When you think of “beer Europe,” you probably imagine countries like Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Italy tends to fall within “wine Europe.”
However, local breweries beg to differ as they continue to show off Italian brewing excellence while producing some amazing-tasting and unique beers in varying styles to suit the masses. So, while your glass of wine may go better with the Italian food you’ll have in Bergamo or Turin, you can definitely still enjoy one of the popular Italian beers if that’s more your thing.
Read on to find out what the best Italian beer for you is!
- Peroni Nastro Azzurro
- Peroni Gran Riserva
- Birra Moretti
- Birra Menabrea
- Birra del Borgo Cortigiana
- Birra Messina
- Angelo Poretti
- Birra Ichnusa
- Birra Castello
- Birra Raffo
Peroni Nastro Azzurro isn’t just one of the most popular Italian beers; it even has wide popularity in other countries like the US. So, if you’ve tried or heard of an Italian beer before outside Italy, it might be this one.
This best-selling Italian beer is a premium lager that came out in the 1960s and maintained its iconic flavor and aroma ever since. It only takes one sip to feel the light and smooth taste and the rest of the glass to enjoy it thoroughly.
The Peroni Nastro Azzurro also feels balanced on the tongue, as it’s not too bitter but also has the distinct flavor to impress beer drinkers, along with citrusy notes that make it enjoyable if you like flavorful beers. All of this comes with all the floral hop aroma you want.
Our second entry from the Peroni brewery is another icon that follows traditional brewing methods: the Gran Riserva.
Although it’s much younger than the Nastro Azzurro, having come out in the mid-90s, it quickly gained popularity in Italy and abroad. And it’s clear that the Italian brewery intended to make a hit, as this malted barley beer came out in celebration of Peroni’s 150th anniversary.
The Gran Riserva is a Vienna-style lager with a much darker color due to an eight-week maturation process, which lets the beer absorb some characteristics from the wooden casks that brewers age it in. As such, you’ll see the word “Rossa,” meaning red, on the label.
With an alcohol content of 5.1% and a balanced taste of bitterness and subtle sweetness, this is one of the best beer styles to enjoy with many Italian dishes like tortellini or spaghetti.
Birra Moretti is a big name in the world of Italian beer brands that embraces traditional brewing techniques, as it follows a recipe that’s stayed consistent since 1859. And although it started as a local Udinese specialty, it quickly spread to the rest of the country.
Birra Moretti prides itself in the word “l’autentica,” meaning the authentic one. It even prints it on its labels right above the company’s inception date.
Because of the popular connection between Moretti and authenticity, there was a lot of controversy among Italian beer enthusiasts in the 1990s when Heineken acquired the brand. After that, the Dutch mega-company agreed to sell the Udine-based brewery to another Italian beer brand while maintaining plants in foreign countries.
Acquisition aside, Birra Moretti keeps its signature light body with floral notes and finely balanced profile that made it famous.
Birra del Borgo is a small Italian craft brewery from the small city of Borgorose in the province of Lazio, right in the heart of Italy. And like many craft breweries, this one pays attention to tradition and fine taste.
It offers numerous products, but our favorite is the Cortigiana, which is a Blanche beer similar to the Belgian-style witbier.
This golden ale offers a creamy texture with a large, frothy head that delivers a surprisingly robust and refreshing flavor that honors the name of the Italian craft beer industry.
After all, when we think of a high-quality brewery, we like to imagine a feisty combination of bold flavors, which Birra del Borgo does by using ingredients like barley malt, buckwheat, einkorn, and oat. They also use some brilliant spice mixes that include coriander and orange peel.
Birra Messina is a brewery with an even more niche fanbase that you’d struggle to find outside Sicily. But perhaps remaining so secretive makes it a hidden gem in the Italian beer scene and beyond.
It offers a classic pale lager with an alcohol content of 4.7% and light golden hues. It’s also made from locally sourced water, specifically from the Peloritani Mountains, which shows how resourceful and authentic the brewery likes to remain.
And if you feel like spicing things up, you can try their Cristalli Di Sale beer, which is a 5% golden ale that utilizes more vegetative ingredients, resulting in a fruity flavor and floral aroma.
The Birrificio Angelo Porretti was founded in the mid-to-late 19th century by its namesake founder in Induno Olona, a small town in Lombardy, northern Italy. To this day, the brewery maintains its headquarters in its tiny native city.
The Angelo Poretti brewery offers numerous beers of varying styles, but some of their most notable ones include the 3 Luppoli, a golden lager with 4.8% ABV, and the 6 Luppoli, a double malt beer with red amber hues and 7% ABV.
Nowadays, the Birrificio is owned by the Danish giant Carlsberg.
Just like most old Italian breweries, Birra Ichnusa started as a local treat made by a craft brewery in a small town. In this instance, that town is Assemini, close to Cagliari in Sardinia, in 1912.
To this day, the brewery is proud of its Sardinian heritage and maintains its recipes in line with the local brewing traditions. And when they introduce a new product to their varied lineup, it has to comply with those unspoken rules.
Although Ichnusa has been owned by Heineken since the 80s, they still offer several authentic products, including classic Italian beer and an unfiltered beer.
Remember when we said earlier that Heineken allowed Birra Moretti to be brewed locally by another Italian brand? That one is Birra Castello, which had just come out amid the Moretti-Heineken controversy and today remains a fairly new brewery, having been founded in 1997, also in Udine.
Although Birra Castello may not have the long and rich history you expect from other Italian beer brands, it makes up for it with its premium-tasting pale lagers with notes slightly sweet but noticeable enough to make an enjoyable beer consumption experience.
One of the oldest Italian beer brands on our list is the Birra Menabrea, which came out in 1846 in Piedmont.
The brewery actually started making beers in a makeshift cave plant at the time, but the beers quickly took off, and soon there was an entire headquarters in place.
They offer various beers, but if you can’t try them all, we recommend the La 150° Bionda, a pale lager with 4.8% ABV, and the Arte in Lattina Pils, a 5.2% ABV Pilsner-style.
Birra Raffo is a Pugliese beer from the not-so-small town of Taranto.
Unlike other beers on this list, Raffo takes a more liberal approach with their geographic distribution. For example, although they are native to Taranto, they were later acquired by Peroni, and production was moved to Bari, another city in Puglia. Nowadays, it’s even made in their brewing plant in Rome.
Despite this, it’s still the most popular beer in Taranto. After all, the acquisition by Peroni only helped Raffo spread.
And once you indulge in it, you’ll enjoy a crisp taste with a smooth finish that you can feel on your tongue as soon as you see its golden yellow color.
If you were initially dismissing the idea of enjoying Italian beers because it’s more popular as a wine-making country, then we hope we managed to break that conception.
The reality is that there are so many high-quality Italian beers that don’t get enough credit, especially since their brewers maintain decades-long traditions that they produce and serve beer with.
You’ll also find that many Italian breweries started as small-time hobbies that mostly served craft beers to the local community before expanding to the rest of Italy and, sometimes, the rest of the world.