Donald Strachan's verdict on Italian craft beer
Styles. International styles are edging their way into Italian beer culture. Huge-hopped, high-alcohol IPAs are popular. But Italy has its own brewing traditions, too, many of which looked to Belgium for inspiration. Ambrata (amber) beer tends to be sweet-edged rather than bitter or with dominant hops. A Bionda (blonde) has similar richness, but often with a subtle citrus kick. Chiara (“clear”) is the local name for lager-style beers. Scura is dark beer; full-flavoured but not usually with porter- or stout-like burnt bitterness. Rye beer (segale) is another you might encounter. Almost all are slightly fizzy and served cold. Local products also find their way into Italy's beers: don't be surprised to find honey (miele) or chestnuts (castagne), as in Amiata's expressively titled Bastarda Doppia. (Yes, it means pretty much what you think it means.) All Italian artisan beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Resources. With so many styles and creative breweries to explore, it is worth doing some homework. Micro Birrifici has a search function to help you find breweries and bars by region. The same functionality is built into their iOS app (69p from the App Store). Slow Food's Guida alle Birra d'Italia book is written in Italian, sure, but is easy to follow for a beerophile hunting reliable advice. Fermento Birra and Cronache di Birra are handy bookmarks for beer lovers who read Italian. The Beer in Italy YouTube channel is a recent development worth watching.