Beer hopsI’m going  to begin with a stop near Parma. After leaving my favorite Italian outlet mall off the A1 Autostrada, I drove through the roundabout and down the street to Fidenza’s zona artiginale, an area on the outskirts of  town where a particular industry is located. As I was in Emilia Romagna, the particular industry was of course food.  But to my surprise the road less traveled not only led me to source an amazing apple mostarda but to Toccalmatto, an Italian microbrewery with some very good beer. Off the tourist radar, in an unassuming warehouse, you really have to know where you’re going to find this place but once you do, you’ll be back.

Birrificio Toccalmatto is in Emilia Romagna, Italy’s Food Valley, where the culinary and cultural traditions of food are at the heart of everything they do. So it wasn’t surprising that the artisanal production of beer was done with the same respect for the ingredients that you see in the production of their artisanal pastas and legendary ragu’. On my visit I spent time with Alessio “Allo” Gatti who guided us through Toccalmatto’s menu of beers. We got to go behind closed doors and walk among the production tanks to see and smell the brewing beer. Yes smell – the aromas were incredible. The aroma of hops was intoxicating and I hadn’t even taken a sip of beer yet. With names like Skizoid, Toccalmatto-SibillaRude Boy, Ambrosia and Fume du Sanglier, made with beechwood smoked malt, you know you’re in for an adventure in taste.

My personal favorite is a Sibilla, slightly spicy beer with a fruity aroma due to the strain of yeast used in the making. Birrificio Toccalmatto  is always brewing up crafty concoctions  so there’s always more to see and savor. I’m anxious to try Surfing Hop, a dark red beer with the flavor of balsamico. Although the center of microbreweries in Italy tends to be Northern Italy and Rome many other regions including Umbria are producing some outstanding craft beers and brew pubs are becoming, dare I say, almost as popular as the local enoteca with feste delle birre craft beer tastings all over Italy.



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