Sometimes discovering a new country with new friends and a pint of beer can lead to great stories and unforgettable moments. As an avid beer lover and home brewer, our Flightie Ryan Phillips recently travelled through Italy with Cosmos tours in search of the best brews and shares his story with us:
When you go to a place like Italy what is the first thing you think about? Is it the sights like the Roman Colosseum? Maybe it’s the fresh brick oven pizza or the complex wines of Tuscany? No matter which one you choose, I am sure the last thing to cross your mind is beer. But as an avid home brewer I decided to explore Italy in search of some of the best local beers. I had heard that the microbrewery market in Italy is still in its infancy and really wasn’t sure if I would have any luck at all, but I gave it a go anyway.
My journey starts in Rome on a tour with Cosmos, and the planned road ahead would take us to Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast with several detours along the way. Upon arriving at the hotel, a few of us decided to dive right in at the Hotel Parco Tirreno bar. My first beer is one that most of us are quite familiar with; Peroni. This is a beer which is exported worldwide and is a very basic lager. I was surprised to find that it did taste differently then what we are use to in North America, (maybe a bit fresher?). At the end of the day nothing spectacular, however it served its purpose after a long flight to Europe. After a few beers and some food, it became clear that the group which would join me on this adventure would be perfect.
After sleep, and an adventure of Rome’s many different sites, my next unique beer wouldn’t be Italian at all. Strange as it seems, but on the Island of Capri myself and the group found ourselves at a sports bar called ‘Mister Billy’. The only sign that this was a sports bar were the TV’s tuned into football (soccer for us North Americans) and oddly hung up sports memorabilia. With a big selection of UK beers I decided to try a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, a very dark rich chocolaty stout, absolutely delicious and what I was craving after all of the Peroni.
After giving advice on beer to some of my new found friends, we shared some drinks, jokes and fun. My next beer worth mentioning was ‘Courage Best Bitter’ also produced by Young’s and was in fact not bitter at all, a very smooth but delicious Pale. Many drinks later and close to the end of the night it became clear that the game on TV was no longer what people came in to watch, it was the group of Canadians who came in for one drink and ended up staying for much more. We ended up staying so long that after the place cleared out it was nothing but us and the bar owners (Helena and her two sons) left enjoying the rest of the night.
Our next stop worth discussing was in Sorrento, one of my new friends happened to have a birthday while in Sorrento so the group got together and decided to celebrate. After scoping out the area near our hotel we found a little Irish Pub called Chaplin’s down the road. Upon arrival, there were a few people from Puerto Rico, some people which appeared to be locals and a husband and wife who owned Chaplin’s.
I started my night off with a ‘Birra Moretti’ similar to a Peroni except with a bit more flavour. It would do to fill my beer cravings. Soon after we arrived it was apparent that this was no ordinary pub, the owners so full of life and a real party starter. It didn’t take long for all of us to get into the mood and before we knew it the word must have gone out because that place was packed and stayed that way all night.
This little pub without question was was a highlight of our bar experiences in Italy. If you ever have a chance to drop in and say hi have a look up to the roof where you will see a new staple, a Vancouver Canucks shirt which the owner let us hang up 😉
From Sorrento we made our way back to Rome in preparation for our trip back to Vancouver, although finding a great undiscovered beer in Italy would prove to be difficult, one thing is certain; discovering this beautiful country, with new friends and a pint of beer can lead to great stories and unforgettable moments. So although my journey didn’t produce any hidden gems in the beer world, it did make me ponder; What makes a beer great? Sure there are some amazing characteristics in great beers, however with no one to share it or new friends to chat to while enjoying one, it somewhat looses its value don’t you think? And so this blog would end in the same way it began, with a question.