Beer of the Year in Bella Italia - Birra Dell'Anno 2024

A short wrap-up about the Italian Beer Market

The next stop on our travel blog takes us to the land of savoury, Italy. An exceptionally creative beer scene has developed there over the past 15 years. Not only is the variety of breweries remarkable, but the quality of the beers can also compete with the best breweries in the world, as can be seen from the results of past European Beer Star tastings. (you can find the winners' lists of the past years here).

Italy has always been known for its outstanding wine quality. As in Europe as a whole, consumer behaviour is also changing in Italy. Overriding issues such as conscious nutrition or inflation are causing people to struggle. In markets with traditionally high beer consumption, such as the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, per capita consumption of alcoholic beer has been falling for a long time. Despite the difficult starting position, per capita beer consumption in Italy is rising slowly but steadily, although at 38 litres per capita it is still in the bottom third behind neighbouring countries such as Slovenia or Croatia in a European comparison (see also the latest figures from the European Beer Trends Report). What is astonishing, however, is that beer has almost overtaken wine (in France, beer consumption has already surpassed wine consumption).

consumption italy

As consumption increases, so does the number of breweries and therefore the variety of beers in Italy. There are now over 1,300 breweries in Italy, many with a background in agriculture (growing their own raw materials) and a broad product range of 15 types of beer on average. The most popular beer styles are - unsurprisingly - IPAs, ales and pilsners. No wonder the Italians are very proud of their Italian Pilsner (a hopped version of Pilsner beer).

Simone Monetti from the Associazione Unionbirrai presented the current economic situation of Italian independent breweries during BrauBeviale 2023. Unionbirrai represents the Italian independent small and creative breweries (Birra Artigianale). The entire presentation was kindly released for publication. If you want to brush up on your Italian and find out more about the Italian beer market, the Unionbirrai's REPORT 2022 "BIRRA ARTIGIANALE, FILIERE E MERCATI" is highly recommended.

Of course, the positive development of Italian craft breweries also needs to be celebrated. This is why Unionbirrai organises the renowned Italian tasting competition Birra Dell'Anno every year.

simone monetti

Simone Monetti

Exkursus: Italian Grape Ale (IGA)

With all the dynamism and diversity in the craft beer sector and the historical context as a wine country, it is not surprising that creative brewers came up with the idea of marrying the two worlds of beer and wine. The result is a beer style that offers brewers almost unlimited possibilities for development: Italian Grape Ale. Nicola Perra from Birrificio Barley is regarded as the pioneer of Italian Grape Ale, who began flavouring his beers with sapa (highly concentrated grape must) back in the early 2000s.

In addition to the use of numerous grape variations and basic beer styles, the grapes can also be used as must or whole grapes in the hot area or during fermentation. The type of fermentation is also flexible (use of cultured yeasts, spontaneous fermentation, etc.). This wide range of possible variations gives the beer style its complexity. The use of grapes can bring freshness or depth to the beer.

What is most important, however, is that the character of the beer must not be lost! There is a danger that the wine character will predominate in the final product. The use of grapes should give the beer an additional layer of flavour components, but should not displace the beer character. As with so many beer styles, balance is a key criterion when assessing IGAs.

Birra dell'Anno takes account of the broad spectrum of IGAs with 3 different categories:

  • Red Italian Grape Ale
  • White Italian Grape Ale
  • Sour Italian Grape Ale

Since 2022, the European Beer Star has dedicated a category to Italian Grape Ale.Have a look at the 
category description.

If you would like to delve a little deeper into the topic, you are welcome to take a closer look at the presentations by EBS tasters Alessandra Agrestini and Luca Giaccone. We would like to thank Ale and Luca for their permission to publish the presentationsn


Alessandra Agrestini


Luca Giaccone

Birra Dell'Anno 2024

In 2024, the search was on for the best beers in Italy for the 19th time. A long tradition that is reflected in the professional organisation of the competition. The numbers prove that this is no easy task. An impressive 2,153 beers from 255 motivated Italian breweries first have to be organised. From personal conversations and experience, the registrations from breweries (worldwide) always arrive shortly before (or even after?) the closing date - which means there is only a short reaction time for the organisers. So, a big compliment to the organising team around Simone Monetti!

Skilled palates are needed to determine the best beers in Italy from such a large number of entries. 85 tasters (around 50% of them international) made their way to Rimini on 15 and 16 February to determine the gold, silver and bronze winners in 45 categories at Birra Dell'Anno 2024. Of course, a group photo is always obligatory. Certainly, a German delegation was not to be missed.


