Tag Archives: Travel

Craft Beer in Rome


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!

General Tso, Meet an IPA

Fellow Americans, we’re living in a golden age of craft beer and Chinese grub as our nation is finally moving beyond Budweiser and General Tso—that fictitious soldier who led chicken charging into a deep fryer. But despite all the bitter IPAs, inky stouts and lip-singeing dan dan noodles currently awaiting your stomach, craft beer and Chinese food hardly ever intersect. At restaurants, the fieriest Far East fare is typically served with Tsingtao, a lager that’s every bit as nuanced as MGD. Bold foods deserve equally bold beer.

That’s the modus operandi at AmerAsia, the rare restaurant to combine top-flight Chinese food with beer not grabbed from the bottom shelf. Located in Covington, Kentucky, within spitting distance of Cincinnati and the Ohio River, AmerAsia is a funky little place in a sleepy little downtown. The walls are decorated with graffiti-style murals and kung fu movie posters like Enter the Dragon and Game of Death, as well as, uh, lesser-known classics like Beverly Hills Ninja. Continue reading

Here Is Why I Gained Weight in Hanoi

Mmm…bia hoi in Hanoi! That is, fresh, cheap beer.

Food-loving globetrotters, here’s a bit of sound advice: If you’re headed to Vietnam’s northern city of Hanoi, we’d recommend you pack a pair of elastic-banded pants. The city is a wonderland of cheap eats and drinks, offering an endless variety of soups, noodles, buns, rolls and sandwiches paired with plenty of fresh herbs — and fresh beer, too.

You could spend a week eating your way through the hectic, motorbike-clogged streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and never eat the same meal twice. I know I didn’t on my recent trip. Here are 20 dishes and drinks from Hanoi that haunt my hungry dreams.

Curious what I ate?  Check out the full story at Food Republic.

Sorry, Tagine. It’s Lobster Time

Spider crabs, by way of Morocco. Photo: Jenene Chesbrough

Perhaps I would’ve had a different opinion of Moroccan cuisine if the first thing I ate upon landing in Marrakesh were not a spongy mass of lamb mammary.

That flan-colored, disturbingly luscious flesh sent my stomach roiling, leaving my appetite on rocky seas. Over the ensuing days, I barely touched my steaming tagine stuffed with sardine meatballs, or the spicy merguez sausages that were greasier than a teen’s complexion. Typically, I would’ve found some measure of culinary pleasure within this distant-land sustenance, but the sights and smells of Moroccan fare set off intestinal alarms: Do not eat.

As the days passed, my wife noticed my distress. “You’re not eating,” she said. “What’s wrong?” I explained to her my distaste with Moroccan food. I never quite cottoned to the reliance upon turmeric, pillowy piles of couscous or the dubious pleasures of cinnamon-sprinkled pigeon pie.

“I have an idea,” she said. “Let’s go to Oualidia.” Located on the Atlantic coast, Oualidia is a tiny fishing town known for its oysters, crabs, clams and other aquatic delights. Each morning, sun-browned, forehead-creased men alight into the salty, wave-smacked waters, returning with the day’s catch. Much of this fare does not make it to market. That’s because when the fishermen return, they sell their watery wares on the beach. Clams are bisected before your eyes, while fish is filleted and spindly spider crabs are cooked on sand-encased charcoal grills. It’s impossibly fresh food: alive one moment, in your belly the next.

After checking into our hotel room, my wife and I made haste to the beach with our friends Bati and Emily, with whom we were traveling. We’d been driving all day and were ravenous. We spread out our beach blankets and planted an umbrella in the sand. Within minutes, a shoeless chef approached us with his menu of the day. Continue reading

It’s All About the Beer

The Daily: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

I recently signed on to pen travel stories for The Daily, the iPad newspaper. Last Saturday marked my first published tale, which looked to answer a simple question: If I can’t make it to Munich for Oktoberfest, how can I still eat my fill of sausage and drink suds from a stein? The answer, dear readers, is found over at The Daily (you don’t need an iPad to peep the story). Drink it up!

Craft Beers Worth Traveling For

As a die-hard beer drinker, I suffer from an affliction dubbed “the pint is always better on the other side of the country.” Though my Brooklyn hometown is lousy with lovely craft beers such as Cigar City’s mango-hinted Jai Alai IPA, Sixpoint’s bracing Crisp lager and Firestone Walker’s balanced, citrusy Union Jack IPA, there are hundreds of brews I’d sacrifice a pinkie to sip every day. To ensure a steady supply of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, I’d even up the ante to two fingers.

Yet amputation is not enough to sway brewers’ allocation plans. While some breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Stone distribute their suds from coast to coast, they’re the exception to the rule. In recent months, well-regarded breweries counting Dogfish Head and Flying Dog have reined in their distribution and pulled out of states, leaving drinkers high and dry. This is not a comment on quality; instead, breweries are experiencing skyrocketing local demand. Instead of sending beer to far-flung lands, they’re focusing on slaking local thirst. I understand that you must take care of your own first, but that doesn’t make the reality any easier to stomach. Some breweries, such as Vermont’s Alchemist and Wisconsin’s New Glarus, require that you visit them tor their home state get a taste of their delicious nectar.

Which ones are worthy of your travel time? Check out my full story at Food Republic to weigh in.