Chianti, Prosecco, Brunello – Italy has always been synonymous with world-famous wine, but craft beer? Sure…a Moretti is acceptable on a hot summer’s day but I bet my bottom euro that I’m not alone in associating Italian beer with mass-produced, characterless - and expensive - fizz.
But as I sit in Tibo bar – a stone’s throw from the iconic 17th century city gate of Penne – with a characterful IPA from local brewery ‘Almond 22’, I’m pleased to confirm: good beer has officially arrived in the Abruzzo.
The setting seems fitting; a smattering of classic Italian and English literature adorns the walls of this unassuming bar cum-bookshop. For this is the epicentre of a beer-naissance that’s happening to a region traditionally cut off from the rest of Italy. The six beers on tap offer good variety – a porter, 2 IPAs, a Trappist beer, larger and a wheat offering - but it’s the Pink IPA from Almond 22 that stands out. Floral, aromatic, slightly bitter - closer to a saison than an IPA – and very drinkable. But the best news? The barman tells me that the brewery is just down the road in the nearby, leafy Lorretto Aprutino. Armed with a vague notion of its whereabouts, I set off in search.
First impressions: it’s a micro-offering, and one that’s only open as a bar on a Friday and Saturday. Sadly for our party, it’s a Wednesday, but we leave with a reservation at the restaurant for later in the week and a few of their bottled beers to sample in the meantime.
The food was good – meats and cheeses cooked on a grill. More of an Americanised affair than is typical for the region. But then, the same can be said for the beer – and this is certainly a good thing. The brewery produces unpasteurised and unfiltered bottled beer, free from preservatives and chemicals, with a focus on bold flavours as well as utilizing the region’s fresh and vibrant ingredients. This attention to detail has resulted in the Culture Trip ranking Almond amongst the ten best breweries in Italy.
This left me thinking…beer standards in the region’s slightly more alternative bars appear to be improving, but what its supermarket offerings? I duly rose to the challenge and summarise the best beers available to you in the Abruzzo
Mastri Birrai Umbri – Cotta 21 ABA
Actually... pretty decent. Pretentious fancy flip-top 75cl bottle. A bit of tang/sourness from the yeast is there, with the banana flavors. A light, enjoyable flavor and light body 6.5/10
Peroni Puro Malto
Puro Malto indeed! Aroma is caramel malt. Golden beer with thin white head and medium carbonation. About as good as a macro euro-lager can get. Nice bottle too 6/10
Peroni Gran Riserva Rossa
Fruity and sweet aroma with loads of caramel and roasted malts. Light bodied taste but bitter and dry finish. Bottle is the best thing about this beer…5/10
Bad Brewer IPA
Peach & tropical fruits aroma with malty base. Maybe a little bit boring but packs a fruit-punch 6/10
Almond 22 Pink IPA
Nice hoppy Italian Pale Ale, with a very subtle pepper in the taste. A very good beer 7.5/10
Almond 22 Irie
The taste is on similar note. Camomile. Maybe a light peach, and light citric notes. In any case, a good freshness. Very drinkable. 6.5/10
Almond 22 Lune
Cracking beer. Lots of spicy and floral notes with some citrus. Great beer with loads of flavour. 7/10