When considering getting a drink in Italy, you don’t think of Italian beer brands. And that’s only natural. Italy is firmly in the “wine belt” of Europe, making countless renowned vintages and drawing tourists from all over the world for tastings in the rolling hills of Tuscany. But Italian beer brands have a long history on the boot, too.
Italian beer dates back to the ancient Phoenicians, who would trade and drink beer in ancient Sicily. But we have even older Italian beer to look back on — a mug in Piedmont, covered in traces of brew, dating to 560 BC.
But despite all that Italian beer history, wine has always reigned supreme. That’s still true, of course. We won’t be ridiculous. What we will say is that over the last few decades, Italian beer brands have been making a push in Italy. In 1995, the Italian parliament legalized home brewing. And in the new millennium, Italian craft brewers — like craft brewers everywhere — found inspiration in the ability to travel and sample brews from all over the world. Call it the globalization of beer.
The Italian beer brands below are some of our favorites. It’s about time that Italian beer got its due. At the very least, drink them with pizza.
Peroni’s no craft beer — but it is the world’s most famous Italian beer brand, and no list of Italian beers could ever be complete without its mention. Brewed for the first time in Rome in the 1960s, it’s made from an Italian maize. Dry and aromatic, it’s simply a classic pale ale. If you’re at the bar in the mood for a classic Italian beer, chances are you’ll find it with this one.
Another of the oldest and most famous Italian beer brands, Birra Moretti is still made virtually in the same way as when it was first brewed in 1859. And you could follow modern Italian history through a glass of Birra Moretti, since its first brewery went up during the time of Italian unification. The classic Birra Moretti is a light, pale lager with 4.6 ABV, but look out for their more adventurous options, like La Rossa, a double malt with a caramelized flavor.
The Best Craft Italian Beer Brand
One of the first Italian craft beer brands started producing and selling beer from their headquarters in Cuneo in 1996. Their first drafts, Blonde and Ambrée, have given way to a host of beers — from spiced to hoppy to low alcohol. Try the Nazionale for notes of chamomile and citrus, made from water from the Alps and hops from Piedmont. Every ingredient is 100% Italian. Want to pair it with some cheese? Baladin is partners with the I Formaggi d’Italia (cheese guide), and each of their 91 cheeses has a Baladin to go with it. They recommend Formaggio Asìno, as well as several others, as a perfect pairing for the Nazionale.
Among Italy’s oldest independent breweries, it was established in 1846. Their Menabrea Bionda Lager uses water from the Alps, mixed with barley malt and maize, for a hint of sweetness contrasting with the bitterness of the German hops. It uses Menabrea’s own yeast. For the yeast nerds out there, it “has a bottom-fermenting tendency.”
It was founded by a Piedmont homebrewer with a simple mission: “the search for a quality product that can combine the tradition of authentic beer styles with the land where I was born.” This Italian beer brand is known for its “extreme” flavors and experiments. Try their For Fan beer for a sour-aged ale made with apricots. Loverbeer might be harder to find in the United States, but we think it’s worth it — even if you have to go all the way to Piedmont.
An Italian beer brand founded in Rimini in 1997, the name is an homage to a film by the legendary director Federico Fellini, who was born in the town. They pay special attention to local ingredients, including water from a spring at the foot of Mount Nerone in Umbria. Try their new 100% Italiana beer, which combines sustainably farmed barley malt from southern Italy and hops grown in Romagna. Rumor has it Fellini drank one after wrapping on La Dolce Vita. It’s a rumor started by us (and completely untrue), but we like the image.
Founded in 1857 in South Tyrol by two Italian entrepreneurs, they still source their spring water from the South Tyrol mountains. Their system includes a long aging process that removes all hints of sourness, then filters and bottles for a fresh, somewhat bitter taste. Try Forst 1857 — created in honor of Forst’s 150th anniversary for another classic Italian pale ale. You have to give it up to Italy. For a country known much more for wine, they produce some extremely historic beers.