After spending a couple millennia (give or take) as one of the world’s great producers of wine, Italy has gone wild for craft beer over the past few years. More than 600 craft breweries have sprung up, most of them recently, to prove that the country can be as dominant in the world of beer as it always has been in other culinary pursuits.
When in Italy, go beyond the internationally known brands Peroni and Moretti and try something new: You almost can’t go wrong, because when it comes to food and drink, the Italians always resolve to make their products as well (and as locally) as possible. Italy’s beer scene will look familiar to North American and Japanese visitors, in the sense that there’s plenty of experimentation and no dominant national beer style, so all types of beer flourish together.
Rome, at the centre of the country both geographically and psychologically, is arguably the best place to try the gloriously varied new wave of Italian beers (as evidenced by the numerous signs boasting “birra artiginale,” meaning craft beer). Here’s where to seek out the suds.
Bir & Fud
Pizza and beer is as classic a combination in Italy as it is anywhere else, and Bir & Fud helps them get along even more famously: It offers suggestions as to which of its 36 Italian beers on tap goes best with each deliciously bubbly pie.
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà
Across the street from Bir & Fud, this cozy, busy, noisy bar calls itself a football pub — the URL is www.football-pub.com — which is why it gave itself this mouthful of a name. That’s apparently a football chant, and means something like, “What did you come here to do?” What you should come for is the beer: The taps rotate between well-selected foreign and domestic craft beers; among the latter, Italy’s usual diversity is on display — meaning you can order a locally made saison (tart and zippy) one moment, and an Irish-style ale (red and malty-sweet) the next. If the football is on, it may be wise to make sure you’re cheering for the same side as everyone else.
Since 1986, Baladin has been a pioneer of craft brewing in Italy. The high-ceilinged, colourful Open Baladin in the central Campo dei Fiori neighbourhood is its showroom in Rome. You can try Baladin’s own almost ridiculously vast array of beers, as well as dozens of bottled beers from across Italy — all while sampling the snackable specialty: house-made, satisfyingly salty potato chips in flavours like parmesan and truffle.
It’s true that BrewDog is from Scotland, but the sometimes outlandish independent brewing company displays a showmanship that somehow fits right in here. The mix on the 20 or so draft taps is about 50 percent BrewDog’s own, 30 percent Italian craft, 20 percent everything else. Need a refreshment after checking out the Colosseum? BrewDog is a few minutes’ walk away.
Conveniently located between Termini train station and the Colosseum, Domus Birrae is the best tiny specialty beer store in Rome, and probably all of Italy. Offering no frills and no decoration — just beer packed nearly to the ceiling on plain shelves — it’s chock full of interesting choices to bring with you on the train, back to your accommodations, or (nicest of all) along on that picnic at the grounds of the Villa Borghese.
You’ll see Eataly described as a supermarket, but it’s much more than that. It’s a multi-floor temple dedicated to Italian food — a veritable paradise to those who love this country’s cuisine and products. Thankfully that includes beer; there’s a section dedicated to Italian brews on the top floor. One storey down, look for the Birreria, a casual sports bar-style eating area where you can sample from among half a dozen Italian indie beers on tap, and pair them with panini or taglieri (Roman-style rectangular-shaped pizza). Finish it with a beer-infused “birramisù”: It’s a play on tiramisù, and a fine way to end a beery adventure in Rome.
Getting thirsty? G Adventures can bring you to some of the best craft brews in Rome and beyond. Check out our small group tours to Italy here.