Despite being known as a wine country, and despite Italians not being beer monsters like their northern European cousins, people in Rome are increasingly learning to love beer. The explosion in artisan brewing in Italy, with hundreds and hundreds of small producers popping up all over the country, has got the bigger names interested too, and the city is now awash with kegs of local and imported ales and stouts – 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. But first, consider joining us on our “Tipsy Tour” of Rome, hopping from bar to bar and experiencing the good brews…
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. It’s also considered too much liquid to accompany a lot of food (except pizza, for some reason). For most local 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.
How to order a beer in Rome
Despite this lack of societal ubiquity, lager in bottles (in bottiglia – “een bot-EELL-ya”, usually 330 ml) or on draft (alla spina – “ah-lah SPEE-nah”) is available in 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 (byOND-ah, often weissbeer), though occasionally rossa (red ale). Bottles come in piccola 330 ml (just under 12 fl oz) or grande (660 ml, or just under 24 oz).
Beer alla spina (draft from the tap) is usually 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 medium glass of draft lager in a restaurant, just ask for:
Una chiara media alla spina (OON-ah kyAR-ah MEDDy-ah ah-la SPEEN-ah).
To get a bottle of IPA you would ask for:
Una bottiglia d’IPA (OON-ah bot-EEL-ya DEEP-ah)
Ales in Rome
Italian micro brewers cover all types of ale. The most popular by far is IPA, which has taken the recipe from the traditional India Pale Ale, and has transformed it into Italian Pale Ale. It’s pronounced “EEpa” rather than spelled out.
It’s fragrant and hoppy and delicious, though they differ wildly in alcohol content, from the rare Italian session ales of around 4.4%, via the more normal 6-6.5%, right up to 7.5 or 8% monsters. Since Italians don’t drink huge amounts of beer in a single go, they are less affected by this variability than someone who drinks 3-4 beers (or more!) in a session.
Despite the popularity of IPA, local microbreweries also produce amber ales, stouts, red ales, bitters, weissbiers, and artisan pilsners.
There are a number of microbreweries that are finding so much success that they’re growing into larger enterprises, in particular Birra del Borgo, which got famous for its “Lisa” lager but now offers a wide range of recipes in supermarkets and its small chain of self-owned bar/restaurants.
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, though the non-filtrata (unfiltered) version of Ichnusa is somewhat smoother.
Each of these breweries has some ‘special edition’ beers including IPAs, rossa and extra hoppy stuff, but all are still mass-produced.
This author actually likes most of the above, but real beer snobs may not!
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 astonishingly cheaply from a supermarket.
How much is beer in Rome?
The cost of beer in Rome differs wildly from place to place, from just over 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 – usually only found in beer geek places) or a media in a pub that has 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)!
The best places to drink beer in Rome
Despite there not being a deep pub culture in Rome (the most popular place to drink is still a bar, aka café), the revolution continues with a small but growing band of passionate producers and consumers and places to drink their output. 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‘ by the coast at Fiumicino 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 local production out – most of the bars will provide you with a small taster in a shot glass before you commit to a larger beer. 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. (We do not include Irish pubs here which generally confine themselves to standard Diageo fare.) 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 rotate a good guest list, and there’s another bonus: really, really good pub food) [map]
- Eataly near Piramide (a vast and flashy food hypermarket with restaurants and its own brewery on the premises, plus guest beers) [map]
- Luppolo 12 at Via dei Marrucini 12 in San Lorenzo (bright, noisy student spot with a huge selection of guest ales) [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]
- Lochness Pub at via Portuense 94 (has a few artisinal beer and cider choices, mostly foreign but a couple of Italian brews) [map]
- Treefolk’s Public House at Viale Trastevere, 192 (has a good selection of beers, ales and whiskey) [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]
And finally of particular interest is:
- Jungle Juice Brewing & Taproom, Via del Mandrione, 109, in a distinctly niche location, the wrong side of the tracks from Pigneto or a 15-minute stroll from Furio Camillo metro station. This new place is run by young brewers and serves what it brews in a hip, postmodern/post-industrial environment [map]
There are many other brew pubs and specialist stores in Rome, but we hope this gives you a good starting point for your appreciation of the artisan revolution underway here.
And if this article has helped work up a thirst, again we suggest that you join us on a boozy walk in the city center!