Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cio Andiamo, the travel specialists in all
things Italian, will lead small groups of hops-chasing guests through some of
the most interesting breweries in central Italy.
You can't swing a carafe of Chianti around Italy without
hitting a wine tour sipping its way across the best vine-growing,
grape-pressing regions in the world.
Beer tours, though? Those are fewer and farther between, despite the fact
that Italians have loved suds for some time—Peroni was launched in 1846 and
Nastro Azzurro in 1963—and even though the craze for locally made craft
brews has only grown in the country in recent years.
Ready to fill this void, however, is Ciao Andiamo, a five-year-old Italy
travel specialist founded by Jonathan Pollock, a native New Yorker who spent
years studying and working in the country, and who returns often to scout the
latest and greatest.
He's just launched the company's first Artisanal Bear Tour Through
Umbria, a five-day tasting journey in one of Italy's most beautiful and
delicious, yet relatively under-celebrated, regions.
Each group is capped at
eight guests, who spend their days stopping in at top breweries for
special-access, behind-the-scenes tours and making visits to seasonal regional
festivals; at night, hearty dinners of typical Umbrian delights—all wild
boar and cured and smoked pork salume—will be paired with complementary
draughts and bottles.
"Craft beer has truly seen a renaissance in the last few years in Italy,
led in large part by artisans and entrepreneurs of the younger generation,"
says Pollock, whose on-the-ground partner, Umbria-based Max Brunelli, led the
first trip, in November, and will lead upcoming ones in December (7 through
11), March (7 through 11), and April (11 through 15) of next year.
The craft beer trend, Pollock reports, has bloomed in recent years in
Umbria, a region with a long legacy of brewing, dating at least as far back as
the 16th century, when Trappist monks in the town of Norcia started making the
stuff. Those brothers (the original beer-drinking bros?) are still going,
turning out 3,000-bottle batches of a Belgian blonde and Strong Ale annually.
"The breweries we visit as part of our tour will be those that pay homage
to the local traditions, agriculture, and resources—the ones that produce
organic products, at times using ancient recipes with special ingredients from
the region," Pollock says.
Take, for instance, Birrificio Etico, in the medieval hillside village of
Spello, just south of Assisi, which makes three different styles using,
variously, flowers, honey, figs, and carob, all harvested nearby.
In the
regional beer, Pollock notes, you find all the flavors and colors of the land,
made by young, new producers, as well as those good-old monks in Norcia, who
continue to brew in much the same manner they did when they started more than
400 years ago.
"Beer is easy and affordable, but it can still be artisanal," Pollock
says.
"There are so many variations that pair well with all kinds of local
Italian cuisine." We'll drink to that.
Andrew Sessa writes regularly for Travel + Leisure; follow him on Twitter.
Wine tours in Italy are a-plenty, but craft beer tours? Not so
much.
Now there's a new one in Umbria, Italy; read on for the details.

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