The craft beer movement is mostly an American phenomenon, though it’s only a matter of time before craft breweries start popping up overseas. One country that has caught on to the emerging market of quality brew is Italy, and now you can have a taste of what they have to offer if you find yourself in Philadelphia. Alla Spina, which means “from the tap” in Italian, is a craft beer bar and restaurant that opened in March and offers 20 beers on tap and 50 by the bottle. While most of their selection is from the bigger Italian breweries, a good portion (6 of the draft beers) are from Italian microbreweries that are striving to create complex and delicious craft beer.
What makes craft brewing in Italy so unique is the lack of a brewing tradition to define beer styles, unlike other nations with longer brewing histories. Some Italian brewers use a Belgian, German or American beer style as a point of departure, while others do things from an entirely different angle. If Italian brewers have a common trait, it’s a penchant for using substances other than hops to add bitterness and flavor to beer. [One particular beer is made with myrrh, ginger and orange rind] It is tough to parse exactly where the bitterness in that beer comes from, but it definitely tastes like something exotic floral, spicy and bitter, probably because of the myrrh. I have been really surprised that every person with serious beer knowledge who has tasted something new on the Italian side has been very positive about it, really intrigued by it.” -Steve Wildy, Beverage Director at Alla Spina