The Rockford Files

Three Coins

The weather in Rome has been on the chilly side, but compared with Rockford in January, it’s positively balmy.  Warm enough, in fact, to risk a charge of heresy (or at least philistinism) by capping the first full day of The Rockford Institute’s 2008 Winter School with, not a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but a pint of beer.  And not just any beer, but an unfiltered, heavily hopped light ale named ReAle, from the brewery of the commune of Borgorose, population 4,500, about 70 kilometers northeast of Rome.  The ale is reminiscent of the best beers produced by the few remaining local breweries scattered throughout the Midwest.  It takes a mass market to make a bad beer, and sadly, in the United States, very few local markets remain.  For now, most of Europe has avoided our fate, but the E.U. bureaucrats in Brussels are doing their best to impose it from above.

The pint is hand drawn over the course of five minutes as the bartender attempts to balance the slightly cloudy elixir, more golden than brown, with the creamy white head of foam.  No American bar, even a brew pub, would make a customer wait so long, for fear of losing a sale.  Here, the wait simply adds to the expectation, since we have sampled the ReAle already.  There’s far more to do and to see in Rome than in Rockford, yet life here moves at a much more human pace.

The bar is literally a hole in...

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