Get Off the Beaten Path
If you’re planning on coming to Italy this summer, and would like to try Italian craft beer, I suggest one of the many Italian craft beer festivals.
Summer in Italy means beaches and festivals. There are countless beer festivals throughout the year, enough that you are guaranteed to find one near you, wherever you may be visiting or heading.
Craft beer festivals give you a great opportunity to try several breweries in one location from different regions. They give you a chance, in many cases, to meet the brewers. Many of the kiosks are tended by beertenders tapped from local beer pubs in the area who are knowledgeable about the beer they are serving as well as the movement in general. Most speak English.
Craft beer festivals also give you a chance to try the local street foods. Street food is a throwback to when Italy was industrializing. As farmers and herders immigrated into cities, they brought with them their customary meals. These dishes were simple. They were meals that could be packed and eaten readily. These easy meals were then morphed into the city life where venders with makeshift stands fed the ever-increasing labor force. From factory workers to miners, these regional goods filled their bellies quickly and cheaply.
Festivals showcase this return to street food, like food trucks to breweries in the US. Unlike many of the tourists-leaden traps where the common mistreated foods of pizza, pastas and panini are often served by industrious tourist hawks, festivals cater to the Italians who scrutinizes their food with heavy criticism. Which assures, for the most part, that you’re really tasting the regions favorites and best.
As always, there are good festivals and bad. But for the most part, you can’t go wrong. The promoters of these festivals are geared towards craft and have big investment in promoting the Italian craft beer movement. And since Italy isn’t yet saturated by crafty beers, you shouldn’t be steered wrong.
The best part about Italian craft beer festivals is they give you an opportunity to mingle amongst Italians, to get the true feel of being in Italy. Most of these festivals don’t attract the general tourist population. Moreover, many of the Italians there are discovering for the first time Italy’s craft beers with you. Many Italians are also novice to the movement. Amongst the crowd you might find other foreigners, craft beer lovers like yourselves. It’s an overall, win win for the craft beer adventurer looking to get away for a day from the hustle of being a tourist in Italy. Sure the Pantheon is incredible and so is the leaning tower of Pisa, but a nice beer on a Sunday at a festival with the locals just brings it all together.
To boot, many of these festivals welcome kids with areas for kids, a place with supervised adults who lead games and activities. Sounds strange to many Americans, but you have to remember that Italy isn’t a drinking culture. This is nothing like an Oktoberfest in Germany. You won’t find drunks racing through pints, police hawking over loud drunks or shots being pounded. The atmosphere in most of these places are calmer, family oriented festivals with a breezy atmosphere of fresh food and artisanal beer.
The best way to find some of these festivals is to go to http://www.cronachedibirra.it. Hover over the header Appuntamenti. Click on the Calendario Eventi. The site is all in Italian, but La Cronache di Birra is the best craft beer site in Italy. The calendar is simple to understand. At worst, cut and paste into Google Translate. You can also ask the consigliere at your hotel to look it up for you and translate. He could give you directions also on how to get there. But be prepared for your consigliere to be completely ignorant about craft beer. If you give them the website, they will gladly look it up for you and give you the information you need in English.