Over the past few years, craft beer enthusiasts have been crushing hard on the intriguing artisanal brews coming out of Italy. Abiding by their own rules to create a uniquely individual style, these alluring Italian suds are as fresh and exciting as any foreign affair.
If you’re just tuning in to the trend, there are a few names that are absolutely essential for you to know. Chief among them: Birrificio Le Baladin. The label’s oft-referred to “rock-star” brewer, Teo Musso, opened his original Piemonte-based brewpub in 1996 and is frequently credited as one of the pioneers of the burgeoning trend. So too brewmaster Agostino Arioli’s Birrificio Italiano, which also debuted in the mid-1990s and is based in the country’s other craft beer hotbed: Lombardy.
With this developing craft, brewers appear to be enjoying exploring the possibilities of creative freedom — working to create their own definitive style, you can find beers made with herbs, roots, spices, and even heirloom grains. Local ingredients are key and it seems that chestnuts in particular have become a favorite. Indeed, Birra del Borgo's Leonardo Di Vincenzo (another important name to add to the cheat sheet) has called chestnut beers the "essence of Italian brewing."
Sufficiently thirsty yet? Below are five restaurants across the country where you can get in on the trend.
Cafe Spiaggia (Chicago, Ill.)
Cafe Spiaggia, along with its sister establishment, Spiaggia, are distinguished as being the first restaurants in the Midwest to offer a substantial selection of Italian craft bottles. Better yet, the Café is also one of the few places across the country to serve some of the special brews on tap. The rotating selection has included pours from Birrificio and Birra del Borgo. Says chef Sarah Grueneberg, who has been experimenting with the beers in her dishes, "offering the beers on draft allows them to be available for a lower cost to the guest. The bottles can be quite expensive — some go up to $52 for a 25-ounce bottle."
Eataly (New York, N.Y.)
The craft brew-crazed are still (anxiously) awaiting the green-light-go on the Italian mega-mart's forthcoming rooftop beer garden, La Birreria. Expected to open soon, the massive in-house brewery has enlisted the talents of superstar Italian brewers Teo Musso and Leonardo Di Vincenzo, as well as hometown favorite, Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. According to reports, the vibe will be "artisanal, old-world Italian craft brewery" in an urban setting featuring Eataly-branded brews that fuse American and Italian styles. In the meantime, store frequenters can pick up individual bottles (including selections from Birra Troll and Birrificio Le Baladin) to take home.