Craft Brew in Italy – Part 3

We recently took a 12 day trip to Italy.  Looking back, we should have done longer, but the amount we accomplished in the time we were there was staggering.  Although finding craft brew in Italy was tough, it was not impossible.

Our visit included 3 nights in Venice, 3 nights in Florence, 2 nights in Cinque Terra, and 2 nights in Rome (travel time knocked off essentially 2 days).  We also had a 7 hour layover, which allowed some time to hop into London and get a brew.

In short, Rome had the best beer scene, Florence seemed to have a growing one, Cinque Terre had one good beer bar, and Venice was…tough. I will go through each city in the order we visited.

Rome

Rome was our last stop of beercation 2016. We had somewhat tempered expectations and feared Rome would be too touristy and hectic, and so only had 2 nights in town. However, we were pleasantly surprised.

Rome is an incredible city. The tourist sights are obviously a must-do, but we had what was probably my favorite night of the trip once we got outside the sights.

The first thing we did after our five hour train ride from the coast and checking in the hotel was eat and grab a drink. Options were abound, and Rome clearly had some of the more diverse food options available. We were pleasantly surprised to find many food options we would expect to find in San Francisco. After traveling for two weeks and eating rich and heavy food constantly, we were craving something on the healthier side, and Rome had plenty of options.  We strolled through the Monti neighborhood along Via Urbana and were able to get a decent beer and healthy lunch at a place I now cannot remember the name of or find, doh!

We then proceeding to try and squeeze in all the main attractions we could. Over the next 36 hours, we visited The Roman Forum and surrounding sights, did a guided nighttime tour of the Colosseum, visited the Vatican City and toured St. Peter’s Basilica and up to the top of the duomo (unfortunately the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel were closed), saw the Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain, went inside the Pantheon, and popped our heads in countless other churches (many of which would have been incredible on their own if you were not comparing to the basilica or duomos we had already seen)

In order of preference, of the “major sights,” my favorites were as follow:

1. Night tour of the Colosseum.  It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.  We started with a guided tour around the outside of Palantine and Capitole Hills and the Forum, then around and inside the  Colosseum.  We were in a group of about 20, and there were only a few groups allowed in. The night tour was more expensive, and did not include a tour of the Forum, but you can do that separately. The night tour was relaxed and had so many less people. Moreover, you got to see the “underworld” of the Colosseum where the gladiators and animals stayed until they fought. This was only available in the night tour and very cool.

img_9726

2. St. Peter’s Basilica. We went to Vatican City on a Sunday so the museum and Sistine Chapel were closed. However, still worth heading over just for the basilica. It is insanely huge and stunning. The artwork and sculptures inside are amazing, but the sheer size of the place is the star of the show. We also went up to the top of the duomo, which was…an experience. We chose to walk (elevator was an extra few Euros but I was ok working off the beers and pasta) but in either event, you had to walk up the stairs of the dome itself. This was intense. The stairs are steep and circle around he dome. For a 6’5″ guy this was brutal. I was hunched over the whole way. Worse, it was hot and claustrophobic. People were freaking out, and the would try to walk against traffic to leave. It was a disaster, as turning around made it ten times worse for everyone. However, when (if) you made it up top, wow.

3. Pantheon. Most people think of the Pantheon and see the exterior.  I imagined it to be out on its own somewhere and you looked at the outside and moved on. I was way off. The Pantheon is in the middle of a walkable and vibrant neighborhood and piazza.  The interior is amazing, with an open ceiling.  Totally surprised by how much I liked it (and it is free!).

IMG_9828.JPG

4.  Other worthwhile stops:  Trevi Fountain and the Roman Forum were my other two favorite spots.  The Forum is fascinating.  We did not have a tour guide for this (since we did the night tour of the Colosseum, it did not include the guided tour of the Forum).  Trevi Fountain was beautiful and the highlight of a great walk we took between several sights. (note, the Spanish Steps were being worked on when we were there, so it was underwhelming).

img_9839

Nightlife

Somehow, even after walking and sightseeing all day, we made it out both nights in Rome.  Our second night was much more memorable.

The first night saw us cruise around the Via Urbana area.  There were a ton of people partying in the streets and full bars and restaurants.  It was fun, but nothing special.

The next night, we went out in the Trastevere.  Trastevere was about a 15 minute ride from our hotel, away from the typical tourist sights (this was the first time we had taken a cab all trip, mostly because it was raining!).  As soon as we got out of the car, we knew it was our kind of area.

Trastevere contained many small, winding streets filled with bars and restaurants.  We wanted to stop at Ma Cha Siete Venuti a Fà, a well regarded craft beer bar.  Unfortunately, it was packed and as it was pouring, drinking a beer was not a desirable option.  So, we proceeded to Bir & Fud, which was the best beer bar we visited in Italy.

