I don’t have my name engraved in a brass plaque at a bar stool, and if we Norwegians followed the German custom of reserving a Stammtisch for the regulars, I would not qualify. I don’t really get out that much. Sure, there are a few places in Oslo, and one in London, where the landlord knows who I am, but that’s about it. It’s not like in Cheers where everybody knows your name.
-Excuse me, are you Knut Albert? The beer blogger?
It is early on a Friday evening at the Chelsea Pub in Parma, Italy. The man politely approaching my table is Marco, the manager of the Chelsea Pub. Sure, I’ve been here once before and I made a very enthusiastic report about it, but I did not think I had made a lasting impression. I did, possibly, introduce myself, and they were obviously pleased with my review.
Marco apologizes for the limited range of beers at the moment. He is just selling out the last of the Christmas beers, where he had a broad selection of imports. He offers me a bottle of Caspar, a seasonal from the Belgian Alvinne micro. The bottle is a bit of a gusher, but it is a fine, spicy beer with a fine balance between the sweet and the dry.
They are out of stock of most of the Italian micros. It seems like my timing is a bit off, as the big beer event of the year in Italy is the beer fair in Rimini a few weeks later. This is the place to make orders for most of the year, both imports and foreign beers.
They have a few beers on tap, too, I try a Kellerbier from the German Einbecker Brauhaus. This is served too cold for my liking, but as it warms up, it develops into a very decent lager, much preferable to the fizz from the global brewers. I am not too fond of drinking beer from frosted glasses, but with the local climate, I can see the point of doing this for some summer months.
I also enjoy a Meantime Winter Time, brewed in London. This is more sophisticated than most winter warmers. It has a full malt character, but also a fine hoppiness and a hint of smoke. Very pleasant stuff.
The place is filling up. The customers are mostly around thirty, in small and large groups of friends. Some are drinking wheat beers and lagers, many are sharing big bottles of Belgian beers. And everyone seem to order the glilled sandwiches, where you can choose form a broad range of bread and fillings. Two men, who seem to be around sixty, are working hard to fill the orders. Ham and gorgonzola for me, please.
During a quiet moment, Marco shows me the shelves. While he is waiting for new stock, there is one brewery that is well represented – BrewDog. He apologizes for them being quite expensive. But they are so good, he has to have them!
This place has a steadily rotating stock of beers, both for drinking there and to take away. Marco estimates about 300 different beers last year. A few of them are displayed behind the bar, but it seems like the system is based on personal advice.
Friendly buzz of people. Good food, hand picked beers. Attentive service. The passion for the beer is as strong here as at Birrificio Lambrate, but the atmosphere is more laid back. This is on the outskirts of a provincial town, not in a inner city area of a metropolis.
Anything missing? Better bus connections back to town. And, maybe, a blackboard showing special beers which are in the fridge but not on display. Apart from that, this is close to perfect.