Beer Travel: 48 Hours In Rome

It’s the eternal city, and it wasn’t built in a day. All roads lead there, and Nero fiddled while it burned. There may be more sayings about Rome than any other city, and for good reason – it used to be known as the capital of the world. 

It’s arguably the most beautiful city in the world (this list includes Sydney and Brisbane, so you know it’s trustworthy), and it’s got more history than that gross jumper your dad always wears.

When you’re planning a trip to Rome, you’re likely thinking of the Colosseum, Vatican City, and all those carbs you’re going to stuff into your face. But, like a well crafted beer, Rome has layers of complexities. I’ve been there twice now, and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. 

You’ll stumble upon cafes that make you smile and ruins that make you gasp; you’ll admire sculptures in museums, paintings in galleries, and graffiti on roller-doors; you’ll gawk at balconies full of flowers and walls full of ivy; you’ll find tiny bookshops and huge statues, and you’ll find yourself walking the long way home just to stay close to the river so you can stare at the reflection of glowing bridges against a velvet sky. 

This may be anathema to write in a Crafty Pint article, but it must be said: if you’re in Rome and the only thing you’re looking for is good beer, you’re a fool. If you’re in one of the greatest cities in the world, but you spend more time looking at the bottom of a beer glass than around you at thousands of years of history and culture, you deserve to be fed to the lions.

 

Inside My-Ale Restaurant and Club (see below).

 

However, if you’ve gotten lost among the winding backstreets, and gotten lost among the creepy catacombs, and are ready to get lost in an intricate IPA, you’re in luck – there’s more to Rome than red wine and espresso. Having said that, craft beer isn’t the specialty of the city, so you do have to hunt around if you want to find more than just Peroni.

But what if you’re not in town for long? Or what if, like me, you’re there with family, and only have a small window of time to go bar-hopping? How do you plumb the depths of the Eternal City in two days? You don’t, of course. But you can have a fair crack at it. 

Rome may not have been built in a day, but if that’s all the time you have to find a decent beer, here are some options. From a hole in the wall to a whole wall of beer, here are a few ideas for where to go for a glass of the good stuff.

(If you’re feeling a little homesick, beer venues are also the kind of place you’re likely to bump into a fellow Aussie. You’ll always hear the Aussie in the room – our drawling accent cuts through a sea of loud voices like the prow of a Roman trireme cutting through the waves of the Mediterranean.)


Roma Beer Company - Piazza Campo de’ Fiori 36

 

In Italy, the piazzas are the social heart of a city. A piazza is a town square, but each town or city doesn’t have only one – piazzas are everywhere. Some simply have grizzled old men sitting around playing cards. Others thrive with streams of people coming together to gossip, and colourful cafés full of fresh pastries and coffee. Campo de’ Fiori (pictured above) is the second kind of piazza. And this is where you’ll find Roma Beer Company.

As far as Italian craft beer goes, you’ll find a couple on tap, with a further two pale ales, an American red ale, and a double IPA in bottle. If you’re not feeling like something hoppy, there are a few Chimays on the bottle list too.

While this might be the least impressive beer list in this article, the drinks menu is extensive, including a gluten free beer option, cider, and any number of cocktails, wines and spirits (and there’s always soft drinks, tea, and plenty of coffee). And, unlike many places, Roma Beer Company is open from 10am and they offer a full breakfast menu (yes, you can order a beer with breakfast – you’re on holiday) as well as lunch and dinner menus. 

 

 

So when the people you’re travelling with are all arguing about where to get a meal or a drink, raise your voice and suggest this place; everyone in your party can get something different, and you’ll know you can get a decent beer.

Unfortunately, the prices are inflated; in a popular place like Campo de’ Fiori, bars and restaurants with seating out in the piazza are prime real estate. But I reckon the location is worth it. Take advantage of the tables out in the sun, spend an hour or two people-watching, enjoy the fruit and flower market sprawled out before you, and let the buzz of the city wash over you.

