Recently I had the chance to sample several Italian craft beers, courtesy of my more worldly beer geek friends, and it was an interesting opportunity to see the direction craft beer is taking outside of the more familiar beer loving countries.
Craft beer seems to be fostering a niche for itself in new locations by fitting into the existing culture in quirky and unexpected ways.
For instance, the Italian craft brews we sampled were purchased at a beer and book store (this may be as close to heaven on earth as it gets for me). While the store may not be able to boast about volume there was definitely enough variety to give pause to even the most ardent wine lover. Also, targeting book nerds in an effort to re-direct a bit of that nerdiness towards craft beer …brilliant.
An ad from one of the breweries we tried:
As I have long maintained, at their hearts beer geeks are, well, geeks; they appreciate quality over quantity, quirky over conventional, personal over generic and in this sense tapping into a previously untapped craft beer market may not be that complicated after all.
Look at the Italian Bruton Beer, who according to John Curtis from Eating Las Vegas, are creating beers that “are Belgian-inspired, but highly idiosyncratic and slap-my-ass-and-call-me-Sally delicious.”
Really, I could not say it any better myself.
But as always I digress so I will get back to the beer; apologies in advance for my inept Italian I am sure I have garbled the beer names to the point of near illegibility:
Birra Amacord Tosca Chiara Doppio Malto [Lager] – Gold in colour, cloudy with a small amount of white head. Heavy on the malt and hop flavours compared to a North American Lager.
Piccolo birrificio clandestino Cinque E Cinque [Blonde] – Deep gold in colour and cloudy with white head. Sweet malt flavour and very smooth to drink.
Birrificio Bruton Stone [Blonde] – Gold and cloudy with white head. A very sweet and malty blonde. A blonde with a bit of a kick.
Piccolo birrificio clandestino Santa Giulia [American Brown Ale] – Brown and sediment heavy with caramel notes on the nose. Well-balanced with sweet malts and a bitter hoppy finish. Medium to full bodied beer.
Birrificio Bruton Lilith [Red Ale] – Red colour with lots of head. Hop heavy on the nose and fairly light bodied.
Birrificio Math LA 16 – Lots of caramel nose, very cloudy, amber colour and quite a decent amount of hop.
Overall Italian brewers seems to be embracing Belgian-inspired, cloudy, malt-forward beers with hops introduced to bitter the finish. The Italian beer we sampled played it safe flavour-wise (no watermelon anchovy beers here) and appeared to prioritize high-quality ingredients and subtle character.
Craft beer is definitely making inroads into new areas and expanding the beer geek legion in the process but I do not think wine has any need to be afraid of being replaced as Italians’ drink of choice …not yet anyway (mwah ha ha).