This is what I’ve mostly been drinking lately, a pale or blonde American wheat ale. I’m not usually a big fan of wheat beers – partly because I find them a little sickly, partly because I made myself a little sickly on more than one occasion back in the day when I first discovered Hoegaarden. (It must have arrived in Britain around 1995, as I’ve got clear memories of drinking it, and Leffe, too much when I lived in Newcastle.) This one, however, is rather pleasant. It’s also the only beer on tap at the moment in the bar of the American Academy in Rome, where I’m currently working as a volunteer in the kitchens.
My background is in sitting-on-my-arse trades, notably as a film journalist, so being on my feet all day is pretty hard yakka. So a beer is most welcome at the end of the shift. Indeed, even when I’m working the pm shift (starting at lunch time, finishing after dinner), I start dreaming about beer at around 6pm.
Once we’ve cleaned up around 10pm, the beer is calling to me. In this case, it’s Bender calling to me. Now, if you’re British, and of a certain age, that’s a slightly unfortunate name for a beer, but if you’re not British, or are primarily a Futurama fan, it won’t carry any baggage of 70s school playground name-calling. Bender, of course, is Futurama’s resident alchoholic robot. (Though he’s not an alcoholic in the addiction sense – he needs booze to recharge his fuel cells.)
Despite the name of the beer, it is in fact Italian, from a microbrewery called Vecchia Orsa (“Old Bear”). The brewery is part of Fattoriabilità, a social coop in Bologna province, in Emilia-Romagna, set up in 2006 and brewing, I believe, since 2008. Visit their site, and they even seem to have some adorable donkeys. Whether they’re used for salami down the line I don’t know.
The beer itself is very drinkable, though as the weather warms up (and it is warming up fast – the Roman winter of coats and sweaters seems to turn a corner to a spring of t-shirts in just days), it’ll be even better. It’s a fresh, citrussy wheat ale that will be very pleasing drunk outside on a warm, sunny day. Plus, for me, it doesn’t have the strange slightly thick, doughy-ness that puts me off most wheat beers. I’m struggling to articulate this, but as much as I like baking bread, I don’t love the idea of drinking the dough, and that’s what wheat beers often feel like to me.
So anyway, as long as I remain on the pm shifts I think I’ll be enjoying a few more of these…