Ciao Andiamo, the travel specialists in all things Italian, will lead small groups of hops-chasing guests through some of the most interesting breweries in central Italy.
You can’t swing a carafe of Chianti around Italy without hitting a wine tour sipping its way across the best vine-growing, grape-pressing regions in the world.
Beer tours, though? Those are fewer and farther between, despite the fact that Italians have loved suds for some time—Peroni was launched in 1846 and Nastro Azzurro in 1963—and even though the craze for locally made craft brews has only grown in the country in recent years.
Ready to fill this void, however, is Ciao Andiamo, a five-year-old Italy travel specialist founded by Jonathan Pollock, a native New Yorker who spent years studying and working in the country, and who returns often to scout the latest and greatest.
He’s just launched the company’s first Artisanal Beer Tour Through Umbria, a five-day tasting journey in one of Italy’s most beautiful and delicious, yet relatively under-celebrated, regions. Each group is capped at eight guests, who spend their days stopping in at top breweries for special-access, behind-the-scenes tours and making visits to seasonal regional festivals; at night, hearty dinners of typical Umbrian delights—all wild boar and cured and smoked pork salume—will be paired with complementary draughts and bottles.
“Craft beer has truly seen a renaissance in the last few years in Italy, led in large part by artisans and entrepreneurs of the younger generation,” says Pollock, whose on-the-ground partner, Umbria-based Max Brunelli, led the first trip, in November, and will lead upcoming ones in December (7 through 11), March (7 through 11), and April (11 through 15) of next year.
The craft beer trend, Pollock reports, has bloomed in recent years in Umbria, a region with a long legacy of brewing, dating at least as far back as the 16th century, when Trappist monks in the town of Norcia started making the stuff. Those brothers (the original beer-drinking bros?) are still going, turning out 3,000-bottle batches of a Belgian blonde and Strong Ale annually.
“The breweries we visit as part of our tour will be those that pay homage to the local traditions, agriculture, and resources—the ones that produce organic products, at times using ancient recipes with special ingredients from the region,” Pollock says.
Take, for instance, Birrificio Etico, in the medieval hillside village of Spello, just south of Assisi, which makes three different styles using, variously, flowers, honey, figs, and carob, all harvested nearby. In the regional beer, Pollock notes, you find all the flavors and colors of the land, made by young, new producers, as well as those good-old monks in Norcia, who continue to brew in much the same manner they did when they started more than 400 years ago.
“Beer is easy and affordable, but it can still be artisanal,” Pollock says. “There are so many variations that pair well with all kinds of local Italian cuisine.”
We’ll drink to that.
Andrew Sessa writes regularly for Travel + Leisure; follow him on Twitter.