When I think about Italy, usually great food and wine are the first things that come into my mind. However, being the inquisitive soul that I am, I wanted to find out if there is good craft beer as well.
Last week, Erin and I were in Bologna, Italy for the BlogVille project, sharing an apartment with a great group of travel bloggers from the US (Oregon), Australia, and Venezuela. Up until one of the last nights, my search for beer had not been very thorough. I do have to admit that I got caught up in the tradition of enjoying some of the wines of Emilia Romagna with our meals, and we’d been too tired most nights to do much in the way of going out to look for a pub to enjoy a beer in the evening. I did see a few beers around that I want to go back and try, and managed to try a couple craft beers in Ferrara at the Eco + Food Festival we attended, so I was hopeful that I’d have a chance to experience the beer culture in Bologna before we had to leave.
Apologize in advance for the lack of quality photos — Erin had the good camera with her as she was scheduled to do an interview with a local chef!
Sadly, on Monday, our initial group of six was breaking up, as Bethany and Ted from twoOregonians and Michael from Time Travel Turtle were leaving to continue on their journeys. As Sunday was to be our last night together, and hearing there was a craft beer festival in town, we decided to head out and see what was on offer. Michael, Bianca from Nomadiba and I wandered down to the university area of town, to where the Festival Dei Birrai Eretici was being held in a collection of pubs and cafes on the via Mascarella.
The establishments taking part in the Festival (and their offerings) were:
Via Mascarella 26
+39 051 5876455
Birrificio Del Ducato, Roncole Verdi di Busetto (PR), Italy, Via Emilia – 4.8% Classic German Pilsener, slightly hazy blonde color. Fruity and slightly peppery. Pleasantly bitter and refreshing.
Birrificio Del Ducato, Victoria Light IPA – 3.5% American Pale Ale. Clear, light and fun-loving. Strong character given by dry hopping from American and German hops.
Birrificio Del Ducato, AFO – 5.4% American Pale Ale. For those obsessed with hops – 9 different types to get this Pale Ale with a complex and intriguing bouquet.
Birrificio Del Ducato, New Morning – 5.8% Belgian Saison style, created to celebrate the spring. Golden and slightly veiled, particularly spicy, with aroma of wildflowers, green pepper and ginger.
Vecchia Orsa, Crevalcore (BO), Italy, Saison – 5.5% Dry and refreshing Saison. Very spicy and slightly fruity bouqet.
Menaresta, Carate Brianza (MI), Italy, Flora Sambuco – 4.8% Spice/Herb/Vegetable Style, brewed with Elder Flowers. Intense, strongly characterized by the elder, fresh and fragrant, supported by a good bitter taste.
Left Hand, Longmont, Colorado, USA, Wake Up Dead Barrel-Aged – 10.2% Russian Imperial Stout exaggerated and uncompromising, peculiarly American. 12 months in barrel. Rare and not to be missed.
Ridgeway, Reading, England, Bad King John – 6% Stout, dark but not impenetrable. Tied to the ancient British traditions. The aroma and taste are dominated by liquorice and toffee.
De Ranke, Dottenijs, Belgium, XX Bitter – 6.2% The most bitter of the Belgian Ales. The explosion of noble hops in the nose, fine structure balanced by malt and Belgian spice, giving it an unmistakable rustic touch.
Hardknott, Millom, England, Cool Fusion – 4.4% Pale ale for those who love ginger spices.
Birrificio Italiano, Lurago Marinone (CO), Italy, Vùdù – 5.5% Dunkel Weizen. German style, uncompromising, spicy and refreshing, well-structured body.
Emiliano, Anzola Nell’Emilia, Italy, Forum Gallorum – 5% Inspired by the beers of Cologne.
Girardin, Sint Ulriks-Kapelle, Belgium, Black Label – 5% Geuze, A blend of lambics of different vintages. Wild and refreshing, well-carbonated with citrus notes.
Dark Star, Horsham, England, Old Chestnut – 4% Old Ale, Light in alcohol content but rich in flavor, from wood to dry fruit. Served in a cask, English to the core.
