Historically, Italians preferred to drink wine. That is not earth-shattering news. Even though today the percentage of beer drunk by Italians remains small, the quality of beer offered in Italy is improving. This includes craft beer or birra artigianale. And, Bologna is one of the best cities to see this growing trend. In this craft beer guide to Bologna, Italy, we share our tips on where to drink craft beer in Bologna. We also share some history of craft beer in Italy.
What Is Craft Beer Or Birre Artigianali
To understand Italian beer it helps to understand a little bit about craft beer in general. It’s difficult to define craft beer because everyone looks at it differently. People throw around the terms microbrewery, craft brewery, independent brewery, etc. For many people, craft beer is an alternative to mass-produced, commercialized beers like Peroni or Moretti in Italy.
There is an Italian brewer’s organization called UnionBirrai that helps to define craft beer in Italy. They say to be called craft beer, it must be unfiltered, unpasteurized, and come from a brewery that produces less than 170,000 barrels of beer a year. This helps to define craft beer in Italy to ensure it only includes small producers. Similar definitions occur in the US, but they have to produce less than 6 million liters, which is huge in comparison. In many places, there isn’t a requirement that the beer is unfiltered or unpasteurized either.
What is important, in general, is that craft beer is from a smaller producer, focused on a local market. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. And, some Italian “craft beer” producers distribute beer across the country and even export. An independently-owned brewery generally produces beer in much smaller quantities than a mass-produced, industrial, corporate-owned brewery. One of the most interesting things about craft beer is that the producers are focused on quality and flavor more than mass-consumption, mass reach, standardization, and shelf life. And that is music to the ears of craft beer enthusiasts.
The History Of Craft Beer In Italy
Other than the Austrian-influenced regions of the Veneto and Lombardy in the north of Italy, there has never been a strong beer drinking tradition in Italy. Italians consume some of the lowest amounts of beer per capita within Europe. Sure, typical bars in Bologna might offer a draft beer or a handful of bottles. But it was rare to find bars that specialized in beer, either craft beer or imported beer.
Even 10 years ago, the thought of a successful craft beer bar would have been relatively unheard of in Bologna. In the 1990s there was a craft beer boom in Italy where entrepreneurial brewers started experimenting, brewing their own beer and then creating a market for it. Now, there are about 1,000 breweries producing beer all across the country.
The Trend Of Birra Artigianale In Bologna
Over the last few years, Bologna has become one of the best craft beer cities in Italy. The number of craft beer bars and even craft beer shops has exploded. At one point, the only craft beer easily found in Bologna was at the Baladin basement bar at the Mercato di Mezzo. Things have changed dramatically.
Bologna Craft Beer Map
There are enough places of interest for beer lovers that in 2019, producers came together to put together a Mappa Delle Birrerie Artigianali Della Citta Di Bologna, a Bologna craft beer map. It can be found at many of the 22 stops listed on the map. Rumor has it that there are even more stops being added for the 2020 Edition.
Bologna also hosts a few breweries in the surrounding area. Most notable is Ca’ del Brado, which is in Rastignano in the Bologna Hills. Located just outside the Bologna city limits, Ca’ del Brado is an innovative brewer of Italian craft beer. They push the limits of craft beer brewing with new styles and techniques while focusing on locally sourced ingredients. They are a Bologna craft beer brewery who has some quality Italian Grape Ale made with must from one of the nearby Bologna Hills wineries! They offer tours most Sundays at 11 am. Look for their beers stocked by bars and beer shops in Bologna, including some of those mentioned below.
The Best Bars In Bologna For Craft Beer
It’s impossible to talk about craft beer pubs in Bologna without mentioning BrewDog Brewpub Bologna. Founded in Aberdeen, Scotland, BrewDog has taken craft beer to the next level, opening brewpubs (and even a hotel) all over the world. They offer their own brews, international beers, and local favorites. They have a kitchen for pub grub and are both kid and dog-friendly.
