Local Beer, Global Travels – A Taste of Birra in Florence, Italy

Archea Brewery’s Hydra IPA. Archea is the only craft brewery in Florence. Noelle Phillips photo

When my friends heard that I was going on a 9-day work trip to Florence, they urged me to try the wine, the coffee, the gelato, and the pastries. But I had an even bigger priority: finding some good Italian craft beer.

Birra in Italy is widely available – but craft birra? Not so much. Mass-produced lagers like Peroni, Moretti, and Dolomiti can be found everywhere, but I was looking for something better. Fortunately, recommendations from locals and some judicious Internet hunting took me to some great craft beer haunts in Florence. If you happen to visit this gorgeous city, check these out and find your favourite Italian pint!

A deal that can’t be beat: a pint of craft and a whiskey for just $11! Supplied photo

The San Lorenzo Market

Just up the stairs from the bustling street vendor stalls below the San Lorenzo basilica, you’ll find an indoor market with fresh produce, a range of food counters, and a bar with four or five craft beers on tap – a happy discovery! During my visits, the taps included a NEIPA by Piccolo Birrificio Clandestino (a brewery on the west coast of Tuscany), a Belgian Strong Red Ale by Belgian brewery Val-Dieu, and a Saison by Hibu (near Milan). This bar also had a deal that couldn’t be refused: a pint of craft beer and a whiskey (your choice of Jameson, Oban, Talisker, and Lagavulin, among others) for just eight euros, or eleven Canadian dollars. Can’t beat those prices!

Archea brewery’s beer menu – house brews and guest taps. Noelle Phillips photo

Archea Brewery

Tucked away on Via dei Serragli on the south side of the river, Archea is Florence’s only craft brewery. Its core lineup is four beers: the Hydra IPA, the Melyssa Honey Ale, the Black Tower Black IPA, and the Salviette Blanche Ale. Unfortunately, during my visit only the IPA was available, but they had an impressive range of guest taps. You’d have to make multiple excursions to try them all, but Archea is a great place to sample craft beer from across Italy.

King Grizzly is a tiny beer hall with plenty of stools and barrels outside. Noelle Phillips photo

King Grizzly

Around the corner from my flat on the north side of the river, near Piazza di Signoria, is King Grizzly, a tiny beer hall in the corner of the alley at Via del Canto alla Quarconia (a stone’s throw from Dante’s house!). If you arrive before 4PM you won’t be able to tell that it’s there – no shop front, just a garage-style door that lowers down over the entrance. King Grizzly isn’t a brewery, but hosts a wide range of taps and offsales. It seemed a bit more welcoming to travellers than Archea, which clearly had an established local clientele in a quieter area of Florence. Grizzly’s bartenders were friendly and helpful – they knew their beers and were happy to make recommendations. There’s not much space inside to enjoy your pint, but plenty of stools and barrels in the alley.

Birrone in Padua is a brewery and a bakery. Noelle Phillips photo

Bonus Brewery: Birrone

On a day trip to Padua, we managed to squeeze in a visit to Birrone, a longstanding craft brewery in that city. Birrone serves its own beers rather than hosting guest taps, and has a high-quality line up with a nice variety of flavour profiles. The bartender explained that Birrone was also a bakery – something that resonated with me, since in my study of beer history I’ve seen how often brewing and baking coincide. My favourite beer there was Cibus – “pane liquido”, or liquid bread – a wheat beer that was first made for a local medieval festival.

While birra may not be most people’s objective when they are visiting Florence (or Italy more generally), there are hidden beer gems that are worth your time and energy to unearth. Cin cin – drink up!

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