outstanding beers that have all the characteristics of fine wines with hints of caramel, coffee, honey, peach, ripe pineapple and many other exotic flavors that result in a unique product whose fame has already surpassed the borders of Italy.
Why not sign up for one of Select Italy’s great beer tastings and taste for yourself! In addition to a visit to 32 Via dei Birrai, about an hour and a half drive from Venice, you can taste artisan brewed beer in Florence at the city’s first (and only) microbrewery located right outside the Porta San Frediano in the Oltrarno district. Big city, small town or immersed in the countryside of the island of Sardinia, artisan microbreweries have created such a phenomenon that beer lovers from every corner of the globe are flocking to Italy to sample these outstanding craft beers.