Via Mascarella 24/b
+39 051 5871012
St. Peter’s, Bungay, England, Cream Stout – 6.5% Stout. Soft and elegant, very balanced.
Centokiodi, Bologna, Italy, Sveltina – 5% Cream Ale. The slender body makes it a very drinkable bitter beer.
Bruton, San Cassiano di Moriano (Lucca), Italy, Lilith – 5.5% American Pale Ale, Tuscan version, for strong palates.
De La Senne, Brussels, Belgium, Taras Boulba – 5% Belgian Ale, lower alcohol content, with a high bitter content.
Au Allertau, Germany, Weisse – 5% German wheat beer, straight from Bavaria. Banana and clove characterize the traditional bouquet.
Via Mascarella 5/a
+39 051 235424
De La Senne, Zinnebir – 6% Belgian Ale, Sister of Taras Boulba, shares the bitter elegance and innovative spirit.
Brewfist, Codogno, Italy, Fear – 5.2% Sweet Stout. For those who are afraid of the dark beers. Cream and cocoa beans make for a sweet and soft palate. Romantic.
Gwatkin, Hereford, England, Golden Cider – 5% Cider in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition.
Via Mascarella 4/B
+39 051 265416
Rurale, Certosa di Pavia, Italy, Seta – 5% Blanche-style Belgian wheat beer. Clear and slightly veiled. Spiced with orange peel and coriander.
Menaresta, Felina – 7.5% Beer with a beautiful amber color, full and enveloping tones of cinnamon spice and ripe fruit.
Birrificio Italiano, Tipopils – 5.2% Classic German Pilsener. The founder of Italian pils, distinguished from its German sisters with a more slender body and more explosive aroma, herbal and peppery.
Bon Secours, Péruwelz, Belgium, Triple – 9% Golden. Dry and floral. Elegant final alcohol.
Via Mascarella 1
+39 051 266112
Revelation Cat/Mikkeller, Copenhagen, Denmark, Cream Ale – 5% Inspired by traditional pre-Prohibition American blonde, it breaks the boundaries of style, being more bitter and more fragrant.
Via Mascarella 30
+39 051 263236
Granita of Craft Beer
Twenty-seven beers in total as part of the festival, and fourteen of them were from Italy, and none of them named Peroni!
I was very happy to see the high concentration of Italian craft beers as part of the festival, with more than half of the total selection coming from Italy. And the styles of beers presented by Italian craft brewers showed a nice diversity.
Unfortunately, the Bravo Caffe’ was closed already when we arrived, so we did not get to try the Revelation Cat/Mikkeller Cream Ale. We passed by Moustache and Cantina Bentivoglio but they were quiet and empty, and we wanted to be more in a crowd. We found L’Ortica, where not only was there a nice mix of people, but we also managed to snag a table out on the patio where we settled in for the next few hours.
Over the course of the evening, I tried the Via Emilia, Cool Fusion, Old Chestnut, Flora Sambuco and Wake Up Dead. I wanted to try a few of the other Italian beers, but two of the taps were on rotation, and neither Saison was available, the AFO available instead (which I had already tried), and the Vùdù and Forum Gallorum being off the tap in favor of the Cool Fusion. AFO and Bad King John also found their way to the table, and I did take a small taste of the Bad King John when it arrived.
I loved the beers I did try, especially the Old Chestnut, Flora Sambuco and Cool Fusion. The Wake Up Dead was good, but had a bit too much alcohol taste for me. According to Bianca, this would be a great beer for marinating meat with.
Next door to L’Ortica is Modo and we discovered it was quite interesting as well — nice crowd and also a good beer selection – offering a one-two punch for a night out in Bologna. I would definitely suggest making 24 and 26 Via Mascarella your places to stop when you’re out for a beer. And I would definitely suggest giving the Italian craft beer selections a chance, as they are quite good, and show that there is definitely a growing beer community in Italy. Granted, not as strong as the wine community, but certainly not something to ignore for the future.