South America is making great strides in the craft beer world. Brazil might just be the top contender. But Brazil is a big country with many locations spread out and in very rural areas that are hard to get to, especially in one trip.
Argentina, Mexico and Panama also are moving forward. Closer to home, Mexicali probably is showcasing the best of South American. These are still fledgling beer countries and worth going to see. But you won’t find these locations readily; which brings us to Europe.
Belgium has always been a beer-tour destination and will continue to be so. Belgium’s influence on the world’s craft beer scene has been unmeasurable. Germany’s beer influence has remained standard under its stringent Reinheitsgebot purity law which allows only hops, water, yeast and barely in its recipes. This means they don’t allow barreled aged beers, the blending of fruits or spices commonly used in craft beer recipes. Recently, Germany has loosened its stiff five-century-old law. But today, Germany lags far behind the rest of the craft beer world.
Spain is well on its way, but it seems stymied by its economic and political woes. England too has been cultivating a craft beer scene, but it is minimal compared to its traditional breweries. They still hold a strong love for their heritage breweries, especially for the return of real ales. Who can blame them?
But it’s Italy that takes the show. With over 1,000 craft breweries from north to south, east to west, it is nearly impossible not to find a craft brewery in Italy today; or, at least a craft beer at a bar. There are certainly hot spots. The north culturally has a stronger beer tradition having been under the Austrian influence for many centuries. In fact, the Italian beer dynasties, Moretti, Peroni, much like the United State’s Busch and Coors families, came from the north. They took over where the Austrians left off when they were pushed out after Italy’s unification in the late 1800s.
The pioneers of Italian craft breweries are all four found near Torino or Milan. By the mid-2000s several breweries were emerging in the Parma area. Rome doesn’t boast too many breweries, though in its peripherals you will find several breweries like Birra Del Borgo, Birrificio Aurelio, Turbacci and even the eleventh Trappist in the world Tre Fontane Abbey. A Trappist is a monastery whose beer is made solely by monks. Tre Fontane Abbey is justification that Italy is truly a beer country.
Further south, near Naples, more breweries continue to pop up. Most importantly there is Birrificio Sorento who has been brewing great beer and becoming more influential in the broader Italian beer world. Experimenting with growing hops in the Naples region, Birrificio Sorento has been pushing the envelope.
In Puglia one of the more influential brewers Donato Di Palma continues to brew marvels at his brewery Birranova. And even Sicily boasts breweries of their own like Luppolo L’Ottavo Nano and Birrificio Il Gigante.
Breweries Almond 22 and Opperbacco in the Marche have been leading the Italian beer scene for some time. Birrificio MC-77 from the Marche has taken the baton and ran with it. While returning to the north you can find the first all-natural brewery, Foglie D’Erba near Udine, the only brewery in the world located in an environment recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In short, don’t go to Italy without having a craft beer. You’ll be sad to find how much you missed.