Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rome Brewing Company (Rome, IT)

Note on BA 12/20/2012: This brewery is now closed.  Read on--I'm not surprised.    


This ended up being one of the hardest pub runs I've every made, as you'll see below, but it ended up with interesting, if mixed results. 

My wife and I tried to get to Rome Brewing Co twice during the week and it was closed both times. However, that could've been our fault since Italians tend to eat and go out and later than we do.  Not sure if RBC closed over the holiday period or hadn't opened yet for the day when we showed during the early evening (5 pm once, nearly 7 pm another time).  It's very easy to get to from the metro--just a couple stations past the stop for St. Peter's Basilica, but it feels like it's out of the touristy area.  Finally found it open by showing up past 9 pm, though I was the only person in the bar at that time.  Again, a bit later, it filled up quickly with Italians, which leads me to suspect it was my fault for being too early during the previous attempts. 

Walking in, RBC has the feel of a English dark wood bar with a couple of small tall tables, and the rest was cozy booths that were almost nitches.  More room upstairs where the bathroom is. Seems like a friendly place with staff greeting many of the people walking in the door.  And, it had a nice atmosphere that quiet for talking with a friend. 

First pint was 5.80 Euro, which seemed a bit pricey to me, but it was an American styled pale ale, seemingly with cascade, so maybe that was it.  The rest were cheaper, but I moved to half pints.  The beer was very hit or miss.  My first beer, the pale ale, was clearly the best, followed by the porter, though it had a bit too much diacytal in it.  The remaining two were very much under par. The Red Ale seemed flawed, though the Strong Ale simply tasted like several versions of "doppio malto" I had tasted in Italy (cheap, high alcohol, thin beer that’s often passed from person to person between youths walking in a group or by homeless), so it probably failed my expectations more for a Strong Ale than it would Italians.  From the menu, I got the impression that the American brewer that had made RBC famous had moved on and they were doing their best with an replacement. 

Service was friendly and prompt by European standards, and the waitress handled the beer with care. Two other employees were sitting at the counter the entire time I drank, one seemingly a manager type, who ignored me and my empty glass.  So, evidently I could only be served by the one waitress.  No idea why and I didn't really ask, so again, maybe this is something I didn't understand about the culture/situation.  I was very hungry, but didn't feel comfortable ordering nor was I asked if I wanted food, so not even sure what they served, though what others were eating looked good. The manager type said thanks for coming and have a safe night in English on the way out, so that was nice. 

An odd thing about the service was the pours. Glasses were clean and rewashed with a spray jet that seems to be standard in Italian beer bars.  However, the waitress held the glass at nearly a 90 degree angle with the tap jammed into the side of the glass, tipping it upright at the last moment for a respectable head.  Water was poorly drained before pouring on at least two of the beers. 

The adventure actually started after I left the bar.  When I got off the metro, as a matter of habit, I asked when the last train going the other way left--the answer was I just got off the last train--at 9 pm.  Evidently, it was closed for the night for maintenance.  However, the nice metro worker explained that I needed to take the MA1 bus back since it took the exact same route back to Termini station as the metro.  I figured I might as well get beer out of the trip, drank my four beers and headed to the bus stop about 10:30.  I saw MA1 busses heading further out of town, but none my direction.  So I asked a random bus to help me, but he put me off around the corner and said to take MA1 from that stop, which never came while bus after bus went by out of service (deposito).  By this time it was after midnight and all the regular buses on the board had stopped running.   A nice Italian man who spoke no English (and me even less Italian) told me to take the "cinco, cinco"  Nightbus to Termini.  I only understood this when he wrote 55 in the dust of a dirty parked car in front of us.  He also kindly made sure I got off the 55 Nightbus when we reach Termini station.  But, I had just missed the last train heading south to our hotel by a few minutes, so I then took a 20 Euro cab and got home just after 1 a.m.  

So, nearly five hours and 40 Euros later, I had added four beers to my list.  Tough night, but not altogether unsuccessful.  While being touristy in Rome, it's hard not to notice the lack of diversity.  On the way home, I found the local diversity riding the 55 Nightbus.  While more of an adventure than I wanted for a mediocre beer trip, the insight into another side of Italy was enlightening.   While I've read of Italian xenophobia, especially in the north, seeing its impact first hand was eerily disturbing.  Oddly, this has become one of my favorite vacation learning experiences and one more thing I owe to the beer hunt.