Bir & Fud had pizzas and great homemade chips.  More importantly, they had at least 30 beers on tap, including several IPAs.  It was pretty slammed, but we scored a couple seats at the bar.  Bartenders were attentive and friendly, and the beers were the best beers I had on our trip.  It was a fantastic find on our last night.

After Bir y Fud, we headed to dinner at Grazia & Graziella. Despite the pouring rain, it was packed.  We sat outside under cover and stayed dry.  The servers were having a great time, singing and clearly ready to party.  We loved it.  The food was also phenomenal.  We had a killer salad with buffalo mozzarella, delicious pasta, and this crispy artichoke which was unlike any other fried artichoke I have ever had.  I can’t really describe it, you will just need to go taste it.

Overall, the Trastevere neighborhood was my favorite neighborhood of all the places we visited.  This came as a surprise, as I had heard very mixed reviews for Rome.

Conclusion

Overall, our trip to Italy was the best trip we have ever been on.  The sights were incredible, the food was amazing, the wine was great (and SO CHEAP), and the people were amazingly hospitable.  It is evident beer is becoming more popular, and I would guess by my next trip, there will be even more options.  I am looking forward to that!

Advertisements

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

Where – Dogpatch Saloon

How – On Tap (and in bombers)

ABV- 8.00%

IBUs – 102

Hop Stoopid is a nice hop bomb from Lagunitas.  Pours a clean, golden amber.

lGGY

Nose has strong grapefruit notes.  Slight caramel and boozyness.  The pup agrees.

hop

Bitter and hoppy right as it hits the lips.  Some malty sweetness and slightly earthy.  Hops come through at all points.

It is never overwhelming, and always tastes fresh and well balanced.  A great beer when you want to get hit with some strong hops, but not a massive ABV.

Overall, a solid beer, especially for the price.  Tends to be right around $4 for a bomber which feels like a steal.

88/100

http://lagunitas.com/beers/hop-stoopid/

Sierra Nevada – Flipside, Hoptimum, Torpedo, Beer Camp

We have family and Chico and make it up there several times a year.  On those trips, it is pretty much a given that we grab lunch, and more importantly, several brews at the brewery.

The most recent trip allowed me to have 4 different IPAs.  Although I can get all of these IPAs in SF, it is always better to have them at the source.

Flipside Red IPA

First beer I tried was the Flipside Red IPA, mostly because I had not yet had it.

Flipside comes in at 6.2%, with 60 IBUs.

The pour is a dark, rusty red.  Decent carbonation, especially since it was served in an IPA glass.

flip

Fairly citrus forward nose, with some maltyness and limited hop.

Flavor was malty and citrusy, with hops coming in at the end.  You definitely get an amber flavor as well, borderline caramel-y.

I would have it again, but not my first choice of the 4 I had this visit.  Most likely would enjoy it after dinner sitting by the fire.  Uniqueness did make it stand out though, as it is a nice change of pace.

82/100

http://www.sierranevada.com/beer/seasonal/flipside-red-ipa

Hoptimum

Hoptimum was second, and my favorite for the day.

ABS is 10.2%, with 100 IBUs.

The SN website gives a great description:  “Hoptimum is a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced.”

The words “biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced” are welcome words for me.

Nice copper color, and a big nose of hops, grapefruit and pine.

hopt

First taste is hope forward with some nice bitterness.  Pine and grapefruit flavors come through strong, with a hint of tropical fruit.  Only downside is you can tell it is a big, boozy beer.  Not overly so, but you can “feel” it.  It was a hot day but I still greatly enjoyed this beer.

94/100

http://www.sierranevada.com/beer/high-altitude/hoptimum-imperial-ipa

Beer Camp DIPA

The Beer Camp DIPA was third.  8.5% ABV, IBUs unknown but I would guess in the 90 range.

Fairly clear cold pour with limited head.  Fairly citrus forward nose, with some dankness.

camp

Bitter up front, with some balanced citrus flavor.  Nothing about it stands out and blows you away, but nothing about it is “great” either.  I enjoyed it, but it just did not stand up to the Hoptimum.

80/100

Torpedo Extra IPA

Finished up lunch with a Torpedo.  Obviously have had before, but always best to have it at the source.

Torpedo comes in at 7.2% with 65 IBUs.

Torpedo pours darker than most IPAs, as you can see from the picture.  Fairly creamy head that subsided relatively quickly.

torp

Aroma is a nice mix of citrus and pine.  Not overwhelming in any area.

Flavor can best be described as balanced.  You get the hops, you get some grapefruit and citrus, bitterness throughout, and the finish even has a touch of maltyness and caramel.  Just a great, clean beer.

One of the other huge bonuses with the Torpedo is you can get a 6er or 12er for a good price, and do not need to get a bomber.

I am really looking forward to trying this on cask, which apparently I can do over at the new Taproom in Berkeley.

92/100

http://www.sierranevada.com/beer/year-round/torpedo-extra-ipa

Overall, a very successful trip to the brewery.  The bro-in-law enjoyed the Session IPA they had on draft, so I will have to give that a whirl next time.

