Archive for February, 2009

I check out of my Milan hotel, drag my suitcase to the nearest Metro station and emerge at Lambrate, slightly to the east of the centre. My research has shown a direct train from here to Parma. A slow train, for sure, but changing to other means of transport in big cities will always take longer than intended, so it will be more efficient after all.

I buy my ticket, and, as I am early for my next scheduled stop, find a bakery where I buy an espresso and something to munch on while I find a park bench to enjoy the spring-like sun.

I wait across the street from the Birrificio Lambrate when they open the shutters for the day, as I have an hour and a half before my train, I intend to get the most of it. I find a stool at the end of the bar, and order a pint of the newest addition to their range, a cask American Pale Ale named Ligéra.  The beer is cloudy brown, and is packed with flowery and bitter hops with a fine malty body underneath. Too bitter for some, perhaps, but I order another when I’ve finished the first. The   is not working properly, so it’s hard work to fill my glass.

The pub is filling up fast, most of them seem to be regular customers, greeting the staff and the other patrons. A large group of students have to find somewhere else to have lunch, there is no room for them.

The menu lists about ten dishes, pasta starters at 4 Euros, main dishes cost 6. The orders come in swiftly for both food and beer, and it is a show in itself to watch the glasses being filled, there are separate glasses for each of the six beer types.

I have a small glass of their smoked beer, the Ghisa, which was my favourite on my last visit. I have some pasta, too, tasty food without any gimmicks.

The atmosphere is jovial and friendly, but I must be on my way. I am invited to have a look at the brewery, and I just have time for that.

Birrificio Lambrate brews 2600 hl annually in 20 hl batches. Half of the beer is sold in-house, the rest by other restaurants and pubs.

There is a lot of red tape for breweries in Italy, and local regulations vary a lot. There are separate applications for brewpubs, for selling beer to other pubs, for bottling etc.

The aim is to establish a bottling line and aim for the American market, hopefully doubling the output.

I am offered a sample of their new beer, a pils that will be launched at the Rimini beer fair later in the month. It is brewed with German malt and hops, and it has a strong, dry hoppiness that can compete with my favourite German lagers like Jever.

This pub concept could not work in Norway, where lunchtime drinking is frowned upon. But here it is a great success, with fresh beer, homemade food and a warm atmosphere. It is not a fake English or American bar, but it is meeting the locals’ need for high quality food and drink. 

The next time I’m in town I’ll go for their evening buffet, I’m not doing justice to this establishment by popping in for an hour or so. A perfect pub? For Milan it probably is. But there is a nice place waiting in Parma as well…

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On cask ale

Stonch has a blog post on how to make sure cask ale is served in optimal condition. Read the comments thread as well.

For us Norwegians this discussion is almost like observing a parallel universe. But things are changing, slowly, here, too. Nøgne ø and Haandbryggeriet are offering cask ale to pubs now, let’s hope their customers know how to treat it properly.

Even having keg versions of some of the Nøgne ø beers is quite a change, both their Porter and the Imperial Brown Ale are great on tap.

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There will be beer festivals in Denmark this year as well, but not on the massive scale of last year’s event at the old Carlsberg brewery. They will return to Valbyhallen, a venue that has been used often over the years.

The dates are 15-17 May, which is not convenient for me, but I’m sure there are beer lovers across Europe who are booking their flights and hotels already. Check www.ale.dk.

Tickets are on sale next week. And, in case you were worried that the recession has taken its toll, there should be plenty of beer. There are already 150 new Danish beers launched in 2009!

And if you cannot make Copenhagen, there is a smaller event in Esbjerg in October.

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If you want a look into the perspectives of the Scandinavian beer industry, check out the web pages of the Scandinavian Brewer’s Review, where a number of their articles now are available online.

Thanks to beerticker.dk for making me aware of this.

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NY on a budget

Seems I have a few readers out there – in fact there was an all time high yesterday.

I just got a mail from Samantha, who tells me there are other beer tastings in Manhattan, she does promotional works for the cheapest in town. Maxie’s Bar & Grill  is at 233 Park Avenue South, and they are starting up a Tuesday offer of unlimited beer and food for $15 between 6PM and 8PM. 

For that price, I’d expect B** Light, but they actually feature decent beers. Tonight – the 24th – you can try the new Samuel Adams Imperial series. If you know of other offers with better value, let me know.

