The Italian Job

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks for me, in terms of both tweeting and blogging.  Simply a case of there not being enough hours in the day and too many things going on at the same time – I’ll go into that in more detail in another post soon.  However, a major reason is because I was lucky enough to go to Rome two weeks ago for a conference.

Now before you start getting too jealous, this was for work (i.e. non-beer-related work) purposes with little opportunity for free time outside the conference agenda (no, honestly, that’s true!).  Even when you did have some free time Rome itself was actually some 15 miles away from the overpriced hotel in which we were holed up.  However, the opportunity did arise for a few hours in the city itself, and as would be expected I made the most of this time to sample a taste of the growing craft beer scene in Italy.

I’d seen favourable reports on Rome’s beer opportunities, with Mark Dredge’s Pencil & Spoon blog being particularly useful preparation.  A few minutes with Google Maps before I left and I established just how close three highly recommended venues were, so once I got into the city and left some colleagues cooing at the tourist sights (which I’d seen on a previous visit) I headed off to find Open Baladin.

The limitations in detail on the free map from the hotel became obvious as soon as I got within a couple of streets of where I knew I wanted to be.  It took a few circuits of the narrow back streets though until I found the one that I was looking for – on the map, for future reference, it is the unmarked road between the two other unmarked roads…

Nearly empty when I walked in, it was cool and refreshing compared to the fairly sweltering heat outside.  A vast array of bottles behind the bar, and taps upon it, greeted me and it took a few minutes to take it all in.  Sitting down with a menu I felt it only right to plump for the house brewry, and settled on Baladin’s Nora – a 6.8% Saison.  It was a good start.  Refreshing, just slightly tart, a fine example of a style I am beginning to really get into.  Of course it didn’t last long, and so back to the menu for another look.  Having already decided I’d try as many different Italian breweries as I could I moved onto an IPA, with LA9 (6.5%) from L’Olmain – nothing wrong with it but nothing special I’ve since concluded (as on checking my notes it didn’t drive me to write anythning further at the time!).  Time for a third beer, to be my final one here, and it was back to a Saison style.  My eye was well and truly caught by the description which my rudimentary mastery of the Italian language seemed to tell me was a Black Saison, and when it arrived indeed it was!  A collaboration between Extraomnes and Toccalmatto, Tainted Love (4.7%) tasted all Saison, but was definitely approaching black in colour with a malty aroma.  Possibly not quite as tasty as the Nora, but another delicious beer all the same.

With some reluctance I dragged myself out, and headed on just across the river to Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa (aka the Football Bar).  I was glad I decided to tear myself away from the beer selection at Open Baladin, because there were some crackers here too.  A much smaller, cosier bar panelled in wood as opposed to the open, slightly industrial feel at the previous venue, I felt quite at home here.  Tipopils (Birrificio Italiano, 5.2%) was on the bar giving me a chance to try this beer which I’ve seen raved about.  It was nice, and better than many pilsners I’ve tasted, but didn’t exactly set things alight for me.  So that gone, I moved along to yet another Italian brewer, Brewfist, and their Spaceman IPA (7%).  This was a marked improvement, and is a beer I’ll keep an eye out for in the future.  It was overshadowed though by what followed – D’uvabeer (brewed by Loverbeer at 8%) was a sour ale and I loved it.  A dirty, cloudy, raspberry red in appearance, and a gorgeous tangy taste, I think I’d have stayed for a second if time wasn’t running out, my appetite building up, and the bustle of Bir e Fud calling me from across the street.

So, I picked my way through what was becoming an increasingly busy Friday evening street scene and found a space inside the bar where I could see the beer selection and order some food.  Back to a Saison with Duchessa by Borgo (6%) and followed by Rehop IPA from Toccalmatto (5%).  This was definitely the top IPA from my selections of the evening – it cut through the strong flavours of tomato and basil from my plate and asserted itself forcefully but deservedly onto my tastebuds.  Really good stuff.  Too quickly though it was time for one last throw of the dice, and I plumped for a nice light(!) Imperial Stout to finish off on.  Verdi (Ducato, 8.2%) was a fine bold beer and a pleasant way to finish off a tour of 9 Italian beers from 9 different brewers.

So, conclusions?  Well I’d now love to go back and spend some more time discovering the craft beers of Italy not least through the bars of Rome, and would advise anyone visiting there to call into one or more, and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to appreciate it!  The two highlights were Rehop and D’uvabeer, though in fact I’d quite happily drink any of the beers I tried again, and again, and again.  Clearly Italy knows a thing or two about making good beer, and in Rome at least there are some great places to sample them.

As a footnote, I had to double-take as I wandered back past an off-licence window, when I saw various bottles of Hardknott and other UK beers lined up on the shelves…

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One Comment to “The Italian Job”

  1. I have to find me a good excuse to get to Rome, I too was inspired by Marks post at the time, now yours too makes the cause more worthy, glad you enjoyed

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