Sunday, September 19, 2010

Birra Artigianale a Roma (Craft Beer in Rome)

KJ and I returned yesterday from a two-week trip to Italy. Of course, we didn't travel to this beautiful country in Southern Europe for anything related to my three major interests: beer, baseball and music. Nevertheless, I was still on the lookout for appropriate subject matter for this blog, and I was a little more successful than expected. So, I thought I'd write about our experiences and also share a couple observations from our sightseeing endeavors in the process.

Our flight touched down in Rome on September 3, and one of the first things I noticed on the way to our hotel room was a craft beer store. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. We didn't make our way back to the store until the next day, but we were also quite pleased with the friendly and extremely helpful store clerk we met at Domus Birrae. He informed us that they sell only Italian micros and helped us select two fine beers based on our description of what we like.

Orso Verde Rebelde & Birra del Borgo Re Ale Extra
The first of these was Re Ale Extra, brewed by Birra del Borgo in the village of Borgorose, about an hour northeast of Rome. Literally translated, the brewery's name means "Beer of the Village," and their creation was the best Italian microbrew we tasted on the entire trip. Classified as an IPA, it tasted more like a nicely hopped pale ale with a little extra maltiness (6.5% ABV) to me. In fact, I wasn't all that impressed on my first sip, but once I accepted that this wasn't going to be like the American IPAs I'm used to, I really enjoyed it.

The other beer we picked up at Domus Birrae was an Orso Verde Rebelde, brewed by Birrificio L'Orso Verde in Busto Arsizio, about 45 minutes northwest of Milan. At 7.5% ABV, it's a little stronger than Re Ale Extra, but not quite as good. The aroma does absolutely nothing for me—KJ referred to it as smelling of "flat malt"—but it has a nice bite, nice maltiness, and just a little hint that reminds me of other European beers. The latter characteristic makes me think it has something to do with the water, but I really don't know for sure.

I also learned quite a few important Italian words in the process. Of course, birrificio means brewery. But, more importantly, malto is malt, lievito is yeast and luppolo means hops, an obvious derivation of humulus lupulus, the species name for the common hop flower.

Sistine Chapel
Despite our discovery of Domus Birrae, the real highlights of Rome and the Vatican City were the Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Sistine Chapel. As a librarian who wants nothing to do with shushing patrons, I sympathized with the security guards at the latter sight, whose primary purpose seems to be futilely attempting to keep the noise level down and preventing photographs from being taken. Since photos were allowed elsewhere in the Vatican Museum, many tourists—ourselves included—got in a shot or two before realizing they were prohibited. The photo here isn't the greatest—mainly due to poor lighting—but I'm including it anyway.

Of course, I'm far from an art expert, but I have to say I agree with those who believe that Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is the greatest individual work of art in history. That's not to mention the fact that he followed that up with his rendering of the Last Judgment on the wall behind the altar.

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