Thursday, August 9, 2012

When in Rome, Brew as the Romans Brew

Amanda and I were in Rome and I was getting a bit tired of wine. The mass-produced Birra Moretti seemed to be prevalent at almost every restaurant, but that was absolutely not going to satisfy me.  The day before, we had walked until our feet were raw finding ourselves across the River Tiber in Trastevere. I had made a note about a beer bar in this area of Rome called Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà that served Italian craft beer, so we made a point to visit that day.

It began to rain as we crossed the river and we ducked inside the Church of San Bartolomeo on the Isola Tiberina, the small island in the middle of the Tiber. As we often had during our visit, we toured the beautiful church, sat in the pews, and contemplated the ornate interior.  The rain had finally let up and we ventured back outside after making a modest donation, a small price to pay for asylum from the weather.  We walked the narrow streets of Trastevere popping in an out of a shop here and there taking in this quieter part of the city.

The troubled Tiber.
Down a small cobbled street we came across a lovely little bakery with dozens of treats in the window.  As we walked inside it was apparent that, although most of the metropolitan Italians we had met spoke impeccable English, this kindly baker and the woman shopkeep did not. We tried our best and pointed to the snacks we were after. The very animated baker scooped them up into a bag for us as he said something lively and laughed. And we laughed. Some confusion arose at the register when the women indicated that they had run out of change. We promptly held out the euros we had in hand and she picked what she need. Gratzie was the best we could do and we left with smiles on our faces as the baker waved us good day.

We ate our snack and strolled. A while later we found a nice comfortable restaurant with walls lined with wine bottles for a lunch of pasta and Frascati.  It was all quite lovely, but I was looking forward to trying some good Italian beer.  As the skies once again began to cloud over, we arrived at the bar on the other side of Trastevere. The street outside appeared to be empty save for a few old Italian women with umbrellas strolling about with bags. Oh no, I thought, I think it’s closed! I imagined myself pounding on the door. I did not (you’re welcome Amanda). I guess I would be drinking Chianti again that afternoon (I know, poor me). I would be saved, however. As we neared our hotel, we took a side street where, low and behold, there was a German beer bar serving Paulaner! Naturally, I drank a Salvator, I needed saving from all these crushed grapes.

Amanda's beverage of choice, cappuccino decaffeinato.
We did eventually return to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà when it was open later in the week. I enjoyed a few wonderful Italian beers served by a decidedly “Roman” bartender who was little in the ways of idle chatter, preferring instead to drive around on a scooter and smoke cigarettes, I supposed. No matter, the beer was excellent. I particularly enjoyed a Saison from a brewery called Extraomnes from the north of Italy.  Peppery spice notes enveloped in waves of yeasty fruitiness and a bready softness around the edges made this the best beer I had in Italy.

I realize I frame all these travelogues around the beers I drink.  That’s natural in a blog about beer, I suppose. But these are merely snippets of a total. The people I meet, the places I see and especially the lovely companions I choose to travel with make up a much larger part of the total experience.  This trip in particular could not have been made complete without my favorite travel companion who got to drink no beer, or wine for that matter, due to a little something that would present herself but several months hence.  Our next trip (two years since the former!) will be this November to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and a decade of companionship, so…


I promise, I’ll buy the first round.

Love, MIKE

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