While you’re in the area…

Browse the markets in the piazza (though expect tourist prices if you want to buy anything). Pop into Johnny’s Off Licence to pick up some takeaways for later. Poke your head into the Cannabis Store to grab a cannabis beer.


My-Ale - Via dei Cappellari 74

 

The narrow backstreets of Rome are a dream to wander through: fat cobblestones, looming timber door arches and, once darkness falls, pools of golden lamplight guiding the way. With few people around and the walls of the alley towering either side of you, it’s easy to pretend that not much has changed in the past few hundred years. Then you stumble across a gem like My-Ale, and the yearning for years gone by transforms into appreciation of ales of today.

There’s a My-Ale "Craft Beer and Street Food" at number 79 Via dei Cappellari, which is essentially a deli with a wide range of excellent beers. It’s cosy, they’ll make you a stunning focaccia sandwich to go with your beer choice, and you can gawk at the rows of beer bottles and hanging cured meats.

But for a slightly more rustic vibe, I’d recommend heading a few doors down to My-Ale "Restaurant and Club". Visible from the street is a tiny bar with seating for ten, complete with beaten wooden tables, concrete walls and glowing candles. Order one of the four Birra Mustacanus on tap, and owner Marco (pictured below) will bring it to you in beautiful glassware with a warm smile and something to nibble on. Simple and satisfying.

 

 

If you’re after more, not a problem. There are around another 25 Italian craft beers available from the fridge – try an Ariccina Spelt Saison from Castelli Romani, a False Flat raspberry sour by Brewfist, or a tinnie of Robb de Matt Rye IPA from Birrificio Lambrate. 

Head to the stairs at the back of the bar to descend into the wine cellar-like restaurant area for a slower dining experience. As well as the focaccia option, there’s traditional pizza, a tidy dinner menu, and a multi-course sharing menu where you can select the number of courses and the ingredients you don’t like, and be served a custom-made royal feast.

While you’re in the area…

Wander over to Piazza Navona to admire the impressive fountains and sculpture. You won’t regret buying a watercolour from a street artist while you’re there. Head to the Pantheon: Google the history of it, gawk at the architecture, then head inside and be dwarfed by one of the biggest damn domes you’ve ever seen.


Open Baladin - Via degli Specchi 6

 

Open Baladin is the Roman outpost of Birra Baladin, a brewery in northern Italy. It looks like nothing from the outside, but step in and find yourself in a beer nerd’s paradise. Lining the back wall is shelf upon shelf of different beers, backlit like bottles of spirits in an underground cocktail bar. 

The tables and side wall are almost a fusion of Mexican decor and psychedelic artwork, with enough images of eyes and beer bottles to make you feel you’re in the secret backroom of a beer cult.

There are more than 100 bottled beers available, but I barely even looked at that list – in a venue with 40 taps, I didn’t feel short on options at all. Almost half of the taps are Birra Baladin’s own beers, with the others showcasing a variety of independent Italian breweries. As well as a number of European styles, you can expect some truly top notch IPAs and sours, or dabble in some of the stronger stuff: reserve barleywines, some of Baladin’s own experimental beer spirits, and Beermouth, a beer vermouth. When in Rome…

 

 

For eats, you can take a break from traditional Italian food (apparently some people get sick of pizza) and have some traditional beer food; Open Baladin are known for their burgers. And, if you don’t get a serve of fatate, their handcut, deep-fried potato crisps, you’re insane. I can heartily recommend the paprika ones.

Hot tip: Though I didn’t see it advertised anywhere, you can indeed order a tasting paddle. I discovered this by spotting a guy sitting on his own at the bar with five tasters in front of him. Thanks to this little observation, I got to try five different beers, and had a fun chat with an American about the beer scenes in Italy, Australia, and Oregon.

