Craft beer on three continents

It’s no secret that craft beer is one of my favorite indulgences. But when I planned to spend the summer exploring Mexico, Italy and India, I didn’t think I’d be trying many new brews.

When it comes to alcohol, Mexico is best-known for tequila, Italy for wine, and India for being less than amenable to most forms of intoxication. But it turns out each of these countries has a nascent craft beer scene and at least a few places to sample brews from around the world.

We’re actually drinking pulque here, but shhh. (Mexico City, June 5, 2015)

You can check out most of my summer beer drinking activity on my Untappd profile, but here are a few suggestions for places to check out if you find yourself in the places we went this summer.

Mexico

Our travels took us to Oaxaca, Puebla and Mexico City and involved liberal sampling of mezcal, the agave-based spirit Oaxaca is famous for.

In Oaxaca, we discovered a craft brewery, Cervezería Teufel, after trying their beer at a hotel. I didn’t take detailed beer notes or check our brews in on Untappd, but tasty and a nice break from Corona. I remember wishing we’d been able to try their Portfirio, a mezcal-flavored porter. So if you know how to get your hands on a bottle of that in the States, hit me up.

We weren’t able to set up a brewery tour, but it seems like they’re open to that if you contact them far enough in advance. (I just messaged them on Facebook the day before, which was understandably not enough time to work something out.)

Puebla was home to the delightful Utopia, a hole-in-the-wall beer bistro with an ample selection of Belgian and Mexican beers. We spent an evening here sampling a few brews and would have gladly returned if we’d had another night in town.

The address on Google is correct, but it’s a little hard to spot unless you’re looking carefully – there’s not a big sign outside.

Wall of beer at Utopia.

In Mexico City, we were pleasantly surprised to find a number of bars serving Mexican craft beer in the area around the Zocalo. The crowning jewel, though, was El Deposito, a lovely beer bar chain with a wide assortment from Mexico and Europe (with a few American brews too).

I believe there are multiple locations in Mexico City – we went to the one at Av. Baja California 375, which was easy walking distance from the Patriotismo metro station.

Italy

In Venice, we found a few places with good beer on the menu but didn’t make a concerted effort to seek it out. The Inishark Pub, an Irish pub off of the Plaza Santa Maria, has a few international beers – nothing special, but fine if you just want a quick and reasonably priced drink. We also found, surprisingly, a few tasty beers told at the Banco Rosso in the Jewish Ghetto, under the Ghetto Veneziano label.

Florence was the beer highlight of the trip, with stops at Mostodolce, a brewpub with a good selection and lots of food (we didn’t eat there, but it looked like good pub food) and Archea Brewery.

Archea’s on the south side of the river, but it’s not a long walk from the Duomo area and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Italy. They had 12 taps, half guest and half their own beers, and an extensive bottle list. We tried everything on tap and liked or loved all of it. And then we noticed they had Westvleteren 12 on the bottle list.

If you’re not a beer nerd, Westvleteren 12 is a Begian trappist beer considered by some people to be the best beer in the world. I first heard about it on this 99 Percent Invisible episode and have wanted to try it ever since. So we shelled out 25 euros for a 12 oz. bottle.

Drinking Westvleteren 12 at Archea Brewing.

It wasn’t the Best Beer Ever, but it was delicious and totally worth it. The bartender told us they don’t always have it in stock, but there’s plenty of other delicious beer to try.

In Rome, we spent an evening at Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa on recommendation from the Archea bartender, and an afternoon at Baguetteria del Fico. Both places could have used more time, and both had excellent selections. The bartender at the Baguetteria had wonderful suggestions for us, and the sandwiches were delicious as well. Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa was just a bar – no food, cash only and mostly full of Italians, though the bartenders spoke English.

India

Most beer in India is the ubiquitous Kingfisher, a mild lager that’s basically flavorless and perfectly inoffensive when cold. Given the variety of mild illnesses we had, Spencer and I were just as happy not drinking for most of our trip. But we figured a big cosmopolitan city like Mumbai might have some craft beer, and by the end of the trip we started Googling around to see what we could find.

Our craft beer adventures in India were less successful, thanks to the government of Maharahstra. Spencer and I had a day to kill in Mumbai between flights and figured we’d finish up a month in India exploring the breweries we’d found. The state government, however, had other plans.

Statewide dry days are the worst.

Yes, on the one day we’d picked to enjoy beer in Mumbai, the state government had banned all alcohol sales statewide. So we didn’t get to check out the two breweries we’d picked out.

If we could go back, we’d try to sample beer from Gateway Brewing at the Woodside Inn, a beer-and-burger place in Colaba recommended by the guy at the company we messaged on Facebook. We had also hoped to check out the Barking Deer Brewpub (they helpfully alerted us to the dry day when we messaged them on Facebook). In the meantime, fellow beer enthusiasts, let us know if you make it to Mumbai and successfully try an Indian microbrew.

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