PS.  The food at the brewery is pretty good too.  The beer cheese and pretzels are a must have.

Fall River Brewing Widowmaker

Where – Anselmo Vineyards in Shingletown

How – On Draft

ABV – 10.2%

IBUs – 100+

index

We recently made the trek up north to visit family in Redding.  During our stay, we had a pretty fantastic brunch at Anselmo Vineyards in Shingletown.  Part of the reason brunch was so great, a few Widowmakers from Fall River.

I had never heard of Fall River, let alone their IIPA.  However, I was very happy to find it.

The pour is a nice copper color with medium head and carbonation.  Aroma is not as hoppy as one would expect from a IIPA with a 10.2% ABV.  Aroma had some tropical fruit notes.

widowmaker

Taste was very smooth, not overwhelmingly hoppy but the hops are present throughout.  Fairly heavy and thick mouthfeel.

If you have ever been up to Redding, you know it can get quite hot.  It was pushing 100 degrees when we were at brunch, and we were sitting outside.  Nonetheless, I was happy to suck down 3 of these with brunch.

One word to describe this beer…dangerous.  Rarely do you find a IIPA that is so drinkable.  I did not expect this beer when we planned our trip to Redding, but have a great reason to get back there (other than to see the infamous @realjohncarter and his lovely wife of course)

93/100

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Half Moon Bay Brewery is up there for my favorite breweries to visit. It is hard to beat sitting outside on the patio on a sunny day with the dog and wife.  In fact, I have been out there 3 times in the last ten days…

Most recently, I had the Tunnel Vision IPA and Princeton-by-the-Sea IPA on draft, at the brewery.

Tunnel Vision IPA

ABV – 6.6%
IBUs – 100+

hmb

I first had Tunnel Vision last year, and was very impressed by it. However, it was only a seasonal beer at that time, so it has not been around my last few visits. Now, it sounds as though they are going to keep this around on more of a full time basis, which is a good thing.

Tunnel Vision pours a dark orange/golden color with light head.

Aroma is of piney hops with some citrus. Fairly hop forward flavor, with some tropical fruits notes.

Only complaint is a slight aftertaste.

Overall, 83/100 (I was tempted to add a few bonus points just because I love drinking at the brewery so much, but held back).

Princeton-By-the-Sea IPA

ABV – 6.1%
IBUs – 65

Although this is their “regular” IPA, it is not as good as Tunnel Vision.

Clear copper color with an off-white head.

Light hoppy flavor.  This may well be why my rating is lower, as I tend to like the hoppier beers.  This one has little hop aroma and minimal hop flavor compared to the Tunnel Vision or most West Coast IPAs.  To me, it is almost more of a Pale Ale.

Very drinkable, just not the type of IPA I typically crave.  70/100.

Now, here is the kicker.  This truly is one of my favorite places to go in Northern California.  Sitting on the bay with incredible views, and good food.  The artichoke hearts, fish tacos (get them grilled with the achiote rub), and the newly improved crab roll are all bomb.

Can you complain sitting outside like this?

hmb 2

Or when before or after you eat you can be here?

hmb 3

The dog does not seem to mind heading over either…

Where to Drink IPA – Steep Brew, Whole Foods Potrero Hill

Where – 450 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94107 – (415) 552-1155

So on top of writing reviews on the IPAs I drink, I also wanted to write about the places to drink them.  Naturally, my first such post is about the place we likely grab drinks most often, Steep Brew.

Steep Brew is one of my favorite places to go put back a few IPAs. Location is a factor as it is close to home, but the constantly rotating taps is another huge draw.

We tend to go to Steep Brew at least three times a month for drinks and a light dinner or apps. The taps rotate fairly frequently, and they oftentimes have “tap takeovers” where one brewery will be featured and have several, sometimes harder to find, brews on tap.

Every visit I make starts with a flight.  This is the flight I had for National IPA Day:

 

steep

The flights are $10 ($9 during Happy Hour, which is all day Sunday and between 5 and 7 on weekdays) and a healthy pour for each of the 4 beers.  Typically, I am able to get 4 IPAs, and sometimes I can even get a second flight with 4 different IPAs.  The selection is usually pretty solid, and oftentimes I will find a beer from a brewery I have not had before.

Occasionally they will have a “tap takeover” where there will be several beers from one brewery.

They also typically have 2 beers on cask.

The staff is also great and tend to have solid beer knowledge and recommendations. One of the other great perks is that if you enjoy a beer, chances are you can run upstairs to Whole Foods and buy it to take home!

Food is also generally good.  Our favorite thing to get is the Southwestern Egg Rolls, and the truffle fried are hard to resist.  Alternatively, you can grab grub upstairs and eat at the bar.

For all these reasons Steep Brew is one of my favorite places to get a few IPAs.  The opportunity to taste something new is a huge draw, and it is easy to get to and has good food.  My wife tends to like the wine choices they have as well!