When in Rome… Drink Beer?
Let’s face it, when you think of Italy, you think of wine, not beer. Italians are wine drinkers, by and large, and when traveling in Italy, most of our clients can’t wait to explore the amazing regional wines. But at The International Kitchen we think sometimes a beer with friends is just as grand, and Italy has been making strides in the craft beer scene in the last couple of decades.
Stopping on a warm evening to have a beer with friends on an outdoor terrace is sublime. And going out for a beer and pizza in Rome is a common occurrence for much of the city’s youth, and a great way to have a delicious and inexpensive dinner. Back during my university days in Rome I used to go with friends to the Pizzeria “L’Economica” (literally, “cheap pizzeria”) in the San Lorenzo district for a pizza and a Peroni. I could get a wood-fired pizza margherita and a half liter of beer for about 7,000 lire, which back then, even with a weak dollar, was about six bucks.
But when in Rome, or in Italy in general, should you really try the beer, or just stick to the wine?
In the past beer in Italy meant Peroni or Moretti. Although these producers make different types of beer, the pale lagers Peroni “Nastro Azzurro” (Blue Ribbon) and “Birra Moretti” are the most commonly found, and quite frankly, they will quench your thirst on a hot day, but not wow your taste buds if you are a beer connoisseur. Moretti does make a stronger lager, called “La Rossa,” which is quite tasty.
However, Italy has been experiencing a renaissance in artisanal beer production, with small craft breweries popping up in many regions, most notably in Piedmont, the Veneto, Sardinia, and Lazio. What are some of the best new craft beer producers?
One of the most known is Baladin, located in Piozzo (near Cuneo, Piedmont). Originally a pub that opened some 30 years ago, it has turned into one of the most known quality beer producers and distributors in Italy. In 2009 the “Open Baladin Roma” pub opened near Rome’s famed Campo de’ Fiori, serving well over a hundred Italian and international craft beers. If you’re a beer drinker in Rome and want to check out the local brews, it’s the best place to start.
And in Lazio, the “Birra del Borgo” brewery, located in the province in Rieti (on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo), is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It’s “ReAle” (“reale” is “real” in Italy, and the play is on the English word “Ale”) is considered one of Italy’s best beers, with a strong, slightly bitter yet citrusy flavor.
By Peg Kern
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