Beer in South Tyrol – the brewery tradition
Hops and malt: how is South Tyrolean beer made?
Beer is brewed by mixing the basic ingredients water, malt (dried, germinated barley) and hops. The seal of quality on South Tyrolean beer guarantees that most of these ingredients are grown locally.
The ground malt is initially mixed with water to form a mash, which is then heated while being stirred constantly. The solid part is then separated from the liquid part in a lauter tun. The solid part is used for animal feed, while the liquid part – known as wort – is made into beer and boiled in a brewing kettle together with the hops. After passing through various stages, everything is cooled to the optimum temperature for fermentation. The right yeast culture (top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting) for the respective beer variety is then added. Top-fermenting yeast works at temperatures between 15° and 20°C; bottom-fermented beers are brewed at temperatures between 4° and 9°. The yeast ensures that the mixture ferments. After the primary fermentation phase, which lasts one week, the beer has to be stored for another four to six weeks.
The mature beer can then be filled into kegs or bottles. Beer with seal of quality is not filtered or heated during the filling process. This is how you get naturally cloudy South Tyrolean beer with its distinctive taste!
The history of South Tyrolean beer
South Tyrol has a long tradition of beer brewing. Beer has been brewed here for more than 1000 years. According to one early document, one farm in what is now the municipality of Olang had to give twenty “situle cervesie”, i.e. 20 pails of beer (today around 12 litres) to the clergy in about 985 AD.
Bindergasse in Bolzano still testifies to the importance of the coopers, who in the 16th century made up one of the town’s most powerful guilds and manufactured kegs for wine and beer. After Duke Ferdinand II’s appointment as Prince Regnant in the 16th century, beer became South Tyrol’s national drink.
South Tyrolean beer – liquid bread
During the 18th century, South Tyrolean grain and hops were mainly processed in Val Pusteria. There were already eleven breweries in the area at that time.
During the 19th century, brewing was influenced by technical advances such as the invention of the refrigerator. This was the heyday of South Tyrolean beer culture, not least due to the construction of the Brenner railway in 1862 and the resulting boom in tourism. There were 27 breweries. However, World War I cut off supplies to the breweries south of the Brenner, and most of them had to close.
Thanks to the South Tyrolean brewery taverns, the brewing tradition is now being revived.