Everything is normal in Italy. European elections are coming up, Berlusconi is accused of an affair with a teenager, visitors wonder how it is possible to run a county like this. But it is. Obviously. Or maybe it runs itself.
My first impression after landing at Leonardo da Vinci airport is not that impressive. I just miss one airport express train, the next one is in 30 minutes, and the railway station is not up to much. I switch on my ipod and open a book. The rattling and smelly trains should really not be labelled express, either, not in a country that takes pride in its new network of high speed rail travel.
Anyway. At noon I am at Roma Termini and follow the signs for the Metro. I travel light , so it does not bother me that the corridors are long. The Metro train is new, fast and air conditioned. I arrive in a few minutes at San Giovanni station and find the right exit without any fuss.
My destination at this lunch hour is not a pub or a brewery, but a beer shop. Johnny’s Off Licence offers an amazing selection of beers – and the focus here is solely on craft beers. A good selection from the UK, Germany and Belgium, but, most important, Italian craft beers from every corner of the country.
The owner, John, apologizes for the depleted stock. He had a musical event in the shop a few days earlier, which means he has sold out of many beers. He will get new stock over the following days.
I have no need to worry. This is the biggest selection of Italian craft beers I’ve seen anywhere, and John helps me to pick a nice bouquet of these. Among the gems are two beers brewed especially for the shop, An American IPA and an Imperial Porter. It is hard to choose. There is a seasonal beer from Panil I’ve never seen before, a raspberry beer from De Borgo…
The shop seems to be doing very well, and I ask if the Belgian beers are the most popular, as I’ve noticed in other cities in Italy. Yes, among the younger crowd it’s the strong Belgians, but for those above 22 or so, it is hoppy beers which are in demand. British golden ales with relatively low alcohol content are very popular, on some evenings the street outside the shop is cowed with people enjoying their refreshments. The turnover is good, he sells many cases a week of some of the Italian beers. Beers from breweries like Almond and du Borgo are flying off the shelves.
John generously opens a bottle of his favourite Italian beer, the BB10 from the Barley brewery in Sardinia. brewed with grape juice that has been boiled into a syrupy concentrate. Lovely complex fruitiness. Bittersweet. Grapes, spices, a long lovely finish.
I have a meeting in the afternoon. A delivery man arrives with new beers to fill up the shelves. Time to say goodbye, though this is a place I’d like to linger. Until next time!