It wasn’t just Grappa I indulged in while in Italy – I also partook of a spot of beer drinking.
Beer drinking – specifically craft beer – is a minority pastime in Italy where the drink of choice is usually wine. However, there is a craft brewery operating in Lucca by the name of Brúton & a cafe in the central square happened to serve Stoner – their strong golden ale – or ‘double malt’ as the waiter said.
It was grand sitting there watching the world go by on a sunny afternoon enjoying the brew – but it didn’t win me over. Perhaps I’ve just been spoilt with all the great beers near to me in the Heart of Ireland?
Undeterred a daytrip to Pisa to climb the tower – well I had to do something touristy – found us later savouring a very tasty meal washed down by a rather unusually named lager from Sardinia.
Turns out Ichnusa is part of the Heineken group but possessed a more malty taste than their self-titled lager.
There is an Italian Craft Beer hostelry in Lucca by the name of De Cervesia & we ended up in one of their 2 establishments later that evening.
I did try their interpretation of a Scotch Ale called Momus – but it didn’t bring back memories of imbibing 70 Shillings in Edinburgh all those years ago.
At De Cervesia’s other venue a Real Lager was tried.
Followed by a Gose from Rome which certainly hit the spot!
A fresh sourness interspersed with soft tingling spice.
De Cervesia have around 300 different Italian beers in stock & this one just hit my sweet spot!
A trip to the windy beach in Viareggio offered up a rather generic lager by the name of Menabrea.
And a cafe stop had the intriguingly named Ceres Strong Ale which tasted fine – but is actually a Danish offering!
My last beer in Lucca happened to be Brúton’s Golden Ale.
Which went down very well on out last afternoon of the trip.
When they first appeared in North London back in the 1980’s – I was there.
One of their earliest bars – The Rochester Castle – became a frequent haunt of mine – & I’ve been in many since.
The Wetherspoon model – which is still in use today – was relatively radical at the time.
No piped music.
No TV screens.
No slot machines.
No smoking areas.
Food served all day.
Free refills of tea & coffee.
Varying taps of ‘real ale’ offered at decent prices.
Little did I know nearly 40 years later I’d be looking forward to a weekend away with herself staying in the newly opened €33 million Keavin’s Port Hotel & Bar to enjoy that very same model!
Most of those monies were spent on the careful & detailed restoration of the 8 Georgian Town Houses – plus 1 Chapel – the premises now occupy.
Pictures, memorabilia & artifacts recalling the former uses of the buildings now adorn the space. From specially commissioned stained glass work of church providers Early & Company to the marvelous inclusion of the former Chapel into a dining area.
The modern hotel is discretely added on at the back & boasts sleekly designed contemporary rooms with all the expected mod cons – plus the lovely touch of artwork from local schools commissioned by Wetherspoons.
The bar areas include a stunning 12 metre high glass atrium, 2 beer gardens & cosy snugs within the old Georgian building.
Prices are very keen – Top Brands – Sensible Prices is the tag line – although I was a tad disappointed at the lack of an Irish flavour.
Opting for a Kenyan Tusker Lager – whose malty body provided a pleasing flavour profile – herself enjoyed a Gunpowder G’n’T from Drumshanbo.
Wetherspoon stalwarts of Hobgoblin, Ringwood & Abbot were on tap – no Irish representation here yet – although Beamish & Franciscan Well are available in pint & cans.
Despite being open for less than a week – with a few minor teething problems – the hotel & bar were packed. At one point the very friendly, helpful & courteous staff informed us they had to turn folks away to keep the numbers manageable!
A convivial & jovial atmosphere ensured a mighty evening – whether it was because of the All Ireland Final the following day or folks out for the first time post easing of COVID restrictions remains unknowable.
The controversial & outspoken head of Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, may continue to outrage – though the model of affordable drinking & dining in a bright, architecturally attractive, friendly & comfortably atmospheric space continues to pull in the punters.