Harpoon Beer Culture Trip 2014 - Italy... Part 2!
By: Merrill Maloney, Harpoon Helps Published:
Just when you thought it couldn't get any cooler working at Harpoon, 23 Harpooners are currently in Italy for our annual “beer culture” trip. Each year Harpoon takes its utmost respected, hard-working, and flat-out indispensable employees, who happen to be celebrating their 5th anniversary, (and for some their 8, 12, and 17th…) to Europe. This year, the group is looking to learn more about the Italian craft beer culture. Harpoon Helps Manager, Merrill Maloney, tells us what they are up to over there!
We left Rome Tuesday morning for the three hour trip to Tuscany. The drive was beautiful and we ended at the Villa San Paolo, which was atop a hill and overlooked the town of San Gimignano. We ate a beautiful lunch outside overlooking the sites.
After unpacking, we headed off to Cesani Winery for a tour and tasting. There we met sisters Marialuisa and Letizia, third generation owners of the winery. They grow 7 varieties of grapes and 3 varieties of olives for their own olive oil. They explained that because an oil press is so expensive, they share it with other local farmers in a coop. The wine they press and ferment in oak and stainless steel tanks, depending on the style. Their passion for the history of their land and the products they produce was incredibly inspiring. When asked if they were able to recognize certain attributes of their wine and determine their year of production just by taste, Marialuisa replied "To a producer, every wine is like a son."
After the winery visit, we ventured out to San Gimignano and took pictures of the amazing sunset views. Later we headed back to the Villa San Paolo and enjoyed the view at the pool and a couple beers bought on our last brewery excursion.
Wednesday morning we realized that the two breweries we were going to visit would be about a 3 hour drive, so we decided to change plans and head to Florence early. We split into groups and some tucked into a craft beer bar called Beer House Club for a while, and some grabbed walking beers to enjoy while seeing the sites. Most of us at some point stopped at the Duomo di Firenze, the Florence Cathedral, one of the largest in the world, built between 1296 and 1436.
We met up for dinner and enjoyed a fantastic multiple course family-style Italian dinner. Proscuitto, fried artichokes with cow's milk cheese, bread soaked in tomato sauce, grilled sweet peppers, chicken liver pate... everything came out furiously one after the other, until finally they said "don't worry, this is the last of the appetizers." Next we had amazing housemade spinach and ricotta ravioli, pork, and a light foamy cake made with sage infused milk served with dark chocolate. Amazing food, and it was fun to be back all together as a group and talk about what we saw that day. We headed back to the hotel, very full and happy.
Thursday we left Villa San Paolo and visited another medieval city, Siena. We walked around with beers and panini in hand and saw their piazza called Il Campo, home to their famous horse race that happens twice a year.
On our way back to Rome we stopped at Birrificio L'Olmaia brewery in Montepulciano and had a great time talking beer and (rock and roll) with our guide, Moreno. He promised to visit our Boston brewery the next time he is in the states. The crowd favorite was La 5, a bottle fermented Belgian Pale Ale with a bitter, piney finish.
Tonight we relax poolside and enjoy drinking the rest of the beer we bought during our brewery visits before flying out tomorrow morning. It’s been a fantastic trip with a great group of people. I think we are all leaving feeling inspired by the people we met along the way. Looking forward to heading home and trying out some of the recipes we learned for both beer and food!