BrewDog Bologna, Via San Valentino 2/F
Hours: Monday through Sunday from 6:00 pm – 1:00 am, or later on Friday and Saturday
Birrificio Baladin is one of the pioneers in the industry and one of the most successful craft beer brands in Italy. They opened a pub focused on beer in Piemonte, outside of Turin, in the 1980s. In 1996, they started producing their own beer, so the beer pub became a brewpub. Over the years, their beer line expanded as did their footprint in Italy. Part of their success came from their relationship with Eataly, including a location in Eataly World outside of Bologna. In Bologna, Baladin is located in the Mercato di Mezzo and is easily accessible to travelers to Bologna. They serve food as well, focusing on burgers using Piemonte beef.
Baladin Bologna, Via Clavature, 12, in the basement of the Mercato di Mezzo
Hours: Monday through Sunday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to midnight at the basement bar. Serving beer upstairs from 11:30 am to midnight. They offer a dozen taps between the two locations.
Il Punto Bologna
Il Punto has one of the best craft beer selections in Bologna both on tap and in bottles and cans. They offer a rotation of eight beers on tap. Il Punto also offers a wide range of spirits as well as locally produced vermouths. Light dining fair is available including sandwiches, meat and cheese plates, and aperitivo. The menu changes with the seasons. There’s a true passion for craft beer and ensuring the perfect environment for craft beer enthusiasts. If you are not sure what to order, ask Camilla and she will guide you through their current selections.
Il Punto, Via S. Rocco, 1
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 5:30 pm until midnight, later on weekends. They offer a wide range of fun events each month. Il Punto has free wifi and a large, covered veranda.
Beer 4 Bunnies
A quaint craft beer bar and bottle shop, Beer 4 Bunnies is packed from wall to wall with Italian and international craft beers. Enjoy in the shop or take away. They offer four rotating taps and loads of bottles along with a knowledgeable staff willing to help you choose the perfect beer. They also have a handful of outdoor tables during nicer weather.
Beer 4 Bunnies, 11a, Piazza S. Francesco
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 6:00 pm-midnight. Closed Sunday.
With dozens of taps and a large range of Italian and international craft beers, Madama Beerstro is leading the craft beer movement in Bologna. They have over 300 bottles and cans in stock. Food options include small plates of meats and cheese, sandwiches and salads. They also have an extensive selection of liquors and offer creative and classic cocktails.
Madama Beerstro, San Vitale, 31
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 5:30 pm to late. Closed Sunday. They also have a location in San Lazzaro, which operates more like a beer shop.
Astral Beer Bologna
Astral offers a range of Italian and international craft beers on tap and in bottles. They offer six rotating taps. Indoor and outdoor seating available as well as simple plates of cured meats and cheeses. It’s a smaller pub than some of the others in Bologna, but contemporary in design.
Astral Beer Bologna, Via Castiglione, 13/B
Hours: Monday to SaFridayturday from 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm and again from 6:00 pm until late. Open from 6:00 pm until 2:00 am on Saturday. Closed Sunday
Zapap has a few locations in Bologna. Zapap Pratello is a quaint location for traditional pizza and Italian craft beers. Sidewalk seating is available. In the summer of 2019, they also opened a small taproom on Via Giuseppe Petroni. They do a small aperitivo in Bologna, with pieces of pizza available.
Zapap Pratello, Via del Pratello, 31
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 6:30 pm
Il Pretesto Beershop Bologna
Il Pretesto sells craft beer in all shapes and styles. They offer one of the largest selections in Bologna. From locally produced Italian craft beers to craft beers from around the world. Beers are available for take away or for enjoyment in the shop.
Il Pretesto, Via Riva di Reno, 60/d
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Closed Sunday
Festa Della Birra Bologna And Other Beer Festivals
Each year, Bologna actually hosts a handful of beer festivals. Updated information on the festivals can be found on the Bologna Welcome website. Some of them are held within Bologna and others in nearby towns and villages. The largest beer festival in Bologna is MicroBo, which is held in September each year at Porta Saragozza. As part of the festival, they host a homebrewer contest as well. In May, check out the Heretics Beer Festival, which is held at the Dopolavoro Ferroviario.
Although not in Bologna, each June, the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival is held in Reggio Emilia. It’s a quick train ride over and a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Located in the center of a former convent, there is craft beer, food, and music. It’s even a great place for families to spend the day. There’s sort of a picnic-type atmosphere. Even better, it is one of the few craft beer festivals focused on sour beers, including fruit beers, Gose, and Lambic. And, the festival features Italian beers as well as international beers, including American ones. Truly unique.