Archive for February, 2009

Pump clips, BQ

Pump clips, BQ

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!

BQ interior and guests

BQ interior and guests

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Some days ago, I was in a queue. With Norway being one of the few European countries not yet a member of the EU, we still have duty free sales at Oslo airport. (No, I was just buying a deodorant. The beer selection is awful. I have tried to discuss it with them, but with no success!)

The man in front of me was a guy who shouldcount as a celebrity in these parts, former Prime Minster of Sweden, Göran Persson. He had no intention of buying large quantities of booze, but had picked a bottle of gin and a bottle of port from the well assorted shelves.

Martin Olsson, form Wikipedia Commons

Photo: Martin Olsson, from Wikipedia Commons

The cashier, a girl aged ca 22, gave him a scolding, telling him he had to choose between the two bottles, the duty free allowance for Sweden being only one bottle of alcohol above 20% alcohol by volume. He handed over the port and paid for the gin with his credit card.

-May I see your ID, please?

He showed her his ID card without any fuss and went on towards his Stockholm flight.

A few points:

  • The days of Norwegians watching Swedish TV channels are definitely over.
  • Even if Mr. Persson is married to the Director of the Swedish alcohol monopoly Systembolaget, he still has to buy his own booze. That’s Scandinavia in a nutshell.

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More on the way

I am in transit at Arlanda (Stockholm) airport, and the free beer in one of the lounges is the rather unexiting Spendrups Export. Oh well. My suitcase is filled with Italian micros, lets just hope they survive intact. Blog posts about Milan and Parma coming soon.

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The last American

Double Dead Guy Ale

Double Dead Guy Ale

The beer shelf in my cellar is getting empty and is in danger of being filled up with ski wax and guinea pig food. Sure, there are a few lagers from the Balkans and other odds and ends, but I am getting low on serious beers.

The Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale is the last of the bottles I dragged home from New York. It is bought at New Beer Distributors or Whole Foods, I think – or it could be from the deli at the corner.

Anyway. Fine carbonation, fine head. Rather malty and sweet aroma. Some hint of forest and wild mushrooms. A little balsamico, perhaps. Nothng strikes out, so let’s hope there is more when I sip.

Sweet malt, but with a fresh resin backbone. Sweetness and oaky dryness play with each other, challenging rather than going for low key harmony. The oakiness is similar to tannin-rich red wines. At the same time you have old fashioned boiled sweets. The finish is the same, the sweet cereals and malt is almost like a bowl of breakfast whole grain flakes, but then the dry wood demands attention and sort of distort the idyllic sweetness.

Free range coastal waters, the label says, but it is not very salty.

Oaky was not the ultimate word for the feeling on the tongue. Their web site says tea, and the pieces click into place. It is the beer equivalent of an English breakfast, including both the strong black tea and the cornflakes. No black pudding, though, this is the more Southern variety.

A lovely beer. I’d buy it regularly if it was available. As you see, it goes well with the furniture, too. Every home should have one!

And maybe, just maybe, there is hope. Rogue is planning to get into the Norwegian market. We will see. Maybe it’s not the last American, but one of the first.

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ratebeer has announced its annual list of the best beers in the world. There are lots of things to say about such a list, but it is certainly not much of use to take along when you go beer shopping. Elusive and extreme seem to be the common denominator for most of the top 100.

But sure, if you are seriously interested in beer, all the brews on this list are worth trying and worth seeking out – to the extent it is physically possible.

But there is more to ratebeer than the top 100. This is a database with thousands of contributors, giving a comprehensive overview of the global beer scene. You can use it to find good beers that are widely distributed, beers available in a given market – where you live or where you go to work or play. It is the best international overview available. And if more of us give an input, it will grow even better.

I won’t go into the ratebeer/BeerAdvocate rivalry – for the record I am very pleased with the BA paper magazine. ratebeer is more comprehensive in its coverage of Europe, with more active members reporting on beers, breweries and bars, so this is where I tend both to give my input and look for information. And it turns out there are drinking mates to be found around the world through this online community as well, a very welcome bonus.


Not in the top 100, but a seasonal photo..

Not in the top 100, but a seasonal photo..

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The Danish Beer Enthusiasts are running a poll on the best new beers of 2008. Have a look at the ten finalists at Beerticker.dk.

I tried the two Djævlebryg beers at the Copenhagen Beer Festival. Amazing stuff.

It is interesting to note that there is a canned beer among the ten, and that is even a beer that is being aimed at the discount market – 24 cans for 100 DKr.

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Old ale

We went to the mountains last weekend for a family anniversary. Nice hotel, fantastic cross country skiing, sunshine and good food at the hotel. I has semi-planned for a visit to a nano brewery at a hotel in the next valley, but my designated driver pulled out. I had to make do with the Ringnes at the hotel except for a pleasant surprise of some Nøgne ø beers at the local grocery.

A tapestry from the late 18th century at the hotel shows that they have been drinking beer around here for some time.



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