Italy’s craft beer revolution is in full swing — but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t looking closely. “As in the early days of the American craft movement, there are numerous breweries producing quality Italian brews,” says Bob Tupper, author of Drinking in the Culture. “The chances of finding them without knowing where to look, however, aren’t great.” Most standard birreria serve a disappointingly narrow selection of national mass-market lagers. If you follow the Florentine locals, though, you’ll find a vast array of nondescript pubs tucked in the corners of piazzas, flowing with great, innovative brews. Here is a guide to beer hopping around Florence for those who can look beyond the safe Italian merlots and chiantis.
Pub 1: Grunge Down
Starting in the center of many of the attractions like the Uffizi and the Academy, walk two blocks over to the King Grizzly Pub, located in the tiny Piazza Cimatori. Inside the grungy pub, there is wood everywhere, from the wooden bar, wooden stools, and a wooden backsplash with dozens of beer bottles lined up on the wall. Swallow your urge to pull out an ax, and try the King Grizzly Pub’s impressive lineup of beers like Extra Hop by Birrificio Italiano brewed in Lurago Marinone or the Dhuit by Croce di Malto, brewed in Trecate. The bar opens at 4 p.m., which is on the early side for a Florence beer bar, but perfect for getting the hopping started early.
Pub 2: Can Heavy Heaven
Next, hunt down the Brew Dog bar, located near Florence’s most iconic cathedral, the Duomo. Take in the funky décor with skull and jellyfish paintings and splashes of neon light while sampling the Italian brews, Rebel’s Snake Invasion or Lambrate’s Gaina. The owners do a lot of research and constantly change beers, so you are able to try different beers rotating into the venue. “The main point of the bar: We love cans,” says manager, Lapo Rizzi. “We usually carry 30 to 35 different types of canned beers.” Their latest collab beer was made with Guineu (from Catalonia, Spain) and lupulin powder. There is also a beer cocktails menu based on a modern twist of traditional cocktails.
Pub 3: Vintage Anomaly
Near the Brew Dog is Public House 27 — known by locals as simply “the Public House.” The venue is tucked away near the Santa Maria Novella train station, and the macabre décor alone will urge you to poke your head in. Take the eerily placed dolls in the back corner or the Hitchcock-like reel of vintage black-and-white films. The quirky spot will remind you of a basement bar in New York rather than a Florence pub. There is a mixture of both imported beer and selections from Italian breweries like Hammer’s new Spring Amber Ale that has a fruity and floral taste. This is the perfect place to practice your Italian, as this is not a tourists’ bar, and you most likely won’t hear any English.
Pub 4: Club House
The Beer House Club is a club of sorts, but anyone who walks in is indoctrinated. Most of the members are Polish, American, and Italian. “Bartender-owner Fabio Giovanni loves to talk about the beers that he has carefully chosen and the explosion of beer interest that has now enveloped most of the Italian peninsula,” says Tupper. They carry a diverse range of some of Italy’s best beers like the IPA from Birrificio Del Ducato, Nazionali Tipo Almond 22, and Birrificio del Italiano. They also get imported beers like California’s Russian River Pliny, the Elder, and Blind Pig. For food, try one of their white pizzas or five types of burgers.
Pub 5: Pies and Brews
The Mosto Dolcebrewpub has a central location on Via Nazionale (also near the Uffizi) and brews five of their own beers. They are dedicated to beer culture and don’t even carry wine. One of the favorite beers of visitors is the Italian brew Martellina. They also carry bitter British-style brews, and their flavorful hefeweizen is comparable to an American brewpub rather than a Bavarian brewery. You will also see most people eating along with their beers, as they are well-known by locals for their tasty pizzas. A perfect place to conclude the beer-hopping expedition, with a pie under the belt.