[...] a few words about Homebrewing in Italy. I hope this can be useful to:
1. Italian homebrewers (or just beerlovers) [...]
2. USA & rest-of-the-world brewers going to Italy, or just interested for a "cultural" point of view.
I started homebrewing in 1984, with some beer kits bought in London
by some relatives. Then during a travel to Scotland I could find a
HB shop in Edimborough, so I could buy some ingredients and books;
I switched since then to extract+hop brewing (with grains adjuncts).
The major improvement happened when I could find some of the heaviest ingredients in Italy (see below); the shop in Scotland agreed to mail me the other ingredients (yeast, hops, some grains). I brewed about (only) 25 beers since then - usually a stout and an IPA and some experiments.
I think I've been a sort of "pioneer" al least in my area (Genoa).
Only in recent years I could meet some people (other than the friends
that I introduced to this Art) who were homebrewing, usually from beer
However, the possibility of home brewing has always sounded quite interesting to a lot of people I met; at my present workplace we were at one time 5 people making beer and we organized at times "beer festivals" at lunch time!
The main problem in Italy has been and still is the availability of
the ingredients. There are no specialized shops.
This is the present situation as far as I know:
MALT EXTRACT is available as pale DMS in 25 Kg. cans. It is used by bakers and sold by bakers' wholesale suppliers. It seems to be of a good quality compared to the UK homebrewing extract I could try and is produced from the same malteries and breweries producing italian beer. NO AMBER or DARK MALT EXTRACT seems available.
UNMALTED GRAINS and FLAKES are available in herbs & special food shops.
TORRIFIED and ROASTED UNMALTED GRAINS I make at home from the raw grains (this will be a question I will post to HBD - grain roasting techniques - unless I can find some FAQ or so in the WEB)
MALTED GRAINS for adjuncts - crystal malt etc. - these are not available and I mail order them to UK shops.
HOPS are available in herbs & special food shops, but of unknow type and quality and badly kept in open air. I tried them and they just work to bitter your brew; I prefer to mail order them in UK. Maybe one can find wild hops somewhere or of course grow them.
YEAST Baker yeast is available and works (other question to submit to HBD - suitability of baker yeast to make beer). As they are lightweight I prefer to mail order in UK the specific yeast I need.
BEER KITS are now available in some hobby shops; the same can also sell the basic EQUIPMENT; anyway equipment is not a problem as winemaking is widespread.
So in our group of Hbrewers we found that the best thing is: mail ordering hops, yeasts and crystal and other malt grains from shops in UK (or ask friends going to England to buy them) and buying here malt extract, flakes and raw barley grains. Mail ordering of large quantities of malt extraxt, or pale malt for all-grain brews is very expensive as post rates go by weight
LAWS: it's a controversial point; in the land of winemaking it seems that none of our hundreds of thousands of laws handles the subject of homebrewing, neither to forbid it nor to allow it. (Home winemaking is allowed). I personally have a relative which is a judge specialized in health and food but she could give me no precise answer. I think you should at least pay some tax on your beer even for personal consumption (we also have here in Italy hundreds of thousands of different taxations..). Anyway if you don't hear from me for too much time please call Amnesty International...