Although wine is still the staple of the Italian liquid diet, beer is becoming more popular. As well as the supermarket brands like Peroni and Moretti, there are an increasing number of craft beers on the market.
Back in 2009, Italian beer producers Baladin opened a bar in Rome, stocking around 140 different beers, as well as a range of imports. Called Open Baladin, it's good a place as any to start exploring what's available.
The beers you're most likely to come across on a trip to Rome are Peroni, Nastro Azzurro, Moretti, and Menabrea.
Probably the best of the easily available (supermarket-quality) Italian beers is the range from Menabrea, a brewery founded in 1846. They aren't marketed as heavily as Peroni and Moretti, but the distinctive silver and orange labels aren't hard to find, and much are much better tasting than their competition (at least until you get to level of the smaller producers and the craft beers).
Find out more at the brewery's site: birramenabrea.com.
Owned by Heineken since 1996, Moretti make around half a dozen different beers, easily identifiable by the moustachioed Alpine gentleman on the label.
Their main product is simply Birra Moretti, but you're also likely to spot the strong, dark La Rossa, the double-malted doppio malto, and the premium Baffo d'Oro. They offer an alcohol-free beer under the name Moretti Zero.
Visit Moretti online at birramoretti.com.
Peroni is probably the best known Italian beer, along with its premium sister-beer Nastro Azzurro. (They're two different beers, although confusingly, Nastro Azzurro is often marketed abroad as Peroni.) They also make a handful of other beers, including the 6.6% Gran Riserva and now also a gluten-free version of Peroni.
Peroni have a website at peroniitaly.com.
Craft beers are rapidly gaining popularity in Italy, where makers include Baladin, Cittavecchia, Almond, and 32 Via dei Birrai. The beers they produce are often strong, and tend to come in large bottles meant for sharing: 66cl or 75cl is the norm.
32 Via dei Birrai
The bottles from this brewery are immediately identifiable by the bright colours of the labels and the large '32' logo. They also have an elaborate corking system we've not seen elsewhere, which allows them to be resealed. It's handy as 32 Via dei Birrai use 75cl bottles.
You'll find them online at 32viadeibirrai.com.
Based in Pescara, Abruzzo, Almond '22 takes their name from the confetti (sugared almonds) that are typical of the region, and were once made on the site of the brewery. The beers we've tried from Almond '22 have been very good.s
They're online at birraalmond.com.
It's a bit off-putting that Baladin bottles look like props from a Harry Potter movie, but fortunately the contents are often rather good. Baladin are one of the largest producers of artisanal Italian beer; they also make some traditional soft drinks and a respectable cider.
Visit Baladin's website at baladin.it.
The beers we've tried from the Trieste-based Cittavecchia brewery have had a slightly disappointing, thin taste, but we're informed that this may be due to instability resulting from the brewing process. They're popular so maybe still worth a try, but it would be best to track down a bottle that's as fresh as possible.
See more at cittavecchia.com.