The world of beer

beers and cheeses

Made up on average of 95% water, packed with mineral salts, and featuring a variety of different alcohol levels, or even none at all, beer is a something of a new classic in the Italian food family, as well as an important element in the nation’s consumer habits acquired from elsewhere. Why a new classic? Because whilst this cereal based drink was discovered a long time ago, but despite being made in monasteries in the Middle Ages, it did not become popular until the 19th century by entrepreneurs and investors of central European origin. From then on, the beer segment followed the wake of Italy’s manufacturing industry as a whole and was generally industrialised in the 20th century.

The late 20th century brought a great change however, with the rebirth of the craft beer sector, which began between 1995-96. Prior to this, only a few beers were being made in this way and they were the exceptions rather than the rule. In 1996 the number of small and micro-breweries grew dramatically, and today number approximately 1500: a veritable army of producers working alongside two larger companies which managed to remain independent, as well as a large group of historic brands now part of large multinational groups. The production of these small firms revolves around a vast assortment of types, including non-pasteurised beers. which have gradually, but also rapidly, modified the very concept of beer in Italy and the country’s approach to it. Today’s volumes amount to 30 litres per person per year, with the sector employing over 92,000 people and producing a turnover of around € 9.2 billion, around 0.52% of the GDP. One of the most interesting aspects here is the specific weight of the craft beer sector, which is increasing not only in terms of size (now accounting for around 3.5% of the market) but also in terms of the ability to channel consumer habits and behaviours.

Italians are now familiar with the types of beer traditionally from countries and regions with deep beer making roots (Belgium, Germany and Central Europe, Great Britain and the United States) and are also curious about the new beers coming from the most far-flung corners of the international scene (interested in the so-called craft revolution as a whole). They also appreciate the ability of the country’s producers to interweave the classics with the country’s great many local specialities (spices, citrus, cereals, honey, chestnuts). In 2015 Italy had its first type of beer formally recognised as originally and exclusively Italian – Italian Grape Ale. Its recipe involves using grapes or grape must in a happy combination of beer and our winemaking DNA. And who knows what the future will bring…