Beer isn't like beer. Germany and Belgium are good places to find out about this. And Tuscany. 

It may seem a little weird, but over the last decade the craft beer brewing movement has managed to take foot in winemaking territory and microbreweries keep springing up all through the Tuscan hills and Italy. 

Most people may have downed some Nastro Azzuro or sipped a Moretti with their pizza, but the two best known Italian beers hardly ever induce long-lasting memories. No doubt, it's up to the microbreweries to prove that Italy deserves a space on the worlds' beer map. 

Curious to taste the Tuscan version of artisan beer? Leave Brunello territory this weekend and make time for a stop at the neighbors in Montenero d'Orcia to get to know the locals' take on the planet's most widely drunk alcoholic beverage.

Maremma seen from Montenero d'Orcia (Casteldelpiano)
Definitely time for a beer. 

The small town at the foot of Mount Amiata has a lovely shady park with amazing views over the Val d'Orica and the Maremma (Montalcino to your right and the hills of my hometown Cinigiano on your left). Grab an artisan beer, enjoy the amazing sunset and forget about Tuscan wine for an evening. 

Apart of the participating craft beer producers, the stars of the festival are the Italian homebrewers. I haven't tried any of their potions yet, but judging from Southern Tuscany's microbreweries, things are looking good. Closest to home, Birrificio Amiata produces a dozen varieties, from traditional stout and lagers to chestnut beer (from the groves on mount Amiata), and rather surprising varieties like the one based on the locally produced saffron. 

Whilst I'll drink anything by the end of a long hot day, I pray I'll be sitting in the shade of one of Montenero's holm trees sipping the Tuscan version of a Belgium gueuze. Looking at this. 

Tuscan sunset seen from Montenero d'Orcia near Montalcino
Sunset in Montenero d'Orcia

Saturday from 5.30 pm: Tuscan food, artisan beer and live music.
Sunday from 10 am: Homebrewer competition, children's entertainment, guided craft beer tasting and Spanish and Latin music in the evening!

Participating microbreweries from Tuscany: 
Birra Amiata from Arcidosso
TNT Pub from Buonconvento
Piccolo Birrificio Clandestino from Livorno
Birrificio del Forte from Pietrasanta
BRUTON from near Lucca
MOA - My Own Ale, from San Piero a Ponti near Florence
La Pinta Medicea, the homebrewers association of Florence

Got into the spirit of Tuscan village festivals? Move on to off-the-beaten path Stribugliano for the Sagra della Ricotta, which takes place on the same weekend. Stribugliano is high up just below mount Aquilaia and has a fresh breeze all through summer (whilst I dream of one down in the valley below). Great cheeses and local food, good company and paragliders dotting the sky (mount Aquilaia being their starting point). 
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