A repository of articles, musings and hazy recollections concerning pubs and beer from a London-dwelling beer user.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
While the two-week honeymoon my wife and I enjoyed from Rome through Umbria in September was, perhaps, a little too geographically limited to qualify on the eighteenth century Grand Tour scale of mind expansion (we didn't, after all, visit many brothels), some of the beers we enjoyed certainly did. Italy is incubating a beer culture that looks almost ready to pop out of its parochial shell.
On his blog, Jeff has waxed lyrical about the Trastevere district of Rome and its stellar pub Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà - none of which will stop me doing the same. First of all, the tiny, long corridor of an interior, with wood smothered in footie memorabilia (chiming with the establishment's nickname as 'The Football Pub') is in itself tremendously imbued with the charm of its locals, exuding warmth and humour. On mentioning I knew Jeff a little, Manuele (pictured above, left with jesusjohn) was generous to a fault and invited his locals to regale us with anecdotes of their trip to see Jeff and experience CAMRA's GBBF a couple of years ago. To hear Romans excitedly claim, seemingly with genuine affection, 'I love Earl's Court - it's a special place' was one of the more surreal experiences of the trip, but lovely for all that.
Manuele's beer selection is first class and his sourcing of these nectars, on questioning, seemed to rely on byzantine links of friends with vans and hauliers able to grab some bottles, a keg or a cask (yes, cask) or two on their way back from other business. All a bit Smokey and the Bandit, I thought.
The mind-boggling collection of international beers was striking (BrewDog Chaos Theory on keg, Tokyo* in its bottle - not many places you'd find that here in Blighty - among many others), but the Italian offering was compelling.
Would that I could wax lyrical about a selection, but Manuele directed me to Urtiga (4.8%) from Milan's very own Birrificio Lambrate and I dropped on that for most of the session. With a slight haze, orange-gold hue and generous head, the impact was gorgeously earthy, with herbal hops and a well-matched body of malt. A superb lesson in the art of balance and proof, if any were needed, that mid-ABV beers can deliver a distinctively pleasing experience (something I think we beer enthusiasts lose sight of all too often in the quest for novelty). The clientele spilled into the street; young and cosmopolitan, the crowd was split between those there for the beer, those there for the football - crammed round a tiny TV right in front of the bar itself and those who just wanted a good time.
All are well-served by this terrific institution, which could teach bars the world over a thing or two.
Do watch that Smokey & the Bandit video, incidentally (link above).
Here, gratuitously, is a trailer for Andre de la Varre Jr's epic Grand Tour '70, which is described in what I can only assume is de la Varre Jr's characteristically modest tone as 'probably the most important travel adventure you've ever seen'.