Thursday, October 14, 2010

Due Brunos

It's been almost a month since we returned from Italy, and I'm just now writing my final post about the trip. What can I say? It's been a busy time for me and KJ, as we finalize plans to move into our new home south of the Charles River. That latter detail is quite significant, as in my 13 years in the Boston area, I've always lived, and been partial to, north of the river. Of course, that had much to do with my Cambridge snobbery, which I abandoned over five years ago anyway.

OK, back to Italy. After picking up a rental car in Florence, we headed to Tuscany, where we stayed in a fantastic agriturismo called Torraccia di Chiusi, located just outside of San Gimignano. In case you're not familiar, an agriturismo is kind of like a bed & breakfast on a farm/vineyard. For five days we toured Tuscan hillside towns, then returned each night to a fantastic five-course meal—prepared by chef Bruno—usually accompanied by a bottle of their homemade house red wine.

View from our balcony at Torraccia di Chiusi

Yes, it's true that I drank my fair share of red wine during our Italian vacation. However, the discovery of Domus Birrae in Rome wasn't our only experience with craft beer on the trip. While exploring the nearby—to San Gimignano—town of Colle di Val D'elsa, I spotted a store window sign advertising homemade beer. What we found inside were several offerings brewed by Birrificio L'Olmaia in Montepulciano. I couldn't decide between their amber—LA 9 (Birra Ambrata)—and their dark—BK (Birra Scura)—so when KJ suggested we get both, how could I say no?

Birrificio L'Olmaia BK
I enjoyed L'Olmaia's LA 9 a little more than I did the BK, although the private terrace of our Venice hotel room (pictured to the right) provided quite the setting for my consumption of the latter. The former was a nice, pleasantly malty, somewhat yeasty tasting amber. The yeasty taste reminds me of a home brew, a charming quality in a beer, in my opinion. BK tastes a lot like a typical German dark beer to me, which raises the question: are these ales or lagers? There was no way of telling based on information on the labels, but checking their web site later, BK is described as top-fermented, which means it's an ale. My guess is that the LA 9 is an ale as well.

Other than the four Italian craft beers I stumbled upon, my alcohol consumption on the trip consisted mainly of red wine. I honestly don't think it's an exaggeration to say that wine was generally cheaper than water there. I did, however, get a taste of the two most widely distributed Italian beers as well. In fact, at one point I ordered a Peroni in a restaurant, and the waiter brought me a Moretti instead. It didn't matter, as when I drank a Peroni several days later, I was unable to make a decision as to which one is better. There's really no distinguishable difference, as far as I'm concerned.

Just before we headed to Italy, I wrote that I thought baseball was what Italy does best, in terms of my blog's three major subject areas. It turned out that our time there proved me wrong, as I underestimated the Italians' abilities in the realm of craft beer. Regarding the other two subjects, it was great running into a couple serious baseball fans in Florence, but we couldn't find any endearing qualities in the Italian music scene. In fact, our experience was mostly negative, as we were forced to repeatedly listen to the Lady Gaga atrocity "Alejandro," as well as to revisit other American songs that I would just assume never have to hear again, such as Aerosmith's "Pink" and Phil Collins's "Another Day in Paradise."

But, I digress. Upon returning to the states, we adopted a three-year old orange tabby from Mid-Hudson Animal Aid's Essie Dabrusin Cat Sanctuary in Beacon, New York, which we named after the wonderful chef at Torraccia di Chiusi.

Don't worry, I don't intend to turn this into a blog about my cat, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce my readers to the newest member of our family, the adorable—if I do say so myself—Bruno.

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