Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Italia Part 2

Leaving Brassiere 4:20, we headed straight to the Beer Party, some Italian craft beer organisation had set up for that weekend. This is some sort of mash of beer and music in a nice park in Roma, complete with auditorium complex, nice stone features to sit on and a wide panoramic stage. On offer were a variety of craft us beers in key-keg form and other prominent breweries from Europe such as, from memory, Brew Dog and De Molen. Unfortunately, due to little light and my pathetic knowledge of Italian words, it was hard to depict offerings available. The group's gracious host just explained, whilst they were drunk, which beers we were consuming. The night culminated with a high abv 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' by Scottish brewers Brewdog and a giddy and obscure walk back to the host's apartment. The, now assumed lost, taxi driver whom had been called at 3am failed to turn up so walking was our only option.

Whilst we arrived at the apartment some ridiculously rare Madeira from the 1920's was to be consumed. To say I was content was an understatement. These vintage bottles are considerably rare. To get them you really have to be in industry. Thankfully we were with Mr Industry of the Italian beer scene. This is a fortified wine, similar to port and made in a Portugese-owned Island. The Island of Madiera is as exotic and provocative as the content in the thick, half litre glass bottle.

At between 6-7 am I woke up with some acute pain somewhere inside my head. Damn. An espresso, costing only '50 cents' which was graciously poured by my good Danish friend and I'm much better. Rich, coffee, bitter, cream, nutty texture and intense bittering is what is required to acclimatise to the intensities of the morning light and accompanying aromas of thick dew. I feel fresher and energised and ready for some real rustic food. After our group has re-formed we depart the top lavish apartment for a remote vineyard on the edge of the City.

This proceeds in one of the best hangover cures ever. A massive, steak cooked for relatively nothing in a vineyard establishment. Their own wine is only 1.50 Euros and tasting as good as a £15 Burgandy with considerable aging so, obviously I was utterly content. The steak was as good as it is in those mad Gaelic institution pubs were they have it as bloody as possible. I love a bloody steak and this was just dandy. My stomach was filled and my glass was occupied with small samples of red wine; 3 Fonteinen ‘Schaerbeekse Kriek’ and a Hanssens’ ‘Oud Kriek’ along with a tasty IPA which I forget (hey when you have lambic after steak you always forget). The meal finished with an appetiser, an alcoholic lemon-sherbet shot which was absolutely stunning. Like a distilled version of the sherbet bon-bons available in sweet-shops, the small round balls full of sugar and a massive crunch to match and leave your mouth reeling with sourness, considerable tart and a satisfying acid-kick. Something I would gladly drink at a modern bar. Someone sign it up.

By now it was very late afternoon so back to the base of the weekend which was Brassiere 4:20. Call a cab, this one turns up, head for the hotel, refreshing shower, change of clothes, early evening Ice Cream, something not to be missed in Italy, traditional, and a walk back to the base of the weekend for a few evening drinks.

This bar has an astronomical range of taps. I went through some crazed list like a raging fanatic which contained some of the following beers: De Molen Bommen and Granaten, Dutch for The Windmill Brewery and Bombs and Grenades, a stunningly complex and delicate barely wine, this is ON TAP, a beer I love, Moor brewery from Langport in rural Somerset (love Moor and to see them there was epic), West Coast IPA, joint brewing venture by Gadds’ Brewery in Ramsgate and Revolution Cat, native of Roma, owned by our hos of the weekend, 10 year old lambic from Frank Boon's brewery, Boon. Stunning. Most places would never ever even dream of seeing these world class ranges and one offs. Truly mesmerising.

Additionally out of the establishment's seemingly never-ending cellar came some stunning mead from a bottle, some random bottles were opened and I ended up VERY drunk, happy, chatting to the cutest Italian waitress trying to make her understand that Bommen and Granaten is one of the best beers for its style and very rare and Boon lambic mixed with Mead was a good idea, the Mead increasing the texture of the delicate lambic to create a stiff-wooden sipping beer with a delicate kick of acid, tart and all the funk and brett you could wish for. Exotic to say the least.

The food we had for the evening there was mind-blowing. I had the best ever cheese cake I have ever had. Something which I refuse to eat in England as it is made entirely differently here, the American style of cheese cake. I had plate after plate of samples of amazing artisinal food, shared between four. Simply phenomenal level of craftsmanship occurred inside the kitchen that night. This place is a gastro bar with style! Probably the best complete food day of my entire life. I was left with utopia-like content and flustered with a gastronomic fulfillment rarely achieved before.

At around 01:00am my hotel companion and myself left Brassiere 4:20 despite knowing the venue closes at 4!! We stumbled out into the streets fancying games of pool and wondering where we could get bottles of Tipopils from to take home to England with us. A light abv lager full of honey, some lyches but utterly delicate and soft on the palate. An ideal cleanser for your palate. Our fruitless search at the only open off license we could find proved to be an epic fail. Still on a massive high we walked back to the hotel for a solid and required night's sleep.

On the final day we had marvellous risotto (rice) balls cooked in bread crumbs at a fantastic restaurant in the center of Roma. Pizza was perfect and to die for. There it was served squared instead of round. This is in tradition with true Roman standards. I found the Lovabeer lambic I was after and the place had Tipopils’ lager so it was the perfect destination to relax and wait for our entourage from their sleepy-slumber.

After another exceptional and world-class lunch we headed back to Brassiere 4:20, had our final drinks, said our good-byes and left. Sorry for lack of photos and accuracies but it was a very very beery weekend and I loved every minute of it. I recommend going to Roma and going to just three places. This is all you need. Brasserie 4:20, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà and Bir and Fud.

I missed the Coliseum. I missed doing sites. I did however have the best beery weekend of my life and want to go back.

You don't even need to be a tourist but you will enjoy yourself in spectacular fashion. I can not wait to go back. Italian customs are such a delight. Recovery is an option which you will need after you get back. Sight-seeing is my excuse to return next time. Promptly, hopefully.

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