Detour to Rome (Rome)

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What would make your year- winning the lottery? True love? Peace on Earth? Okay- all those would of course be fantastic- but I mean in the realm of reality. You know- like winning concert tickets, finally kissing someone you’ve always wanted to, or having an olive branch extended from a long-time feuding neighbor. What would do it for you?

For me, the culminating wonder of 2013 (subject to change given the date) was walking into new craft beer destination Tørst in New York City earlier this week and having the bartender say, “Hey- Didn’t I meet you in Rome last month at EurHop?”

I’m a beer geek- what can I say?

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And, why yes, Kim, you did!

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Rome was not on my original Italian itinerary. I had planned to be in Venice for a week followed by another week exploring craft beer, white truffles, and wine in Piedmont. Period. But I’m always ready for a detour.

Rome is a six hour drive from Gorzegno, where I was staying in Piedmont. I like to drive- especially the un-guarded hairpin turns of Piedmont in a stick- heaven! And loyal readers know I’m willing to drive five hours from my home in Cambridge for an amazing meal in Montreal. But this was different.

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First Teo Musso of Baladin in Piozzo told me about EurHop, a new festival of European craft beer. Then Riccardo at Montegioco mentioned he was going. Then out of nowhere Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne in Brussels texted that he would be there and wondered if I was going. And finally- the deciding factor- I learned that Marjorie Jacobi would be there! (More on this later- en français bien sûr!)

So beer travelers, here is what I learned, on the fly, about craft beer in Rome.

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I don’t usually endorse hotels. This site is about sipping fine and interesting beverages, not the hospitality scene. But when I realized the official EurHop hotel was full I was stuck. It was two days before the fest, and no one I knew was in town yet. The fest was actually a bit outside the center of Rome- not much else there. The GPS saved me. (It owed me, having let me down so often the previous two weeks) I flicked on the “show hotels” feature and plugged in the addresses of the three beer destinations I knew of. Fate was on my side- they were all near each other, and also near the Colosseum which I’d always wanted to see.

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Mind you, I was already in Rome and had spent seven hours in the car. Lovely scenery passing the Mediterranean and all. But it was three more hours, eleven hotel tries, two police officers, a tiny sort-of accident with a wall, and one wonderful Peter Sellers movie scene of an endless roundabout later- I found Tiziano Hotel. It has parking, but you have to drive a few curvy blocks to it and they send a bellhop with you so you can find your way back on foot. And do you know in one of the cobbled linked alleyways we walked through when returning to the hotel we passed a beery crowd spilled outside of… Open Baladin? Yes- right there! I knew that my hotel karma had been restored. The next corner we turned on faced the full moon as a backdrop to the Colosseum. Wow. Even my tough looking car guide had to pause in a moment of wonder at the site. We exchanged smiles and continued back to the hotel.

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The next two days were all about exploring Rome and beer. See?

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One must cross this lovely bridge to get from the Tiziano Hotel/Open Baladin side of the river to the Bir & Fud/Ma Che side.

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And finally- EurHop.

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I had agreed to help Yvan pour for Brasserie de la Senne, which worked out great since his plane ended up being delayed for hours. His booth was next to Jean of Cantillon.

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I later heard that the next night, after I’d been long gone speeding towards Torin, there were still lines out the door after 12:30 in the morning! But on this first night of a first ever fest, no one was sure of anything, everyone was delighted to be there, and lots of people just ran around giving warm greetings. Here are some examples:

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Marjori Jacobi et moi, ensemble encore!

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The guy from La Fine Mousse in Paris recognized me- that’s quite a memory!

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Valter of LoverBeer, me, and Skigi of Extraomnes

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Yvan finally made it!

So why the big deal about Tørst? First, it’s almost as hard to find as a hotel in Rome, even with an address.

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Second, I was meeting an old neighbor there.

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Third, I had just seen Valter again in NY the night before at Proletariat to taste his wondrous LoverBeer.

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Finally, I love to be reminded just how small the artisanal beer world is. Inextricably connected to cheese makers, bee keepers, yeast cultivators- and friends of terroir, fermentation, careful cultivation, and other living sensory expressions everywhere. In a word, with all its meanings: culture!

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Rome

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