Pub/Bar of the Month April 2010: Birrificio Lambrate
Birrificio Lambrate, Milan
It’s a couple of years since I was in Lambrate in Milan but my recent visit to Italy to judge Unionbirrai’s Beer of the Year competition brought back good memories of enjoying a beer there.
Fellow judges Derek Walsh and Theo Flissebaalje had made a beeline for the pub as soon as their plane had touched down in Milan.
They then raced back for a quick one before the return plane took off a few days later. Such determination makes for a healthy recommendation.
Birrificio Lambrate – to give it its full title – is a pub/brewery on the eastern side of Milan. This is the area of the city where Lambretta scooters were once made, so if you have Mod connections there’s a double reason for heading this way.
The pub (pictured above right, courtesy of Derek Walsh) stands next to a post office down a sidestreet. It doesn’t look much from the outside. In fact, a lot of people think it’s closed until they push open the door. Inside, it’s a small, knocked-about sort of place, with a lot of soul.
Seating divides into booth and tables; the tiled floor below and the ceiling above are red. Elsewhere dark brown wood is broken up by a collection of beer steins here, a dartboard there. Rock music provides the soundtrack and it’s all a bit chaotic, in the best sense of the word.
A Family Affair
The place opened in 1996, a family affair taking over premises from another pub. Brewing initially amounted to no more than 150 litres at a time but proved so popular that today the brewhouse, across an alley, is a feast of shining stainless steel vessels producing many times that amount. The equipment would not be out of place on display in a US brew pub, but here they keep it modestly tucked out of view.
What concerns most people, quite rightly, is what it produces, not what it looks like, and the answer to that is a range of terrific beers in a variety of styles. The best selling beer is called Montestella, after a small local hill that was created out of the rubble of World War II destruction.
It’s a pale ale in style with a clean, sharp, hoppy character and vies for attention on the bar with such beers as Ligera, a US-style pale ale; Ghisa, a smoked stout named after the local nickname for a traffic cop; Ortiga, a hoppy golden ale; and Porporra, an award-winning, big, sweet and fruity red beer.
Other offerings include Domm, a banana- and clove-accented weizen; a stronger version of Ghisa, called simply Imperial Ghisa; and Bricòla, fermented on oak chips and laced with chestnut honey.
Customers are drawn in early by the prospect of a happy hour, well actually two hours, 6–8pm. This is the sort of happy hour of which I approve.
There are no drinks discounts to encourage quick consumption but, instead, a free buffet that lines workers’ stomachs and softly persuades them to stay for another beer. And it’s not just a few token nibbles, either. There’s a full table of salads and antipasti to take advantage of.
Given such generous provision, it’s hard to see anyone rushing away. Don’t expect soft comforts or a quiet time. Do expect fine beer in a homely, slightly mad environment.
It should be your first port of call if you’re ever in Milan.
Birrificio Lambrate, Via Adelchi 5, Milan.
Tel. (02) 70 63 86 78
Opening Hours: 12–3, 6–2am; closed lunchtimes Saturday and Sunday