Italian craft beers find their way to Bangkok

Best known for its fashion, art, cuisine and wine, Italy has turned its savoir faire to creating cool craft beer.

Better still, there's no need to go all the way to Italy to taste these stellar creations. The newly formed Italian craft beer-dedicated distributor, Pacific B&B, is now bringing in four premium Italian craft beer brands for Thai imbibers to enjoy.

"Food and drink is such a big part in Italian culture. Some regions boast a special local cheese, others great wines. With the rising popularity of Italian craft beers and their meticulous craftsmanship, beer is also starting to become a regional pride," says Brian Prasomsri, managing director of Pacific B&B, one of the three founders of the company.

"Fifteen years ago there were about five breweries in Italy, now there are 700. Despite the surge in number, most are still very small craft breweries that supply only local markets. It's all about passion in Italy, not commercial success, hence the exclusivity.

"Even though craft beer in Italy is made with great attention to detail, consumers in Italy are very much divided about beer drinking. On one side of the coin are people who grew up with wine who reject the idea of drinking beer -any beer - because it's not classy.

"Some haven't even had a beer in their lives, because they think beer is for labourers. The younger generation, on the other side, really supports craft beer. If you go to cities like Rome, Florence and Milan you now see more and more craft beer bars. Al fresco restaurants used to serve only wine but now you can have craft beers, and people love it. Back in 2005 you wouldn't have seen anything like this," he enthuses

Another reason the Italian craft beer industry is still small is because microbreweries were only recently legalised. Given Italy's rich wine culture, it's only natural that winemaking has influenced local beer producers. Italian brewers have access to wine grapes as well as the yeast on the skins of the local grapes, Using barrels that previously held wine as it aged, Italian brewers can experiment with wild yeast and many other elements that add the "funk" to their beers.

Also, with an abundance of natural spring water, producers are able to create tasty beers that are light and refreshing on the palate. Moreover, the lack of a beer brewing culture inspires brewers to come up with their own recipes and style to create something uniquely theirs.

And because they love their alcoholic drinks with food, Italian brewers take the same approach as they would if they were producing wine. With attractive colourful, artsy label designs, most craft beers come in elegant one-litre bottles to be served at dinner table, in stem glassware. Drinking beer at dinner couldn't look more sophisticated.

Pacific B&B is now carrying four craft beers from Italy. One is Birra Menabrea, Italy's original hand crafted beer since 1846, awhile from Rome, comes the Birradamare brewery, founded in 2004. The brewery markets two brands: Birradamare and Birra Roma, which are inspired by the colours and flavours of the Eternal City. Another brand is Birrificio L'Olmaia from Tuscany, also founded in 2004, and considered one of the pioneers in Italy's craft beer industry.

You can now find these beers in top restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels.