In Italy, a New Beer Made from Olive Leaves

Birra Olea is made from local olive leaves, which the brewer says lend a smokey flavor and antioxidants.

A local beer producer has partnered with olive growers from Coldiretti, a leading farmers’ association, to produce Birra Olea near Rome. Olive leaves are the key ingredient.

Coming from eastern Lazio, parts of which are struggling to recover from a long series of earthquakes that razed entire villages and destroyed most of the local economy five years ago, locals see the announcement as a new beginning.

Coldiretti said producing the beer requires hundreds of kilograms of olive leaves. The leaves come directly from pruning the trees located near the brewery. Coldiretti added that the beer is an example of a circular economy and a local specialty.

“In the last few years, we have been working to produce our beers using only 100-percent Italian ingredients; most of which are produced [by the brewery],” said Claudio Lorenzini, owner of the Alta Quota brewery in Rieti and Birra Olea’s inventor. “At the same time, we focus on beers which can represent our territory.”

The flavor profile of the final product features a smoky taste, which the brewery attributes to the olive leaves. The use of the leaves in the brewing process also means the beer contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants.

Furthermore, Coldiretti added that the leaves play a role in balancing the beer’s bitterness and acidity. Other more traditional ingredients are water, barley malt, wheat malt, hops and yeast.

The new product “represents a local delicacy which fulfills our quality standards and specificity parameters,” wrote David Granieri, the president of Coldiretti Lazio. “(It is) an experiment that had the best results; something new both for Latium [Lazio] and for the whole country.”

“Artisanal beer is a product that is quickly expanding both in its reputation and consumption,” he added. “Choosing to produce it with olive leaves combines two product chains and gives birth to a special message for a city of such relevance as Rome.”

The region where growers produce the renowned Sabina extra virgin olive oil, which has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification from the European Union, stretches about 60kilometers from Rieti to Rome. More