Our head brewer Rusty Packer loves hops and Italy and the Grateful Dead. Introducing…Streets of Rome!
An Italian-style pilsner, Streets of Rome references the Bob Dylan song “When I Paint my Masterpiece”:
Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish stairs
Before he became a brewer, Rusty was a chef, living in Berkeley and cooking for the famous restaurant Chez Panisse. He took an internship cooking in Italy, and to prepare he took a weekly Italian class to learn the language. Every week on his way to class, he would listen to the Grateful Dead’s version of “Paint My Masterpiece.”
Fast forward to Rusty’s summer in Rome, where he spent four months cooking, eating, and drinking. But wait, you’re asking, when do we get to the beer?
We’ll let Rusty take it from here…
“I drowned myself in pizzas, pastas, and porchetta, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my homebrew equipment back in Berkeley. All I really wanted to do was brew. Ironically, Italy and I were both experiencing a similar renaissance….for brewing!
At the time, demand for flavorless imported lagers was dissipating, and the craft beer scene in Italy was emerging in a similar way that it had in America few decades before. I found this killer beer bar in the nearby neighborhood of Trastevere where I could try what Italy was creating.
Unfortunately, the local breweries had a bit of an identity crisis going on, and I usually had to settle for German pilsners and Belgian sours that don’t come to the states. Cry me a river, right? Birrificio Italiano’s Tipopils, the original Italian pilsner, was in its adolescent days and I’m sure I had a few, but at the time I was craving that dank piney IPA of California.
So, I went home, kept homebrewing, and found a part time job in a brewery. Eventually I put away my knives, moved to Maine, and have been making beer with Sebago ever since. I never looked back, but luckily neither did Italy and those breweries now have a style of beer to call their own.
Since then, Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson and Tim Adams of Oxbow Brewing made their way to Italy and were so inspired by Tipopils that they came back to introduce this style to us thirsty hop-hungry Americans. Grazie to all the brewers, Italian and American, for popularizing a style of beer that has allowed for me to come full circle in this fifteen plus year long journey of mine.”
Stylistically, Italian pilsners are a hop-forward, less malty version of a German pilsner, with the addition of some restrained dry hopping, which is uncommon in the world of pilsners. According to Rusty: “As with most culinary applications in Italy, balance and simplicity remain key factors, so the hops come from only classic German or Czech varieties.”