The participants came from all around the world


Team Germany @ Birra Dell'Anno 2024

Travelling to international tastings is a win-win situation for all sides. For the organisers, it is important to get feedback from experienced judges from the home countries of the respective beer styles (Belgians, for example, can judge Belgian beer styles authentically). This is not only important for the reputation of competitions, but also gives breweries honest feedback on their beers. The international judges, on the other hand, gain insights into local beer styles and interpretations of international beer styles. For example, a German-Style Dunkles in Italy is usually characterised by roasted notes, which contrasts with the bready, slightly sweet taste impressions in Bavaria. Several conversations with Italian brewers revealed that this is what customers expect in Italy. So you always have to adapt to local conditions.

In addition, international exchange promotes cooperation beyond national borders. The European Beer Star is very grateful that Unionbirrai has been inviting EBS representatives to Birra Dell'Anno for years.

Where thousands of German tourists flock in summer, the international beer community met in February 2024 to taste the best beers in Italy. The prospects were good. On the first evening, there was a reception with a brief introduction and explanations of the upcoming tasting days. The first highlight was already waiting for the tasters: traditionally, all local tasters bring food specialities from the most diverse corners of Italy to Rimini to share with the participants. The rich selection of sausage and cheese specialities alone was worth the trip and the tasting community was able to start the first tasting day in a good mood. The tasting took place at the Fiera di Rimini exhibition centre. Birra Dell'Anno is always a preparation for the subsequent Beer&Food Attraction, where the award ceremony also took place.

The Birra Dell'Anno competition mode is similar to that of the European Beer Star. In the preliminary rounds of each category, the beers are evaluated in teams of three using a points system. The beers with the highest scores then go through to the intermediate round or, depending on the size of the category, straight to the final.
In the final, two tables are then combined to form a table of 6 in order to allow a greater debate on the respective beers.

As already mentioned in the last blog, the first day of almost all tasting competitions worldwide consists of such screening rounds. There are always highs and lows when it comes to the quality of the beers. This was also the case with Birra Dell'Anno. The author was first allowed to taste 35 different Märzen and Vienna lagers, followed by a round of Belgian Dubbel and Quadrupel. With a few exceptions, the team was unanimous. After such a strong (alcoholic) finish, one is grateful for a breather before the evening ends with a dinner together. We would like to thank our great fellow tasters Stefano Ferretti and Gabriele Benenati. The tasting was concentrated and a lot of fun.

The second tasting day started with a round of New England IPA (NEIPA). The quality of the beers in this round was exceptionally high and whetted the appetite for the (personal) highlight of the tasting days: the final table of Sour Italian Grape Ale.

The complexity of the beer style probably also divided opinions on the table. The awarding of gold, silver and bronze was the subject of particularly heated debate. In the end, the decision was made democratically by ballot. The Austrian-German expertise at the final table was ultimately unable to prevail with its gold favourite. But the extremely high quality of great Italian grape ales at the final table quickly calmed things down - long live democracy!

The Strong Porter/Strong Stouts final was less tense. There were struggles here too, but in the end the final table was able to reach a consensus. The lively discussions at the table are always an enrichment and were at a very high technical level. Many thanks to our fellow tasters - it was pure joy!

To round things off, we visited the Beha Brewing Company.  

In 2023, the brewery won 3 awards at the European Beer Star! It's always nice to see how proud breweries are of their EBS awards!

A thoroughly successful event came to an end. It is said that after the brewery visit we went to the unofficial evening programme - but what happens in Rimini, stays in Rimini :-)

Awards Ceremony at Beer&Food Attraction

If you haven't seen this trade fair with your own eyes, you won't believe it. It's not just the entire Italian brewing industry that meets in Rimini every year. The world championship of pizza bakers also takes place there. One day is definitely not enough, the author will take more time for the exhibition in future.

In addition to a traditional trade fair where the supplier industry exhibits, the special thing about the Beer&Food Attraction is that the breweries themselves are also present with a stand. This gives the trade fair the character of a beer festival. As if there wasn't already enough beer to taste during the tasting, over 100 breweries will be showcasing their beer specialities to visitors - an absolute dream for every beer aficionado and every beer aficionada! By the way: the design of Italian craft beers is probably unrivalled...

A wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

The highlight of the day was the award ceremony for the Beer of the Year, Birra Dell'Anno, 2024. In addition to the award winners in the individual categories, the Brewery of the Year 2024 was also honoured.

The EUROPEAN BEER STAR congratulates all winners of the Birra Dell'Anno 2024!

All award winners can be found here.

Birrificio Dell'Anno: Ritual Lab

We would especially like to congratulate the Brewery of the Year: Ritual Lab

Ritual Lab i

is not only successful in Italy, but also on the international stage. The brewery from Formello near Rome has already won 8 awards at the EBS.

In 2023, Ritual Lab won bronze in the New-Style India Pale Ale category with its Modern Mosaic and silver in the New-Style Pale Ale category with its Head Space.

Congratulations to Ritual Lab!

Eine wunderbare Reise ging zu schnell zu Ende. Wir freuen uns bereits auf das nächste Jahr, wenn es wieder heißt, die besten Biere Italiens zu finden!



Kilian Kittl

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