A Guide to Rome Beer
Exploring the Rome Beer Scene
After almost two weeks in Italy, it pains me to say that I was wined out. And no, my liver wasn’t exhausted after twice (and sometimes thrice) daily intakes of wine – lunch, dinner, and the occasional mid-morning Prosecco – as it earned a degree in party from Ohio University. Instead, my taste buds were screaming for hops. As we wrapped up our Italian odyssey in the Eternal City, we set out to explore the Rome beer scene.
Birrificio in the Tuscan Village of San Quirico
We had our first taste of beer on accident at Birrificio in the Tuscan village of San Quirico. Our wine guide, ever wanting to poke fun at the fact that not only did I know my wine but also brewed beer, pointed out a small brewery in passing. He didn’t think one could have two loves. Calling his bluff, I headed in for a taste while he continued on down the street.
I was expecting the worse – something Peroni-esque. Just stepping into the tap room reminded me more of a hoity-toity wine tasting room than a brewery. I’m glad I don’t judge a book by its cover as both ales brewed by Birrificio were very impressive.
The Iris Blonde Ale was fresh with a mix of balanced floral and fruit elements and only a slight bitterness on the finish. The Giulitta English Pale was red in color and equally as fresh in flavor. It was a nice full-bodied contrast to the blonder offering with notes of toast and dried fruits. The hops presence were refined and artisanal.
Our Rome Beer Journey
The beer journey continued in Rome with the aid of Rome’s Best Craft Beer Bars by Venere Travel (link no longer in existence). We planned a beer tour of craft beer bars that was to start with a taxi ride to the Trastevere neighborhood and wind back to Campo Del Fiori, a neighborhood in between Trastevere and our hotel. The guide said two beer bars existed in Trastevere – Bir & Fud and Ma Che Siete Venuti a Ta (What Have You Come For). We found only one as the two bars combined ownership into Bir & Fud which was teaming with Roman life of all ages.
Bir & Fud
Bir & Fud boasts 36 taps, most of which are Italian craft beers. While the selection was diverse and the bartenders had great knowledge, I don’t think anyone in the place knew how to run a draft system. It was comical to watch the head for each beer pour over the sides of the glass. The bartender would use a knife to skim foam off the top of the glass and then let the beer rest while the head settled. He would then top off the glass with more beer before serving. What started out as comical became annoying as we waited forever for beer orders.
I started the evening with an Amiata Marsilia. Over the noise of the lively crowd and the bartender’s thick accent, I wasn’t really quite sure what I ordered other than it was a refreshing choice to start off the night with salt. Hmm… I thought of my dad dropping a few pinches of salt in his Bud Light and a flicking in a wedge of lime and thought, it has to be different better than that. It ended up being a gose (salted sour) that was slighty sour, slightly salty, and a touch citrusy. If the weather was warmer, the gose would have been the perfect refreshment for the evening.
Next I had a Troll Patela, a Belgian style ale, with notes of coriander and bread. As far as Belgian ales goes, it was weak in flavor. Yet, it paired perfect with food, which may have been the brewer’s design. The soft notes allowed my potato pizza to shine. The lighter aspect of the ale also helped to wash down the starchy dish.
I ended the night with a Pontino Runner Ale, an Italian version of an American Pale Ale. Nailed it! The APA was very fresh with lively hops and plenty of citrus for balance to a slightly bitter finish. I could not put this glass down.
On the walk back to the hotel, we tried to visit Open Baladin to complete our planned journey, but the line was at least 45 minutes long. I peered inside and found the bar mostly empty with a club like atmosphere. Sure, there was an ass in every seat, but there was plenty of standing room. I asked the bouncer why he wasn’t letting more customers in. He responded that standing was not permitted. Given the spacious interior, this sounded a bit too pretentious for me and counter the craft beer movement. Open Baladin wasn’t for us so we walked back to the hotel.
Don’t Just Drink the Wine Italy!
Overall, Italy is doing a decent job of catching the craft beer movement, or birra artigianale as they call it. They still have some work to do though. The lighter ales like pales, farmhouses, and sours were simply outstanding with balanced flavors that refreshed and paired well with food. Malty options likes browns, stouts, and porters are amiss though. Mrs. G. tried several malt bombs that turned out to be more like Coca-Cola Light.
Also, while Italy has embraced the artistry of craft beer, the camaraderie seems to be missing. Craft beer is about accessibility and people coming together, not about keeping them out in the street in a 45 minute line.
Headed to Rome? – I highly recommend Trevi 41 Hotel for its central location, filling breakfast, and spacious rooms. Check out its reviews on TripAdvisor or prices on Expedia. The Pocket Guide to Rome is a great guide that you can carry with you everywhere. I also have a helpful guide on packing for your European adventure!