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…