I pass through St. Peter’s Square and walk down the left bank of the Tiber. In twenty minutes or so I enter the Trastevere district. The Bohemian style disguises that this has some of the prime real estate in Rome, packed with bars and restaurants. In other cities this would have been a pedestrianised area, but here the cars and scooters try to squeeze through tiny streets, alleys and squares to find a place to park.
There are two establishments I plan to visit today, under the same management and just a stone’s throw from each other. Their praises have been sung by, among others, Jeff and I’ve been in touch by e-mail, so I am expected.
Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa’is the name of the pub, usually just called The Football Pub. I introduce myself to Manuele behind the bar, and he hands me tasters of the splendid Tipopils and Bi Bock from Birrificio Italiano. My first proper glass is a new beer from Lambrate in Milan. The Ortiga is on cask, a British style bitter with liberal amounts of hops. The pub does not cover many square meters, but there are about ten beers on tap and shelves packed with bottles all the way to the ceiling. The draft beers include Italian micros, several German Bocks, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and even Pannepot Reserva.
Bir & Fud is a strong contrast to the pub, a bright and airy eatery with a bar area to the front. A dozen beers on tap, all from Italian micros. In addition you have large quantities of bottled beers, including special beers made just for this restaurant. Manuele introduces me to Ivan, who over the next few hours supplies me with a non stop extragavanza of beer samples.
There are beers from well known breweries like Baladin, Panil and del Borgo, but also from smaller ones like Montegioco, Troll and Scarampola. Wheat beers, fruit beers, Abbey-style beers, sour beers. No pale macro lagers in sight. I get to try the Panil Black Oak, which I have tried for a long time to get from the brewery.
The highlights must be the Bran from Montegioco and Re-Ale from del Borgo.
I order food from their inventive menu, too. First I am served a glass of cinnamon smoked vegetables, full of taste and juicy goodness. Aubergine puree, cherry tomatoes and potato croquettes. Delicious.
I need something more filling as well, and the cream of artichoke pizza with bacon and Parmesan is outstanding.
I have found a table near the entrance, where I can watch people come and go. The phone calls for reservations come often, and at 8:30 they have to start turning people away. Most guests are dining, some just pop in for a drink. I overhear an attempt to order wine, they are politely told that this is a beer only establishment.
I thank Ivan for his hospitality, buy a and return to the Football Pub. I am still able to find a stool at the bar, but it is soon filling up, with most of the drinking taking place in the street outside. Manuele gives me a glass of Makke Stout from Montegioco, a sweet stout of which they’ve made just a small batch. He opens a two year old bottle of Dolii Raptor from the same brewery. I have tried this as a fresher beer, but the aging has made the sweet and sour elements blend perfectly together.
Both places are doing well, attracting different types of guests. The Football Pub is mainly frequented by young people, and when I look around me I realize I’m old enough to be the father of most of the other guests.
It’s approaching midnight, and it’s been a long day. I order a glass of Pannpot Reserva to round it up and ask Manuele to call me a taxi. He tells me of his vision of an American style beer bar with fifty taps. I’ll be happy to fly in for the opening!