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Craft Beer Revolution in Florence: my Journey with Pinta Medicea

‘Post it notes’

A while back, I was invited to share my beginnings with craft beer at an international public event. I spoke in English about craft beer in Florence and how I got into this “beer-world”.

Before going, I jotted down some ideas on a few post-its. After rediscovering them, more than a year later, I decided to develop that small piece of text and then publish it on this website, my blog.

Here we go.

A Glimpse into Craft Beer: My Early Journey

Hello, I’m Francesca Morbidelli, and Florence is my home. I’m not just another resident; I’m a craft beer enthusiast, a beer blogger, a beer judge, and a proud member of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). Every year, I eagerly volunteer at the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) in London, where I usually work to introduce Italian craft beers to the UK audience while I’m enjoying that magical atmosphere.

My passion for craft beers, especially the Italian kinds, has been brewing 🙂 for many years. I’ve always had a penchant for non-commercial, artisanal brews. Even for the bad ones, that I found always interesting and educational.

Pinta Medicea: Nurturing Beer Culture in Italy

Back in the early 2000s, a group of friends and I embarked on an exciting journey to uncover the hidden world of microbreweries and the burgeoning craft beer scene in Italy. This collective passion led to the creation of a non-profit association right here in Florence. We aptly named it “Pinta Medicea” in honor of one of the most iconic and influential families in Florence’s history, the Medicis.

“Pinta Medicea” soon became a focal point for promoting beer culture in Italy. We organized a plethora of events, including beer tastings, beer-pairing dinners, homebrewing workshops, and gatherings for fellow beer enthusiasts.

What we discovered was astonishing – despite Florence’s relatively small size, there was a tremendous appetite for quality beer. These people weren’t just casual drinkers; most of them were genuine beer connoisseurs, much like us. It was clear; the potential was enormous.

Forging Bonds: Pinta Medicea’s Impact on Florence

To champion the craft beer movement in our region, Tuscany, we regularly set up shop at local markets in the picturesque squares of Florence. These markets were traditionally reserved for local farmers and their products– think wine, vegetables, cheese, and the like. We brought local craft beer too.

This was a turning point. Random passersby started to gravitate toward our stall, enticed by the allure of obscure beers adorned with unique labels. Their astonishment grew when we informed them that these beers weren’t just Italian but often crafted nearby, with locally sourced ingredients such as fruits, honey, and chestnuts. Curiosity led to inquiries about the whereabouts of these small, innovative breweries.

We didn’t just sell beers; we shared the stories behind them, and people were genuinely intrigued. During those years, microbreweries in Tuscany were a rare sight, numbering not even twenty.

Innovating Beer Culture: Pinta Medicea’s Calendar Concept

In 2007, we took a significant step to support our association by creating a calendar – and it turned out to be our second pivotal moment. This was something truly innovative at the time. The calendar featured a Tuscan craft beer bottle alongside a recipe for a traditional Tuscan dish perfectly paired with the beer, all beautifully captured in a striking photograph.

The concept of food pairings with local brewery beers was groundbreaking. Our calendars were flying off the shelves within weeks. It became evident that many people not only had a passion for craft beer but also cherished the idea of pairing it with the rich culinary traditions of Tuscany.

Women in Craft Beer: Breaking Barriers in Tuscany

The world of craft beer had traditionally been dominated by men. This isn’t a critique, merely an observation. When I started my journey, women in the brewing world were few and far between. I distinctly remember that around 2008-2009, Tuscany had just two female brewers – a remarkable number compared to the rest of Italy at that time.

Fast forward to today. While the number of women in the industry has grown, they still represent a minority, however. Good but not great.

Trends in Italian Craft Beer: Some Insights

The world of the Italian craft beer has evolved significantly over the years. The recent annual report from Assobirra, released a few months ago, unveils intriguing insights. They sought to understand how female beer consumption differed from that of their male counterparts.

Firstly, women displayed a keen interest in the synergy between beer and food. Almost 60% of women surveyed expressed a preference for enjoying beer with meals, particularly during dinner – a trend worth noting for the market.

Furthermore, there’s been a surge in the popularity of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beers. According to Italian law, non-alcoholic beer contains less than 1.2% alcohol, and these brews have become incredibly sought after. And according to the Assobirra annual report, while the overall beer sector grew by three percent in a year, non-alcoholic beer witnessed an astonishing 20% increase compared to the previous year. While the absolute numbers remain modest, the potential is undeniable.

Cultivating a Vibrant Community: The Evolution of Craft Beer

The craft beer industry continues to attract talented individuals who create not only innovative brews but also a wide array of related products and foster a vibrant community. The image of craft beer is slowly shedding its niche reputation, and that’s fantastic news, as it opens the door to a broader audience, making craft beer a more inclusive and inviting experience for all.

In conclusion, my journey with Pinta Medicea in the world of craft beer has been nothing short of exhilarating. Florence, a city steeped in history, has now become a good place for beer enthusiasts and lovers of quality brews.

As the industry continues to evolve, it holds the promise of becoming even more diverse, attracting a broader spectrum of voices and palates. Here’s to raising our glasses to the ever-expanding world of Italian craft beer!


Logo nuovo di Pinta Medicea

Francesca Morbidelli

Mi chiamo Francesca Morbidelli, sono tra i fondatori della Pinta Medicea. Dal 2007 scrivo di birra su questo blog e ne gestisco le varie emanazioni social. Sono docente e giudice in concorsi birrari da ben oltre un decennio, e collaboro sia con MoBI che con Unionbirrai. My beer resume (in English). Amministratrice del sito La Pinta Medicea. Contatti: francesca [at] pintamedicea.com - Twitter: @pintamedicea - LinkedIn Francesca Morbidelli.

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