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Beer Hunt pt 2 : Under the Tuscan Sun or Drunk under a Tuscan table

The next leg of our journey to Italy took us to Florence, right in the heart of Tuscan wine county. Surely beer would be even harder to find here than in Rome. Turns out, maybe that isn’t the case after all.

Florence, or Firenze as the locals call it, was hands down my favorite place we visited. It’s relatively small and easy to walk around and soak up all the history. This is the home of renaissance and the people there have worked hard to preserve that look and feel to the town.
Don’t let that last part fool you, there is still a lot of modern life mixed in with the history. For the record I’d just like to state that the Duomo is possibly the most impressive building I have seen in my life. It’s just amazing to see with your own eyes.

Walking the streets of the Florence is a lot of fun. You are never too far away from a really cool historical landmark or a gelataria for those moments when absolutely need a waffle cone of gelato.
The first pub we came across was nothing to write home about. I stared to get discourage. Did I miss my window to explore some new beers while in Rome?

The next day, after a very nice guided walking tour of the town, we came to a large farmers market. Bread, cheeses, sausage and wine as everywhere you looked in this town square. Tucked discreetly amongst all that bread and cheese was a table for a small micro brewery in the region. The microbrewery was called Conte Di Campiglia.
We were able to sample their standard lager which was pretty solid. The taste was a little different from what most of are accustomed to, I believe this has to with the Italian obsession with hazelnuts. They love hazelnut in everything over there, it may be the one thing they love more than smoking…nah, who am I kidding on that?
This microbrewery embodied that love of hazelnut in everything they made.
We purchased two bottles of their seasonal brews, a pumpkin ale and a Christmas beer, to take back and drink at our hotel later that night.

Both of those seasonal beers were unique to say the least. The pumpkin was strong on the boozy qualities, almost to the point of overwhelming the pumpkin, which was a more subtle flavor. Not my favorite pumpkin beer, but not the worst by far. The Christmas beer was better overall but that crazy obsession with hazelnut was very noticeable in this brew as well. Still, it wasn’t enough to make me put down.

The next night out was where thing got interesting.

We pretty much stumbles across a pub called The King Grizzly, and I was shocked to see some of the beers they had available there. Now it wasn’t a crazy huge selection by any means, but they were stocking a nice assortment of American craft beers including Anderson Valley. Looking at the drafts I saw a bunch of beers I was unfamiliar with but after having a nice conversation about how Italy has a small but growing craft beer movement with the bartender/owner Alessandro, he broke out a couple bottles from his hometown brewery, Birrificio Emiliano – and dig this: These guys are into hops.

The first bottle we broke open was the Rimasta Di Farro – it’s essentially an Italian version of an American pale ale. It’s comes in at 5.5%ABV and has some nice flavor notes to it. You can find the English hops, and it’s not pushed to hard but malts. I enjoyed it very much.

Next up from the selection of Emiliano bottles was Pomposa. It’s a dark ale, along the lines of a Belgian, but I think it’s been tweaked a little to give it a bit of an Italian feel to it as well. It comes in at 6.1ABV but like the previous beer it lacks that sort of kick you in the butt feel that I makes me like a beer more than most.

Our final bottle and the creme de la creme of the whole nigh was Imperium also from Emiliano. This beer was really good. It was about as close I was going to get to a San Diego style IPA and I was very surprised and pleased by it. At 7%ABV this beer is nothing to sneeze at either. Now, listen, if you were to line this beer up against Stone or Ballast Point of Green Flash, I’m not saying it would hold a candle to them but in my opinion this beer is a sign of things to come in Italy and their small but growing craft beer movement. This is the direction I’d like to see that movement head in. The initial reaction I witnessed to others drinking the Imperium seemed to say that maybe they aren’t quite ready for a hops take over just yet, but it’s got to start somewhere and this beer is the kind that will push things in the right direction.

We would spend another evening at the King Grizzly talking further with Alessandro and the evolving beer culture in his country. He’s a good dude and luckily his English is pretty good too but my Italian is for shit.

So basically this was my find of the trip. If we are ever lucky enough to go back to Italy I’d love the opportunity to explore and go on a few more beer oriented adventures. I got the impression that what I found was barely the tip of the iceberg as fast as micro-brewing in Italy is concerned.  For now, the tip will just have to be enough. That’s what she said. BOOM!

Salute,

Tom

Not too shabby

Not too shabby

Hello friend.

Hello friend.

Me happy.

Me happy.

An italian IPA? OK!

An italian IPA? OK!

A nice start.

A nice start.

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The Great Hunt part 1: Beer in wine country? Or Rome…if you want to.

Italy is a country known for wine.

That doesn’t mean, however, that beer isn’t around. The problem, really, is the quality of the beer that you are able to find most easily. Let the hunt begin!

The first leg of our honeymoon took us to Rome. Flying in on Alitalia, I can honestly tell you, was one of the worst flights of my life. A back injury that had been manageable prior to the flight became unrelenting torture once we were on the ground. To top that off, if you have never experienced the “WTF” thought pattern as you watch the luggage carousel spin past you over and over again without seeing your luggage…well, I am jealous of you. Somehow our baggage did not make the connecting flight from JFK in New York. I suspect it had something to do with the pilot attempting to leave the terminal early. Jackass. So we had to dash across the airport to even make the flight only to ultimately end up sitting on the runway for 40 minutes.

Off to a bad start.

Once we get to the hotel we decide we need to work on our lack of cloths and bathroom supplies. It pretty much takes all day. As we are walking back to out hotel, walking was a challenge due to the back pain I was experiencing, we popped into a small liquor store where they insisted on giving us free shots of a popular Italian drink called “lemoncella”. I thought it was a little like drinking Pledge. No idea why this beverage is so popular in Italy.

I don’t really like Peroni. Yes, I said it. I just find it to be a poor beer. So we grab a couple of bottles of Moretti and Nastro Azzurro. These beers aren’t great either. In fact, they kind of suck. Just boring, flavorless beers. Its was disappointing but honestly not very surprising.

Now I’d like to state for the record, I came to Rome prepared. I had done my research using Beeradvocate.com and had managed to gather a list of about four pubs known for their excellent beer selection.

Sadly, I never got anywhere near these bars. Our time in Rome was very structured and factoring in the incredible back pain I was suffering through that kept me incredibly limited and not very mobile. It was frustrating for me because I was looking forward to checking out those spots.

Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t manage to find a pub. There are a couple Irish Pub around and we found one owned by a very nice lady who moved to Italy from Scottland. The tap selection wasn’t anything crazy, but it was my first opportunity to try Tennent’s Scotch Ale. I liked it quite a bit. This was our last night in Rome, so it was very nice to find a few beers at least.

I honestly struck out in Rome as far as I’m concerned. Not making it to the bar’s that I had researched was just bad luck.  I will have to take the blame for not finding great beers in Rome. Now Florence on the other hand…

Stay tuned for part 2 where we head to Florence and maybe make a few neat discovery’s.

Salute,

Tom

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