Unique with Natural Ingredients
How can you possible ignore that Italy ranks 3rd place for the number of microbreweries (worldwide!*)?
Not that they are redirecting grapes to craft beer (they already do that with the production of rosato, and to some that seems pretty blasphemous.)
However, the Italians - especially the Tuscans — are extremely good at creating things in their own image, and craft beer is no exception. (Just ask them who invented the telephone or who had the first free flight?**)
In any case, Tuscany abounds with ingredients that practically beg a good, if not great, craft beer and these local brewers have created recipes that make the best use of all of them.
Crafting with Local Flavors
I have long thought of the Tuscans as being particularly “crafty”. In other words, they able to use what they have on hand to create delicious and flavourful meals and this can also be said for their beers where they “strengthen the link with the territory” by using local products.
The most curious products used in the production: organic and native grain from local farmers, the typical honey of the area, the sapa of local wine (Sapa is an ancient natural sweetener made from the must of the wine), saffron — a product rooted in medieval tradition and even the potato haven't escaped notice supplying some exceptional and intriguing flavors.
And then there is the chestnut, a product which can lay claim to nurturing generations of Tuscans from before the Etruscans. It was a staple on many farmer's diet, through lean and tough times due to its abundance and its exceptional nutritional value. This fruit has made its appearance in several brewery recipes in Tuscany where the chestnut is celebrated for its exceptional nuances that it can give the golden-amber colored drink. It is a seasonal beer to be sure and one that is rich and full of flavor.
Craft Beers to Look For
This is by no means an exhaustive list (though I hope it is pretty close), new places pop up all the time! So if someone isn't on the roll call, then let us know.
I am going to give them to you in order of production area - because except for a select few, most of them can really only be found in or around the area where they are produced.
For example if you are in Cortona, then you will want to search out the Birrificio Cortonese - which by the way has free tastings and if you are in Montepulciano then you will look for Olmaia — that is if you have the courage to ask for a beer while touring the area famous for its vino nobile. And the same goes for Radda in Chianti — instead of a Chianti Classico ask for a Chianti Brew Fighter.
However, if searching high and low doesn't result in any local beers you can always try to include one of the many annual events that focus primarily on Italian craft beers - giving Tuscany ample space to shine or head to Florence and check out some of our top pub suggestions.
MASSA CARRARA (Pontremoli) - Birra del Moro from the Lunigiana area
LUCCA (Piazza al Sercio) - La Petrognola from the Garfagnana area
LUCCA - Bruton
LUCCA (Pietrasanta) - Birrificio del Forte
VIAREGGIO - Birrificio Degli Archi (read our review about the Florence Pub Art. 17)
PISA (Cenaia) - J63 Birrificio Agricolo Toscano Tenuta Torre a Cenaia
PISA - La Torre del Luppolo
PISA - Gildanani Birrai
PISA (Montescudaio) Birrificio Artigiano Toscano di Montescudaio
PRATO I Due Mastri
PRATO Birra Granducato
FLORENCE Il Bovaro
FLORENCE (Campi B.) Birrificio Demonia
FLORENCE Real Beer
FLORENCE Archea Brewry (read our review)
FLORENCE (San Donato Poggio) Birrificio Math
FLORENCE (Marradi) Birra Cajun in the Mugello area
FLORENCE (Dicomano) Birra Loremipsum
EMPOLI La Mi Birra
AREZZO (Bibbiena) La Campana d'Oro in the Casentino area
AREZZO (Borgo alla Collina) Birra Matelda in the Casentino area
AREZZO (Capolona) Bifrons in the Casentino area
AREZZO (Caprese Michelangelo) La Luppolaia Birrificio
AREZZO (Pergine Valdarno) Birra BVS - check site for beer tasting tour!
AREZZO (Cortona) Birrificio Cortonese
SIENA (Radda in Chianti) Chianti Brew Fighters
SIENA (Poggibonsi) Birrificio 26 Nero
SIENA (Colle di Val d’Elsa) Mensanello
SIENA (Castelnuovo Berardenga) Project Local Brewery (find at the Florence Bar called Art. 17)
SIENA (San Quirico d'Orcia) Birrificio San Quirico
SIENA (Torrita di Siena) Birra Saragiolino
SIENA (Montepulciano) Birrificio Olmaia (find at the Florence bars BHC & Move On)
SIENA Birra Ladiana - (find at the Florence bar called Art. 17)
Craft Beer Events to Remember
There are many festivals celebrating beer in Tuscany - especially in summer when a cold drink is just what you are looking for. The list below is more select, listing only the festivals that focus on craft beers - and though many will have a few international names floating around on the menu, the protagonist is normally Italian craft beers - and especially Tuscan beers.
Florence: Birraio dell'Anno
Florence (Campi di Bisenzio): Birra Festival - IGA & Dintorni
Prato: A Tutta Birra
Isola del Giglio (Giglio Island): Un Mare di Birra…
Lucca: Il Senso della Birra
Siena (Bagno Vignoni): Un Bagno di Birra
Livorno: Hop Summer Fest
Grosseto (Arcidosso): Vulcano di Birra - Craft Beer Festival
Siena (Buonconvento): Villaggio della Birra
Florence (Ippodromo del Visarno): Beer Craft Arena
Birrifici Aperti, this link shows you the breweries that participate in an open house
*Brewers of EUrope 2015 statistics
**Antonio Meucci & Leonardo da Vinci (both connected to Florence by the way)