I cannot claim that I know Milan at all. It is a city that I’ve been passing through a few times over the years, more recently I have travelled through its airports quite often.
My 16 hours or so in Milan last year were focused on the beer scene, so when my schedule allowed it last week, I decided to spend the night there before going on to Parma.
I had done my homework as usual, and the hotel I had booked on hotels.com was excellent value at 60 Euro or so for four star lodging including breakfast. Five minutes’ walk from the central station and tne minutes from a tutta Birra, the only thing lacking was a good beer bar in the basement. You’d have to go to Belgium for that, I assume.
There have been positive reports about two related beer bars in the Northwestern part of the city, both by Evan and, more comprehensively, by legendary scooper Gazza. I even managed to find the schedule for a combination of Metro and tram for the BQ bar, but the airport bus in from Malpensa took forever, so I walked up to the station and found a taxi instead.
I arrived at BQ shortly after 9 in the evening, and it was empty. Two smiling young people behind the bar, happy that a foreigner has found his way to their place.
A modern pace in an old area, white walls, high ceiling. The music and choir from the mass in the church next door is competing with David Bowie and other 70’s music. But the main attraction: 20 beer on tap. Half of them Italian craft beers, the rest imports from Belgium, the US, Germany and Ireland. Note that even the Irish beer is a Carlow’s stout, not the usual black stuff.
The Italian beers come from a range of breweries – Birrificio Italiano, Del Ducato, Baüscia (with the same owner as the bar), Bi-Du, White Dog, Freccia Fenicia, del Borgo…
My mouth waters. I start with the softer pilseners and wheat beers and move through the list. There is always a danger when it comes to places like this – you end up being too full, intoxicated or a combination of the two that you miss out on the last ones. This place offers an alternative. You can order 3 degustazioni glasses of 10cl at the modest sum of 4 Euros. A tickers dream.
I won’t give you notes of everything, but a few of the highlights:
Tipopils, one of the most famous of the Italian craft brews. Lots of hoppy dryness, almost oaky. Complex, yet very drinkable beer. A benchmark pilsener.
ReAle Extra had a fantastic aroma sowing off its liberal use of hops. Round and full mouth fee, piney dry finish. Lovely.
Birrificio Baüscha is owned by the same guy that runs the bar, but he does not promote his own beers on the expense of others. The Mattia Speciale at 7%ABV is clearly inspired by Belgian Abbey ales. Cloudy brown. Rich, malty, yet well balanced. Some spice, including nutmeg and pepper.
I have had a few beers from White Dog before, a brewery set up by an English expat in Northern Italy. I have not been too impress by all of them, though there is a very decent porter. On offer tonight was the Boot Hill APA at 5.8%. Pronounced hoppy aroma, but not overwhelming. A bit yeasty, fine resin bitterness, full body. This beer grows on you, but this is a style with too many competitiors for me to call it outstanding. It well deserves its place on tap here, though.
Some snack food on the menu, ham, cheese, paté etc. I order a slice of bread with a mixture of Stilton and Baladin’s vintage Xyaiu beer. Everything is freshly made, and this is truly a good match for fine beers. I’ve had enough of the samplers, and order a full glass of the ReAle Extra.
Customers drift in, a number seem to be regulars, and while it is not full on this Wednesday evening, business seems to be all right. The staff tells me that many Italians are wary about brying craft beer, and it is easier to sell the imports than the domestic beer. The mixed clientele order food and beer, there is quiet conversation, attentive service and polite customers.
I bid farewell and walk into the relatively mild Italian night. The perfect pub? Perhaps . I’ll come back to that in a few days. For a ticker, it is close to heaven, though! But then, there is a bar around the corner, too!