Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Monday, December 22

As promised, Italy's "guru di birra" Lorenzo Dabove arrived at our hotel at 9:30 am to fetch us for a daylong beer excursion in Milano.

Another beautiful sunny day and temps in the low 50s as we meander to the Metro green line chatting about the burgeoning Italian craft beer movement. We stop in Fabriano Boutique, famous paper products manufacturer, and I pick up a notebook for my beer notes, having forgotten to pack mine.

Soon we are Metro-ing to Lambrate, the section of Milano that is home to Birriffico Lambrate, "the first and best brewery in Milano," according to Lorenzo. Began by 2 young brewers (whose names I forget at the moment) in 1996, the brewery is in a former manufacturing space at the back of a courtyard, accessible thru a covered alley. There, we sample, right from the fermenter, their new unnamed golden ale (lotsa Styrian Golding hops providing a dry finish) and a young, promising pils referred to as "na gott" (no name).

There, we also meet the two owners of Birrificio Maltus Faber, a 5-month old brewery in Genova, Fausto (the brewer) and Massimo (the marketing guy). Lorenzo's latest championed brewers, they drove up to Milano to introduce and distribute their lines of beer.

We all move across the courtyard to Lambrate's pub restaurant (closed for lunch for the holidays but opened for us thanks to Lorenzo). After a round of Lambrate's tasty pale ale, Ligura, Massimo proceeds to dole out generous pours of Maltus Faber's line-up, all from bottles (they do not keg).

All of their beers are Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned and, interestingly enough, are compliant with Reinheitsgebot: only water, hops, malt and (obviously Belgian) yeast are used.

The flagship Blonde is an estery, dry beer, not unlike the spiciness of a Leffe Blonde. I liked it a lot. Also good but less distinctive, were the Amber (Ambrate), Bruin, Tripel Blonde, Extra Bruin and a tasty, heavy, if young (bottled only 15 days prior), Imperial Stout.

And all this before pranzo (lunch). Speaking of which...

.. Our jovial party repairs to a long corner table in the pub where the English-speaking co-owner/wife (again, forget name; sorry) of one of the brewers and the Lambrate kitchen staff serve us a risposte (actually, antipasti) of artisinal cheese and thinly sliced salami, followed by a pasta ragu course -- plus an amazing aubergine parmagian for yours truly, the lone vegetariano in the group (thanks for asking, Lorenzo!).

Meanwhile, la birra continued to pour from the taps: Lambrate's Popora, a red bock; el Beccamort (the undertaker), a smooth, chocolately, foreign export-style stout; Brighella, a mildly spicy birra di Natale (Xmas beer); and the brewery's flagship offering, Ghiza, a smoke (but not rauch) bier made with the beechwood-smoked malt from Weyermann's in Bamburg -- and, as the Mad Brewer himself says of Schlenkerla's rauchbier, it was smoky without the meat or fish component of the taste.

And then Lorenzo, true to his love of lambic, produced a wonderful digestif: a bottle of the brand new Lindeman's Cuvée René Kriek, a mildly funky, sour cherry treat. Perfecto.

Cuvée René, Lambrate brewers in background

Then, the entire crew walks around the block to a café and Massimo treats us all to an espresso. We thank profusely and then bid farewell to the Lambrate team and the rest of us pile into Fausto's car (he had been drinking sparingly -- typical brewer) to head to the Buenos Aires shopping district, along the way passing the square in which Mussolini was hanged!

We window shop and Lorenzo picks out some xmas gifts for his parents while we wait for Tutta a Birra to open at 4 pm.

More to come...

Submitted by Tomm Carroll.

ed: Just because its the way I am, a picture of Jeremy Grey (of Wimbledon. UK), myself and Lorenzo Dabove drinking a Schlenkerla Märzen at the Schlenkerla tavern in Bamberg...

Three Guys Drinking

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