Italian craft brewing is a hotbed of creativity and has advanced massively this century. Despite, or perhaps because of not having any historic beer styles to revive, and despite, or perhaps because of Italy having an advanced wine culture, the expectation has always been that the country’s brewers would eventually invent their own classic styles.
Italian grape ale (IGA)
A new Italian specialty that may well last the distance is one brewed with up to 40% whole grapes in the mash, and may be fermented with a wine yeast. IGAs are work in progress and variations include the use of grape must, grape flowers, grape juice and occasionally wine itself. The base beer may be made from different grains and fermented by lager, ale or wine yeast. The grape variety is perhaps more important. Sub-styles already exist, as Red, White and Sour varieties, which do appear recognisably different. A good example will show features of both wine and beer, with neither drink dominant.
EBCU workshop “All About… Italian Grape Ale” on Youtube
Italian barley wine
Can a single beer be said to constitute a style? If so, then Xiauyù and its variants, from Baladin brewery, is such a style. Its production involves three cycles of fermentation leading to it ending virtually free of carbonation. Its character is much like that of a fortified wine, such as Marsala or a Colheita port, except made solely from malted grain. Despite its strength (15.0-18.0% ABV), it remains in technical terms a beer.
Birra alle castagna (Chestnut beer)
Craft beer (birra artigianale) in Italy has always followed a different path to success, being designed more for the table than the bar. One trait has been the addition of unusual ingredients. An early success was the use of chestnut flour to create rounded, sweet, nutty, but earthy back tastes. We include this more as an example of the genre than as an example of chestnut power.
See also: Italian Pils