Italy is not well known for its production of beer chiefly because Italians tend to prefer drinking wine which they produce in abundance and very successfully. However Italy is home to the production of several light lagers as instantly quaffable as many of their white wines. Some of these such as ‘Peroni’, ‘Nastro Azzuro’ and ‘Moretti’ have gained a reputation in the U.K. Darker beers are also produced, notably buy the Moretti company, itself a subsidiary if ‘Heineken’, who bought them up in 1996.Many of these better known exports that are known to us are brewed especially for the U.K. market to recipes that differ from those sold in Italy. Oddly, Peroni, which enjoys a status as a classy beer in the U.K. is considered to be a low standard workers beer in Italy! Needless to say, the actual product differs considerably.
Apart from these better known beers there are a great many microbreweries in Italy, represented by the Microbirrifici Associati (Microbrewery Association). Residing the over the production of beer nationwide, and catering for brewers of varying sizes, the Union Birrai, which adheres to standards set out European Beer Consumer Union (ECBU) ensures that not all Italian beer goes the same way as Moretti and other famed mass marketed beers. Though it must be added that of mass produced beers, Moretti is not a bad example, perhaps providing an exception to the rule as its products bear close relation to authentic dark and light beers made by small scale producers.
Naturally, Italy is not famed for the production of stout or ale. For one, these beers would not suit the climate, and, further, they would not suit the food, and here you have the story if Italian beer in a nutshell: quite simply, beer does not go as well with Italian pizza, pasta, meats and cheeses as the light and sharp local wine. Beer is consequently relegated to the status of occasional drink, enjoyed in moderation. It has gained popularity with young people keen to project an international image, yet the preference in this case tends to be for foreign beers, such as Heineken, Budweiser, Coors and Stella Artois. Despite Italy’s patriotism and concern that their food and drink culture is maintained in the face of what is seen as American Imperialism, they show little objection to the consumption of foreign beer.
Beers to Look Out For
Needless to say, when the Italians do make beer they do it incredibly well, paying as much attention to the process as they do to the production of food and wine. Small breweries such as Turbacci are known for producing exceptionally high quality ales and lagers. A dark ale from Turbacci or a Porter from Birra del Borgo will leave you in no doubt as to the fact that Italians do British and Belgian style beer really very well, and usually with a sharpness and freshness suited to the Italian climate.
Forst also are well worth looking out for, having been brewing beer in Italy since 1857. Try, for example the ‘Forst 1857’ an all round quaffing beer, ideal for a summer afternoon, or the Forst Sixtus, a dark amber beer with strong malt flavours. Forst even produce a light yet strong honey coloured Easter beer and a Christmas beer, with strong coffee, honey and spice flavours.
In short, if you are prepared to look that bit further you can undoubtedly find unique yet classic Italian beers.