Tag Archives: Travel

Craft Beer in Rome

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Photo: Parla Food, which offers awesome craft beer tours in Rome

Last time I was in Italy, I was a pimply collegiate backpacker subsisting on cheap pizza, even cheaper wine and the desperate desire to find a lass to lay me in a hostel. I failed miserably on that front, leading me to drink even more rotgut wine to drown my perceived sorrows. I left Venice and Florence with vile hangovers and an unhealthy dose of regret.

Was it the lack of love? Hardly. Celibacy was the unfortunate status quo on that trip. The bigger regret was that I never made it to Rome, a city I foolishly skipped because…I don’t remember. I was drunk a lot during that European backpacking sojourn. I made many terrible, irrational decisions with my travel itinerary, most notably sleeping in an Amsterdam park after ingesting hallucinatory mushrooms. Let me tell you: Being awoken at dawn by drug-peddling bicycle riders is, quite possibly, the world’s worst alarm clock.

Now that I’m older and (somewhat) wiser, I wish to correct a few of my youthful missteps. Crowning my list is a long-delayed trip to Rome. The journey is not for the museums or restaurants, but rather the beer. Stick with me here. In the mid-1990s, there was virtually no craft beer commercially produced in Italy. Today, there are around 400 breweries, 140 of which were established between 2008 and 2010. Italian breweries are using indigenous ingredients such as basil, chestnuts, grapes and roses to create beers every bit as complex as wine. Continue reading

Where to Drink Beer in the Bay Area

Meet Oakland’s Beer Revolution. Photo: Push/Facebook

Mention San Francisco to someone, and they’ll likely conjure up images of streetcars, fog, sourdough bread and the Golden Gate Bridge. To this list of icons, allow us to add the humble pint of beer.

In recent years, San Francisco has become a suds powerhouse. The Bay Area boasts excellent breweries and brewpubs such as Dying Vines, Drake’s, Almanac, Trumer, Speakeasy and Magnolia, as well as Russian River and Lagunitas located about an hour’s drive away. Long story short, it’s no sweat to find a first-rate beer in the Bay Area. Here are five of our favorite places to knock back a pint — or four. What are yours? Continue reading

Here’s Why Boston Made Me Fat

Hello, precious. A lobster roll from Island Creek Oyster Bar.

I liken living in New York City to being trapped in a cocoon surrounded by a force field. There’s so much to eat and drink in the metropolis that it’s tough to break out. Weeks and months pass before residents escape the city limits.

This brings us to Boston. It had been too long since my wife and I had driven the 220 miles north, so we decided to spend a weekend diving face-first into the city’s food and drink scene. Here’s how we happily came back five pounds heavier. Continue reading

Whiskey, It’s Time You Met Beer

It starts life as beer! Sort of. Credit: A Decadent Existence

Whiskey and beer have long embraced a special kinship. At bars, a bolt of the brown stuff is often served with a cool can of beer, a one-two punch that leads to long nights and achy mornings after.

Yet there’s more to this coupling than the promise of pleasure and, occasionally, pain. Whiskey begins life as a distiller’s beer, or wash, that’s made with malted barley, water and yeast. The difference is that beer is given a dose of hops, which contributes bitterness. Wash traditionally lacks hops, meaning it’s a raw ingredient. Translation: You do not want to drink un-hopped wash.

Another crucial distinction is that distilleries are concerned about starch conversion — unlocking the sugar in grains to create the most alcohol possible. Contrasting that, craft brewers use the available grain palette, not caring that darker-roasted grains offer fewer fermentable sugars. It’s all a tradeoff for flavor. This means that whiskey and bourbon require a slumber in charred oak barrels to transform the rough-edged white dog into a smooth sipping spirit.

But in recent years, brewers have begun pulling double duty as distillers, and distillers have begun relying on brewers’ tricks of the trade. For example, New Holland Brewing (Holland, MI) offers a line of beer-inspired brewers whiskeys, and Kentucky’s Corsair brews imperial stouts that are distilled and run through a hop-stuffed distillation column. On the other hand, California’s Charbay Winery & Distillery distills Bear Republic’s bottle-ready Racer 5 IPA, while Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery turns its aromatic Hitachino Nest White Ale into Kiuchi No Shizuku. Here are five of my favorite spirits blurring the line between beer and booze. Continue reading

A Long Time Coming


In the latest issue of Imbibe, I tackled the tale of Long Island beer. In recent years, the biggest island in the contiguous United States—it 118 miles, from New York Harbor to the eastern edge, encompassing Queens and Brooklyn—has become a brewing hotbed. More than a half dozen breweries and counting have sprouted to serve a massive underserved market: around 4 million people live on Long Island, with another 8 million in New York (counting Queens and Brooklyn). “Long Island is set up to be a great region for craft beer,” says Rick Sobotka, the founder and brewmaster of Great South Bay Brewery.

Long Island beers defy simple categorization. Blind Bat Brewing incorporates homegrown herbs and smoked malts in its rustic ales, while Great South Bay’s lineup includes the juniper berry–dosed Sleigh Ryed red ale and silky Snaggletooth Stout made with local apples, licorice and cinnamon. Paying homage to its aquatic location, Port Jeff Brewing Company turns out the Runaway Ferry Imperial IPA and lightly citrusy Schooner Ale. Long Ireland specializes in stouts and traditional Irish ales, while nanobrewery Barrier Brewing’s distinctive brews count the salty and sour Gosilla and the ruby-toned Vermillion Saison Rouge.

Care to read the rest of my story? Here’s the PDF: IB36_Cover+Beer62-69

Hello, London. It’s Craft Beer Calling


British beer gets a bad rap as being boring. The brews are best known for milds and bitters—beer styles whose nuanced pleasures and restrained ABVs seem quaint to American craft-beer drinkers conditioned by hoppy, boozy beers that are about as subtle as a Will Ferrell film.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Over the last decade the British beer scene has begun blossoming, shaking off the shackles of cask ale and creating brews every bit as inventive as those crafted across the Atlantic Ocean. On your next visit to London, seek out these first-rate British beers. What are your favorites?
Continue reading

On Garde!

En garde!

In one of those weird twists of writing fate, I’ve found myself penning stories on cheese and beer for Culture, a magazine dedicated to the wide, sometimes stinky world of fromage. In the latest issue, I trained my liver on the border-straddling land known as French Flanders, where local brewers specialize in strong, rustic farmhouse ales dubbed bières de garde, meaning “beers for keeping.” Curious? Check out the full story at Culture‘s website. En garde!