Beer in Rome

If you like beer and you’re coming to Rome, you’re in for a treat. Despite not being beer monsters like their northern European cousins, people in Rome are increasingly learning to love beer. This is mainly due to a craft beer revolution currently underway in Italy, with hundreds and hundreds of small artisanal producers popping up all over the country – though if you’re more into Italy’s crisp, mass-produced lager, we’ve got you covered too.

Below, we tell you the best places in Rome to enjoy this explosion of tasty brews, but first we’ll talk about beer in Rome in general.

As a rule, in a country with some of the best wine in the world, it’s understandable that few Italians ever order beer to accompany a meal, or spend all evening drinking the stuff. For most people in Rome, beer is more an occasional treat, or a refreshing beverage to have a quick sup of on the way home from work – or the perfect drink to accompany a pizza.

How to order a beer in Italy

Despite the lack of societal ubiquity, lager in bottles (in bottiglia – “een bot-EEL-ya”, usually 330 ml) or on draft (alla spina – “ah-lah SPEE-nah”) is available in almost all most bars and restaurants.

If you order a beer in a restaurant or bar, nine times out of ten you will be offered a mass-produced lager (chiara – kyAR-ah) or bionda (often weissbeer), though occasionally rossa (red ale).

If they have real ales they will likely be classed as artisan: artigianale (ar-TEE-jan-AHL-eh). Note that if you want to order an IPA, you need to pronounce the letters as a word: “EE-pa”.

Beer from the tap is served in glasses of the size media (400 ml, ~13.5 fl oz) or piccola (200 ml, ~6 fl oz). There’s also an official grande glass of 1 litre, but it’s extremely rare. 

To get a largeish glass of draft lager in a restaurant, just ask for:

Una chiara media alla spina (oon-ah kyAR-ah MED-ee-ah ah-la SPEEN-ah).

To get a bottle of IPA, ask for:

Una bottiglia d’IPA (oon-ah bot-EEL-ya dEEP-a).

Mass-produced lager in Rome

Italy only really exports mass-produced lager in the form of Peroni (in actual fact their ‘Nastro Azzuro’ – blue ribbon – recipe; regular Peroni, which comes in a brown bottle and tastes very similar, is not exported), which is a crisp but bland and slightly sweet industrial lager that sits alongside other brands such as Poretti and Moretti – though worth a mention in the industrial lager category are Menabrea from the north of Italy, and Ichnusa from Sardinia, which are both more ‘dry’ and a little more tasty. Ichnusa also produces a popular unfiltered (non-filtrata) version of its lager.

Each of these breweries has some ‘special edition’ beers including rossa and extra hoppy stuff emulating the ale revolution, but all are still mass-produced.

Most regular bars and restaurants will usually only have one brand available on tap, but will probably have other brands in bottles. All of the above can be bought extremely cheaply from a supermarket.

This author actually likes most of the above lagers, but real beer snobs may not; that said, the mass-produced ales really leave a lot to be desired.

How much is beer in Rome?

The cost of beer in Rome differs wildly from place to place, from only around 1 euro for a 660 ml bottle in a supermarket to €5 for a 330 ml bottle of the same beer in a restaurant.

Buying a pint (PEEN-tah – not always available) or a media in a place that serves craft beer on tap will probably put you on the high end of the price scale (€4 to €5), and if you eat at a high-end restaurant that serves really artisan bottled beers, you could be charged €10 or more – though that’s sometimes for a bottle of ale the size of a wine bottle (750 ml)!

In stores, lager is sold in 660 ml and 330 ml bottles, which are about €2 and €1.50 respectively – while in supermarkets the larger bottles can often be found for less than one euro!

If you’re buying from a supermarket and looking for something special, you’ll find that the worst selection is in Conad, which only really carries lagers and a very limited selection of industrial ales. Carrefour has a better selection of international beers and a number of Italian artisan brews, but they tend to be extremely expensive. Note that some of these productions are served in what look like 750 ml wine bottles, designed to be shared at a dinner table.

The best selection of beer in any supermarket is the PAM chain, which carries a very wide selection of canned and bottled ales, mostly imported but with some good Italian beer held too.

Where to find real ales in Rome

Despite beer not being as ubiquitous in other countries, the revolution continues with a small but growing band of passionate producers and consumers. Beer festivals are common in Rome, particularly in the summer months, and are full of small producers of seriously tasty ales and stouts from all over the country. The brands and batches in the beer revolution are so small that it’s difficult for us to specify individual brews, though this author recently had an IPA from ‘Birra da Mare’ that was awesome.

So to sample the wares in Rome, we suggest that you visit some of the pubs and brewhouses that are springing up around the city and try the beers out – most of the bars will provide you with a small taster. This list is by no means comprehensive: new places open up nearly every month.

All of the places mentioned below have a healthy, swift rotation of cask-fresh guest Italian ales and imports on tap. Pubs to go to include:

  • Ma che siete venuti a fa’, Via di Benedetta 25, Trastevere (this should be your first stop: it’s Rome’s ultimate beer geek spot) [map].
  • Open Baladin at Via degli Specchi 6 near Largo Argentina (huge selection; bonus: great burgers) [map]
  • Inofficina at Via Mesula 12 in Pietralalta (hipster biker spot to which you may need to take a cab; they brew their own and there’s another bonus: even better burgers) [map]
  • Eataly near Piramide (a vast and flashy food hypermarket with restaurants and its own brewery on the premises, plus guest beers) [map] and a branch at Piazza della Repubblica 41, Reppublica [map]
  • Hopside at Via Francesco Negri 39 near Eataly [map]
  • Luppolo 12 at Via dei Marrucini 12 in San Lorenzo [map]
  • Rive Gauche at Via dei Sabelli,43 in San Lorenzo [map]
  • Il Serpente Pub at Via dei Marsi, 21 also in San Lorenzo (a bit grimy but they know their beer) [map]

and honourable mentions should also go to:

  • L’Oasi della Birra at Piazza Testaccio 40, which doesn’t carry that much draft but has hundreds of varieties of imported bottles from all over the world in its cellars, including Italian brews. It also does possibly Rome’s best aperitivo buffet in the early evening [map]
  • Birra del Borgo in Prati and at Piazza Bologna. This company makes its own beers, its flagship being its ‘Lisa’ unfiltered lager – and seems to be on the cusp of artisan production and industrial, supplying supermarkets, bars, and restaurants throughout the country. While not the best example of beer in town, the company still quite tasty and dependable lagers and ales, and serves them super fresh from the tap at their pub/restaurants.

There are several other brew pubs in Rome, but we hope this gives you a good starting point for your appreciation of the artisan revolution underway here.

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Photo credit: AFP

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