Craft beer in Italy might not be the initial beverage that dances through people’s thoughts when they think about their upcoming visit to Italy. What come to mind is probably a delicious Chianti wine or a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
But Italy has a thriving craft beer scene, and it’s growing all the time. Over the years, the country has really embraced the art of brewing, giving rise to an abundance of modern breweries to explore.
This guide will take you through a brief history of beer in Italy and give you the top 3 brewery recommendations for Milan, Rome, Naples, and Bologna. Andiamo!
A brief history of craft beer in Italy
The culture of brewing beer in Italy actually dates back centuries. While wine has always been the most stereotypical drink of choice, Italians were some of the first brewers in Europe. The ancient Etruscans brewed a fermented beverage known most commonly as cervisia over 2,800 years ago. The consumption of beer, as far as archeologists understand, has always been concentrated in the northern regions.
Fast forward to the present day, though, and beer is grown and produced in various regions across Italy. Emilia Romagna and Lazio have emerged as key players in the Italian beer scene, with fertile lands ideal for growing barley and hops, the key ingredients in beer.
The popularity of craft beer has grown so much in the past 20 years that there are now lots of events and festivals dedicated to the drink. Italy Beer Week, a yearly event in Milan, showcases the best of Italian brewing and attracts beer enthusiasts from around the world. But by now, every major city (and some smaller ones too) have at least one beer festival per year…so make sure to do a quick search before arriving!
Craft beer and breweries in Italy
Milan definitely stands out in the craft beer scene. The city offers a diverse range of brews for beer lovers to explore. Here are our top picks:
- Birrificio Lambrate was one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in Italy. Established in 1996, they played a significant role in shaping the Italian craft beer scene. Ghisa is one of their most interesting beers on tap—it’s a smoky stout that’s super rich but still nice and smooth.
- Fuorifusto stands out as a locale for beer and high-quality meat dishes. They have a selection of beers from only local brewers. They have mostly American style ales and IPAs, great for those who love hoppy pours.
- La Birrofila is a microbrewery and pub that offers a wide selection of beers, including their amazingly refreshing Graz, a light and tangy weiss. Visit them in the warmer months to hang out on their terrace and get an authentic look at the Milan social scene.
The eternal city is a magnet for pasta and wine, but Rome doesn’t lack well-stocked breweries and vendors. Our street food tour is well-suited for beer enthusiasts: a local guide will take you on a culinary journey of fried artichokes, supplì (fried rice ball), and much more…with a stop, of course, at one of the best beer shops in the historical center.
Follow up the tour with a stop at a few other of the breweries that have become local Roman hotspots:
- Turbacci specializes in barrel-aged beers, infusing their creations with interesting flavors during the aging process. Their use of oak barrels imparts unexpected notes. They also have a unique chestnut beer with light vanilla notes called castagna which is worth a try!
- Jungle Juice brewing takes inspiration from international brewing styles and blends them with Italian craftsmanship. They have all the classic brews like IPAs and belgian ales, but add some experimental beers into the mix too. Try the jellyfish, a citrusy saison with lovely floral notes.
- Ma che siete venuti a fà (meaning “What did you come here for”) is located in the heart of Rome and boasts an impressive selection of beers from all over the world. With 15 rotating taps and tons of bottles including rare and limited releases, it’s a paradise for beer enthusiasts.
Kbirr, Loop Officina della Birra, and Mosto are only a couple of the breweries that are putting Naples on the craft beer map. The city’s vibrant energy and rich culinary heritage provide the perfect backdrop for a cold beer…especially in the summer!
- Kbirr is a brewery that focuses on simple, refreshing styles. They can be found at most craft breweries in the city. The names of their beers pay homage to the city. They even released a supremely drinkable lager for the victory of the Napoli soccer team in 2023, called assafà natavota (which very roughly translates to “let us be blessed once again”).
- Loop prioritizes environmentally friendly brewing practices and uses locally sourced ingredients, making conscious and delicious beers. It’s located in the uphill neighborhood of Vomero and features both house beer and guest beers on tap. They also produced a beer for the victory of the Napoli soccer team, a fresh and lightly spicy blanche called blancheazzuro.
- Mosto has three locations throughout the city and has mostly European style beers on tap. They have German beers and Italian beers, as well as a couple of their own brews. Try their robust bock for a delicious aperitivo.
Bologna is a small city with a vibrant university vibe, which means lots of cool bars and pubs to try. Baladin Bologna, Madama Beerstrò, and Birrificio Emiliano are some of the top breweries where you can immerse yourself in the beer production of Emilia Romagna.
- Baladin Bologna is actually an extension of the famous Baladin brewery in Piedmont. One unique beer to try here is their various renditions of Xyauyù, a barleywine aged in various barrels resulting in a decadent brew.
- Madama Beerstrò is known for their emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, and has a rotating tap menu with lagers, stouts, sour ales, and more. They don’t discriminate, though—they also have an amazing wine list and delicious bites to eat!
- As the name suggests, Birrificio Emiliano represents the brewing traditions of the Emilia-Romagna region. They excel in producing classic beer styles such as Bel Gesto (translated as “a nice gesture”), a full bodied IPA.
Insider’s tip: If you also happen to be heading to Florence, consult our complete guide to craft beer in Florence.
Italian brewers have embraced both traditional brewing techniques and innovative approaches, resulting in a wide range of beer styles and flavors. So if you don’t love wine or spritz, have no fear—Italian beer is here! Also, if you’re visiting Rome, check out our Rome Street Food and History Tour which includes a dedicated stop to one of Rome’s most talked-about beer shops, where you’ll be able to sample local Italian beer and get learn more about the country’s beer offerings.
Chelsea has lived in Naples for five years and is deeply embedded in the community, volunteering frequently with local groups to improve the city they call home. Chelsea speaks some Neapolitan as well as fluent Italian. (Yes, Naples has its own language!) They have a deep appreciation for the simple pleasures of the city – a strong espresso in the morning, chaotic open air markets, the smell of the seaside, and, of course, a fantastic pizza.