After two weeks in Florence, drinking glass after glass of stunning San Giovese wines and delightful, giggling bottles of Prosecco, I found myself staring down a lukewarm glass of Peroni in an Irish pub that had all the charm of Bud Light without the warm associations of patriotism and golden retrievers.
Florence is a small city but it’s jammed with tourists, especially in the summer. And if I were craving a good beer, other tourists – Americans, Brits, Canadians – had to be as well. There was good beer in this city (there was good everything in this city) and I was going to find it.
Luckily, it was 2015 and all I had to do was check Yelp reviews and then take a ten minute walk.
BrewDog is a Scottish brewery with outposts in 15 European cities, a couple dozen in the UK, and one in the states (Columbus, OH, if you’re interested).
Beers like Dead Pony Club, Elvis Juice, and Jack Hammer transported me home. Hops keep me grounded and remind me of what I love about beer even today – in 2015 I was drinking IPAs almost exclusively, and the waxy, bitter beers at BrewDog were invigorating and inspiring in a way I couldn’t put into words at the time.
I’m not a great traveler. I like my own home, my bed, knowing how to get around and being able to make myself understood. Going to Italy alone was hard for me – I still don’t know what I was mispronouncing when I tried to order a glass of pinot grigio at a café.
BrewDog’s IPAs and the friendly Scottich bartender and the comfortable bar stools gave me a place I felt at home in a city that seemed overwhelming, and that I was unprepared to live in. That safety net made me brave – I began to walk further from the city center, to try my baby talk Italian when I bought espresso and pastries, to buy tickets to museums and the opera. The beer wasn’t liquid courage – but it was encouraging. And comforting. And hoppy as all hell.