Any readers who pop in, please report back!

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The morning after my visit to the BQ bar, I get up quite early for breakfast. My suitcase is fairly empty, but I have plans to do something about that.  I take a stroll in the crisp, but sunny weather, ending up at my destination shortly after they open at 9:30.

It’s a tutta Birra again, which must be on the top ten list of beer shops in Europe. Like an Aladdin’s cave, it is crammed with beers from across Europe, with particularly strong sections from Germany, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. A good selection of Italian micros, too, but it seems that this selection is a bit more erratic.

This might have to do with the prices. While the imported beers are usually in the € 3-5 price range, the Italian craft beers are around the € 10 mark. Sure, they are in 75 cl bottles, but when it’s a new brewery or one that you have had mixed experiences from before, you are a bit more hesitant.

Sure, I buy half a dozen Italian beers, but the rest of my backpack is filled with interesting half bottles from other countries. The next day I find half bottles from Birraficial del Ducato at €5 per bottle in a wine bar, which is more to my liking.

Sure, this is complicated. I think selling craft beers in large bottles, often with elaborate design, is making it easier to compete in the wine segment of the market, enabling you to charge wine prices for the beer. But, on the other hand, you certainly discourage the casual buyer from trying something new – 12 Euros is hardly an introductory offer.

Well, I certainly manage to buy slightly more than I should before dragging it all back to the hotel. And I even have another stop before catching my train. And they possibly have bottled beer there as well….

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I subscribe to a number of beer-related e-mail lists. Sometimes I think I do this just to torment myself. This just in from the Blind Tiger, NYC:

This Wednesday Feb. 25th at 12:00PM, the Blind Tiger is very proud to be hosting our dear friends from Stone Brewing Company.  This is one of our favorite times of the year…

On tap:

  • Stone Collaboration (with Alesmith & Mikkeller)
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Stone Old Guardian 2007
  • Stone Old Guardian 2006
  • Stone Double Bastard 2007
  • Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2007
  • Stone Pale Ale
  • Stone IPA
  • Stone Ruination IPA
  • Stone Smoked Porter
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard


  • Stone Holiday
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Ale Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

And they offer free cheese, too. And free wireless. While I am sitting here in the snow with my pale lagers. Arrogant Bastard indeed!

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Good new from the British Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA):


In marked contrast to the decline in volumes reported by national and global brewers, the local brewing sector grew by a total of 10 per cent in 2008. Of this, three per cent was contributed by new brewers not operational throughout all of 2007, leaving ‘like for like’ volumes up by an impressive seven per cent.


The growth of the local brewery industry has been achieved through both increased distribution  – the average number of pub customers per brewer grew from 79 to 94 last year – and increased rate of sale –  throughput of local beers grew by an average of nine per cent over the last two years. While draught ale, through the pub, is the mainstay of the local brewer, accounting for 86 per cent of volumes, bottled beer is growing fast. Last year, bottled beer volumes increased by over 50 per cent, which helped to grow total sales turnover by an average of 20 per cent.


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One thing I am pretty pleased about is the BeerAdvocate magazine. I paid for a founding subscription a year or so before they launched it, which means I just pay postage to get it in my mailbox at regular intervals. Definitely a US bias, which means that there are lots of beers I can only dream about tasting. But there are good articles, and you can drool over the ads…

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The best in Norway

The Norwegian beer drinkers organisation NORØL is not very active, though they publish a magazine and has a fine electronic newsletter.

They recently published the result of their annual beer poll – percentages in parenthesis.

Best new Norwegian beer:

Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 2nd Edition  (15,8)
Nøgne Ø Dobbel IPA   (9,8)
Haandbryggeriet Haandbakk (9,2)
Aass Bryggeri Juleøl Premium (6,7)

Brewery of the year:

Nøgne Ø (42,9)
Haandbryggeriet (23,3)
Aass (10,8)

Brewpub of the year:

Ægir Bryggeri (36,3)
Oslo Mikrobryggeri (23,8)
Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri (16,3 )

Best imported beer:

Raasted Imperial Stout (11,3)
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast  (9,4)
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter (7,5)
Rochefort 10 (7,5)

As you see, the craft beers are dominating the scene, which is really encouraging. Now, if I could find an excuse for getting to the Ægir brewery on the West coast…

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