Isola della Birra
Posted in Beer on 2007-12-16 15:17
Galleria Victorio Emanuele
We went to Milan on a weekend trip to visit my youngest sister. Milan is not really a tourist city, being much better known as an industrial and financial centre, so we didn't expect too much from the city itself. The initial impression was even worse, though. We arrived in darkness and the famous Milanese fog, getting off the airport express train in a suburb before reaching the city centre. It was not the nicest part of Milan, and the fog was not kind to it.
The next morning we went in to look at the city center, and were much better pleased by that. The square by the cathedral, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the Sforzesco castle, and some neighbourhoods in the city were definitely nice. Some areas also have lots of fancy designer shops and look overall both interesting and welcoming. On the other hand, much of the city is quite worn, gray, and poorly maintained, and much of it appears to be more or less lifeless. So it's definitely a mixed bag.
Over the last couple of decades Milan is probably best known for being the start of the enormous Mani Pulite ("clean hands") political corruption scandal in the 1990s which eventually brought down pretty much the entire Italian political elite. The main result of this, depressingly, was to leave a vacuum at the top, which was eventually filled by Silvio Berlusconi. He is also closely connected with the city, having made his fortune there with the Milano 2 construction project in the 60s.
Baladin beers, and sister
On the beer side, the city is a much better destination than you'd expect for what is very much a wine country. There are a number of places which offer Italian microbrews, and also a number of brewpubs. By coincidence Knut Albert visited the city just before us, and reported that Isola della Birra was the place to go, and as luck would have it this was within walking distance of my sister's flat. So that made it an easy decision as the first evening's destination.
The pub turned out to be a very pleasant place, if somewhat oddly decorated—neon yellow walls over wooden panelling, and a kind of plastic airport fence over the bar—with eclectic jazz music playing in the background. The waiters were equally friendly, but poorly organized. Some wanted us to pay for the beer when we got it, others put it on the bill. Then they brought us someone else's change, and never came back to collect it. When we settled the bill, it wasn't correct, but it all worked out in the end.
The beers at Isola della Birra were mainly Baladin, Lambrate, or foreign beers, and the first evening we focused very much on the Baladin beers. These are served only in 0.75l bottles, but as we were four people that was perfect for us, so we tasted our way through quite a bit of the selection. For the most part we found them to be very subtle and understated (that is, to not have much taste), and while they were certainly fine beers, they were not very exciting.
Beer rating (by Silje)
So the next evening we tried Mulligan's, a fake Irish pub, which again was a nice place, looking much as you'd expect. Their menu had very little Italian micro beer, which was a disappointment, but suddenly we discovered that the couple next to us were drinking a beer from 32 via dei Birrai, which was not in the menu, and I'd never heard of the brewery before. When I ordered the same beer a while later the waiter was very impressed, and gave me a key ring with the brewery logo on it as a prize. This is logical, right? Hide the most interesting beer by not putting it on the menu, and then if someone manages to discover that you have it, they win a prize?
On leaving, we found yet again that the bill was not correct, and had to persuade them that we'd had one bottle more than was on the bill. The waiter was greatly surprised by this, and wanted to know where we were from. So we had a long, friendly talk, and he shook our hands when we left.
From Mulligan's we walked past the monumental cemetery and back to Isola, where we had another few rounds of microbrew. And again it was the same story. We get somebody else's change, they screw up the bill, and when we tell them they are so impressed I get an Isola della Birra button (currently on my bag).
Sunday we did some more sightseeing, primarily in the city centre, but also in the Navigli area, which has some nice canals. Then it was time for the trip home.
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Tor Johnsen - 2007-12-27 11:45:48
For en meget instruktiv blogg om øl. Har laget en liten link på min egen blogg. Særlig hyggelig at du setter pris på Nøgne Ø. Idet jeg kommer fra Arendal og kjemper mot at Ringnes skal flytte åstedet for vårt særegne Arendals Pilsner bort fra "The Scene of the Crime", er det særlig hyggelig at lokale bryggere klarer å lage et så godt brygg. Min favoritt er Indian Pale Ale, selv om det ramsvarte Dark Horizon heller ikke er å forakte.
Tor Johnsen Enjoy Food & Travel
ste - 2008-01-28 03:59:41
hallo people, this is one of the waiters working at isola della birra...nice to read about us in your blog and great to read about our crap organization...actually having simple rules to manage our working would not be such a bad idea but you know, it would be too boring...and rules are done to be broken...and so...it appearsas easier not to have them...ahahah!!! anyway, we all hope to cheer with you again sooner or late. a presto ste
Lars Marius - 2008-01-28 09:26:19
Hi ste. Don't worry too much about the confusion. I think we got good service at Isola della Birra, and if you also forget to charge us for some beers, and give us other people's money, what's to complain about, really? :-)