Tuesday, 22 March 2011

When in Rome....

So myself and my girlfriend jetted off to Rome last weekend, as well as the sight seeing, culture & great food, I squeezed in some time to sample some of Rome and Italy's finest bars and beers. Having booked the trip a few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find Zach Avery's article on Rome's Craft Beer scene in CAMRA's spring edition of BEER magazine.

Rome is a fascinating city, with  thousands of years of history, when standing next to the Colosseum or the Arch of Constantine it's hard to quantify just how old they are. There's simply so much to offer, around every corner there seems to be either a church with hidden grandeur or an ancient ruin to grab your attention and takes you off your route.

Our first day found ourselves walking around the city taking in the sites and generally experiencing Rome's wonder. Walking down Via de Torre Argentina past the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina (the site where Caesar was assassinated) whilst my girlfriend befriended the local stray cats that have made the ruins there home. It was getting cold and decided it was time for a beer and somewhere warm.  A quick look at the map showed that Open Baladin was around there somewhere! Tucked of a side street off Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, is the Beer Drinkers mecca Open Baladin.

Wall of Bottles
Open is the type of place you could quite easily walk past without ever knowing whats behind its doors. None the less than 12 taps adorn the bar with 3 or 4 hand pumps as well as a wall of beer bottles. Taking a seat at the bar in front of a a Brew Dog Rip Tide pump clip, I was both excited and disappointed that a brand I'm overly familiar was on offer. Asking the advice of the friendly bar staff and trying a beautiful beer made with horse chestnuts, I settled for a Birra del Borgo - Re Ale 6.4% ABV. An Italian take on an American style IPA. While Christine plumped for a  deliciously fruity Peach beer.

Next up was a wonderfully hoppy beer Birra del Borgo - Hoppy Cat.  Getting hungry and with the night well and truly beginning we sampled one of Open's special burgers and home made crisps and like several reviews gone before I was not disappointed a beautiful rare burger oozing with flavour and topped off with Opens home made ketchup!

Making friends with a local who now resides in London we took the offer to catch a bit of live music. Armed with a map drawn on the back of a napkin we headed of in the rough direction. Just as we'd decided to give up I spot a small chalk board sign in the entrance to a book shop. Tucked away in under books was a small bar with 3-4 different beers on tap and there regular Porter House Oyster Stout. With a CAMRA certificate on the wall to accompany it. This time Kwak was on tap and more because I love the glass than anything else decided on a tipple and sat down to check out "Midnight Radio" with their beautiful jazz flute and looped guitar. My girlfriend certainly approved of my choice in beer as the next time I turned round my drink was all but done! With that we set off for our stroll through Rome's street lit Via's.

Bir e Fud
The following evening we headed south of the river to Trastevere looking for a highly recommended pizzeria Da Poeta we stumbled across Bier e Fud (Beer & Food) and Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa (But What Did You Do?). With Da Poeta heaving, to the extent they have employed a doorman/bouncer who informed us there was an hour wait. We decided to check out Bier e Fud with only a hand written sign on that wall and no pump clips, it was hard to work out what beers were on offer. Once again asking the advice of the staff I had a Birrificio Lambrate - Lambrate 6.8% ABVand beautifully picked Birrificio Rurale - Seta 5% ABV
for my girlfriend. Having a great time we stayed for another this time I tried the wonderful Birra del Borgo Duc Ale 8% ABV a deep rich dark beer, with a lovely coffee chocolate after taste I litrally didn't want to put it down.

After a wonderful meal in Da Poeta we headed back to Via Benedetta to pop in to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa. Its walls adored with Football paraphernalia and a Harveys mirror! It really didn't feel like we were in Italy at all. Overwhelmed with the selection on offer I had to try one of the several Danish Beers on tap at the time, Fanø Bryghus - Fanø Vestkyst 5.7% ABV and with Christine trying a Cantillon - Kriek 5% ABV.Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa is a gem of a bar and by the time we leave the small bar is heaving with most of its customers lining the busier streets.

With that my brief encounter to Rome's craft beer scene was over! Bar a trip to New York I'd never really experienced another countries bar scene and without Zach's article I would have probably overlooked Rome's. It's refreshing to know that other countries are experiencing the same revival that we are in the UK right now and that the same pride and passion lies behind there produce.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Top to Bottom

So those of you that follow Stuart Howes blog, will know that he's set himself the challenge to brew at 12 breweries in 12 months. February's Brewery was London Bridge's - Brew Wharf

The challenge this time was to brew a beer with the most hops possible. Starting with 62 and eventually (after raiding Melissa Cole's cupboard at Lovebeer) 69 different hops

For a list of all the hops click here

Luckily I have to pass Brew Wharf on my way home, so when I spotted on their twitter account that this record breaking 69 hop beer was on tap, I had to drop in.

With 69 different hops this was always going to be a hit or miss beer. The nose was obviously amazingly hoppy with fresh organic notes. The taste however was over overpoweringly bitter. There were some sweet citrus notes to be found but they were quickly subdued by the bitterness.

I'm glad  I got the chance to try this beer, but for me it was just too much. With the everlasting bitterness still playing with my pallet as I headed home for something more balanced!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cooking with Beer: Part 1 - Chocolate Guinness Cake

I love cooking, for some reason i find it relaxing, god knows why! So after seeing some similar posts on other blogs, I've decided to start a regular piece. So here is the first post in our "Cooking with Beer" Series.

Chocolate Guinness Cake
Recipe - http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-guinness-cake-3086

Baking isn't really my strong point but in a bid to prove my girlfriend that I can do as good as her I decided to give it a go.With the Carling Cup Final on the carefully positioned speakers around the kitchen, I made sure I didn't miss a bit of the action. Now I'm not really a fan of chocolate cake but this was different, after spotting a tweet from The Kernel Brewery to a blog with this recipe I thought I'd give it a go. Taking my eye off the prize to celebrates Birmingham's opening goal, whilst melting butter into the Guinness wasn't the best start but the deep black beer batter started to come together.

After 30-40 mins in the oven it was ready, an out came a moist deep dark black cake. It even looked like the one in the picture! Result!! But as the saying goes the proof is in the pudding!

After cautiously making the cream cheese icing, trying not to cover the kitchen in cream cheese and icing sugar the cake was done! Slightly resembling the famous image of a pint of Guinness thanks to the pale coloured icing and deep black of the cake. I waited considerably longer than i expected to taste it but it was great! Moist with a smokey, chocolaty taste and perfectly set off against the sour icing.

Nigella describes the recipe as "Gingerbread without the spices" so next up I think is her Gingerbread with Guinness!