On our second day in Rome (and after a not-so-great start to the beer adventure) we decided to shake off the bad beers and get to Open Baladin (a beer bar I heard about) later that night. After spending most of the day touring the Vatican (a truly amazing place) and getting an incredible lunch at a restaurant named “La Soffitta” right outside the Vatican Museum (where I ordered another bland beer called “Nastro Azzuro”) we headed back to the hotel in the late afternoon to try to figure out how to get to the bar. After a wild bus ride and navigating side streets we arrived at a little alley way with a small glass door with “Open Baladin” written on it. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
The bar was a cool mix between urban vibe and nature,with steel tables and green plants throughout. The atmosphere was great and the wait staff were knowledgeable and extremely helpful (especially with trying to figure out an Italian menu). The beer included styles such as Saison’s, IPAs, Belgian Strong Ale’s, Blonde Ale’s, Weizen’s on draught, not to mention an entire bottle menu. Not all the beers available were native to Italy and I had to be fairly careful not to get confused.
My friend started off her night with a “G-Free” by St. Peter’s Brewery (a gluten free beer) and I decided on a Barley Wine called “Xyauyu” by Birrificio Le Baladin (I later found out the head brewer, Teo Musso, co-owns the bar). It was delivered in a snifter and hailed a strong fruity aroma. The first sip was velvety smooth with the alcohol lacing your entire mouth. It felt like my tongue was pulling a silk cloth over itself. It was packed with sherry and wine flavors and provided a warming feeling as it flowed throughout the body. The alcohol content (12% ABV) was almost undetectable in the flavor and the sweetness/drinkability of this beer truly surprised me (in a fantastic way). An absolutely amazing beer that will be in my top 3 for a very long time. This was the kind of thing I was looking for and drinking bland, tasteless beer for so long made me truly appreciate the uniqueness of these craft beer flavors.
The next beer I decided to try was a Spiced Ale called “Nora” by the same brewery. It was delivered in a pint glass with a thick white head and deep copper and orange colors. The aroma was packed with ginger and other spices I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on. Orange and spice flavors swirled around the tongue. It was very similar to many of the spice beers that Dogfish Head produces. A very solid and flavorful beer.
After Nora it was time for “PVK”, a Belgian Witbier, made my L’Olmaia. A beer made from oats, red pepper, coriander and bitter orange rind really got me excited. The beer was an unfiltered orange color with a thick white head. The aroma was packed with pepper and wood notes and the tastes were orange with little to no hop bitterness. An incredibly drinkable beer perfect for a hot day in Rome.
Lastly, I decided to try something by the other co-owner of the bar, Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra Del Borgo. His IPA rounded out my tasting for the night and I ended on a beer called “Reale” (recommended to me by the waitress). It was delivered in a pint glass with a thick white head. The aroma was heavily hops (typical of an IPA) and the first sips were incredibly smooth and had almost a watery mouthfeel with a light hop flavor throughout without having too much bitterness.
This bar saved the beer drinking part of the trip and we hit the streets once again in search of a place to eat.
While wandering around we stumbled into a small craft beer store called “Gradi Plato” (bottles of Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery and Dogfish Head were displayed in the front). The shop was incredibly small and it could definitely not fit more than 4 people in it at once and I had a hard enough time turning around when I entered. There was a tall man sitting behind the counter and I could tell he didn’t know what to make of me yet (just another tourist?). He had long black hair and a thick grizzly beard. His English seemed pretty good so I decided to push it a bit. We talked about the craft beer scene in Italy which he said had been growing rapidly for the past 5 years. We discussed American brands (such as Dogfish Head who collaborated with Leonardo Di Vincenzo on My Antonia) and he professed his love for what “we’re doing there” (in terms of beer). I told him my beer preferences (a drinkable, full flavor beer with little hop bitterness) and he recommended a beer called “Bianca Piperita” (a Belgian Witbier brewed with peppermint) by Opperbacco. I also told him of our plans to head south and asked him if I could look forward to any good beers. He informed me that sadly craft beer seems to stop in Rome, and venturing south would yield very little, if any, craft drinking. I thanked him for his time and bought a bottle of Bianca Piperita for the road.