While you’re in the area…

The Teatro Marcello looks like a hybrid between the Colosseum and a Dickensian workhouse. Cross over to the Isola Tiberina for gelati on the bridge, in the shadow of two towers. Continue over into Trastevere, and walk through the charming alleyways of this funky neighbourhood until you find a street performer or market worth your time.


Doppio Malto - Via Poli 50-52

 

Have you ever been in a crowded room where you thought you didn’t know anybody, but then above the din you hear a word, or a laugh, and think: “I recognise that voice!” 

I had a similar experience at Doppio Malto. In this foreign city, surrounded by people I didn’t know, a language I didn’t speak and customs I didn’t understand, I entered Doppio Malto and thought: “I recognise this place.” 

My lizard brain was receiving a hundred signals from the aesthetic, the food, the signage, the patrons, and the beer menu, and they were all telling me: “I speak a language you know. I speak Brewpubian.”

Over the course of my visit, I was able to articulate a number of the elements that felt familiar. A chalkboard sign saying "Beer" with an arrow pointing at the bar, and "Cruel world" with an arrow pointing back out the door. A foosball table, unattended but ready to help people pass the time, and to remind them they’re not very good at foosball. A "WALL OF FAME" covered in posters representing each beer style as a retro magazine ad. Four barrels up the back, each labelled with the kind of beer currently living inside.

 

 

While it’s quite normal in Rome for waitstaff to deal with you as quickly and efficiently as possible (if you ever read reviews of bars or restaurants in Italy, you’ll find many reviews by tourists about staff being rude), the staff at Doppio Malto are happy to take a little time with you. They’re helpful and knowledgeable, keen to see you with the right beer in your hand. (At the time I went, all three people behind the bar were women, and I was glad to notice a strong female presence in other good beer venues, too.) And, while I only made it to a handful of venues during my short time in Rome, this was the only place where I was offered a taste of beers before I made my selection.

Sit up at the bar near the takeaway fridge and the collection of growlers. Soak in the smooth jazz saxophone playing over the speakers. Smell the waft of popcorn that gets brought to you with your beer. Sip on a Cocoa IPA (sweet and intriguing), a Rust Ale (nutty and comforting) or a Zingi Beer (hopped ginger beer with bite). 

Sift through the options on the newspaper-style food menu and beer list (including some interesting beer cocktails). Settle in for the afternoon in a brewpub on a faraway continent that somehow carries a hint of home.

While you’re in the area…

The Trevi Fountain is just around the corner. Head north to Villa Borghese explore the Borghese Gallery, check out the zoo, or just stroll through the expansive gardens and have a picnic.


Other options

  • Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, Via Benedetta, 25 – Known also as “Football Pub”, it has 16 taps and three cask/handpumps. Expect quality New World Italian beer, plus there’s always Cantillon, German Kellerbier and Euro IPA.
  • Birra E Sale, Via del Governo Vecchio 90 – Big chunks of cured meat, roast porchetta for fresh panini, and 50 or so packaged beers from around Italy.
  • L’Osteria di Birra del Borgo Roma, Via Silla 26a – AB InBev acquisition Birra del Borgo have been leaders in the rise of Italian craft beer, but they also do things a little differently. Founder Leo di Vicenzo is also involved in Nomad Brewing in Sydney.
  • BrewDog Roma, Via della Terme di Tito 18 – Right near the Colosseum. Perfect after a long day of doing arena battle with the barbaric hordes of tourists.
  • Bir&Fud, Via Benedetta 23 – 36 taps and a top food menu. It’s in the name.
  • Birreria Trilussa, Via Benedetta 18 – A low key place with plenty of locals and students, a wide range of drinks including 12 beer taps, and good for watching the soccer on TV.

You can find other Beer Travel articles here and our Crafty Crawl suburb and city guides here. You can also find all the above and hundreds more breweries and good beer venues when you're out and about in Australia – plus events, special deals, beer reviews, articles and more – in our free app.

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