* This is the second of a series of three articles generously sponsored by The Bookshop Alehouse [tba], Southampton, UK. The articles are centered on Israel, Milan and Prague, where Southampton FC will play its upcoming Europa League games.
There are two reasons why Milan is a great city: one is that it’s the place where I was born (I admit this might sound slightly subjective). Another reason is that two of the first microbreweries to ever open in Italy are found in or around Milan.
Birrificio Italiano, a real mecca if you’re into great craft lagers, opened in 1996 just 30 miles north of Milan, not far from Lake Como. Italiano’s Tipopils is an award winning pilsner that has made the Italian brewing history. It’s one of the great craft products that got me into beer: Birrificio Italiano is really a must-visit place if you travel to Milan.
Birrificio Lambrate opened in 1996 too, in north-eastern Milan, and it’s still one of the most popular beer destinations in town. Some 14 beers are produced regularly all year long, plus an endless number of seasonals and collaborations (including with Moor from the UK, Artezan from Poland, and Guineu from Catalunya). The Ligera is definitely one of their best-selling. It has appealing chestnut honey and citrus aromas with an elegant herbal finish.
Just a few minutes on foot from Lambrate one may find Hibu Brewery’s two own pubs, Impronta Birraria and Impronta Birraria Sciesa. The pubs serve Hibu beers, together with a careful selection of other Italian and international brews. One of my favourites within Hibu’s core range is Gotha, a traditional Belgian triple with a lovely golden colour, an enticing white fruit bouquet and elegant spicy flavours.
If you’re still thirsty of local brews, then you don’t need to walk much. Hop Pub is just a couple of minutes south of Impronta Birraria Sciesa. Ten beers on tap, all local. Milan, however, is not all about Italian beer; it is also a great place to drink the best the world has to offer.
Therefore, in case you fancy something foreign, head to the Lambiczoon. One of the most popular Milanese tap rooms and one of my personal favourites. Owner Nino Maiorano’s selection of sours is really second to none. The food is also excellent, and includes hamburgers, cured meat boards and birramisù, a tiramisù made with beer instead of coffee!
Leaving the eastern side of Milan I suggest you visit the Navigli district, possibly Milan’s most picturesque neighborhood. There, local brewery BQ owns one of its bars. It’s a real micropub, with only a few chairs to enjoy a beer and something to eat. If you really want to make the most of the Navigli experience however, just get a beer and drink it outside the bar, by the canal. If you’re into live music, you might want to visit the BQ in via Losanna (north of Chinatown); twenty beers on draught (including four handpumps) plus around 500 bottles. No more words needed.
From there you’re not far from another flagship of the Milanese beer scene: Isola della Birra. Six beers on draught plus a very good selection of labels from local breweries, featuring Birrificio Italiano, Orso Verde, Lambrate, Geco, Hibu, Extraomnes, Doppio Malto, and Rurale.
Once you’re done with that, cross Porta Garibaldi Train Station and head towards Baladin’s pub. Baladin is Italian brewing’s most successful story. It opened in 1996 (same as Italiano and Lambrate), and now owns 16 pubs in Italy, Morocco and US. So, maybe you might want to give it a shot before you leave Milan...
Still thirsty? No worries, I have another couple of suggestions to quench your thirst. Head towards the Sforzesco Castle, maybe by one of Milan’s old wooden trams (you really must experience that!). Stroll around the castle’s gardens and once you’re done with sightseeing, walk into the Sloan Square [sic]. Its anglophone name is justified by 24 beers on draught from pretty much anywhere in the world, often including limited editions. The bottle menu is also extraordinary, with 400 labels and plenty of rare bottles.
Before you leave Milan make sure you also visit La Ribalta, a young brewpub located in the Dergano neighbourhood, north of the city. The beers on draught are ten, with two handpumps; usually their own brews, although you’re likely to find some guest beers.
Obviously, this is only a selection of what Milan has to offer, but it should give you enough choice to be able to find great beer every day, for a few days. Below you can find a map to help you navigate all pubs and bars I’ve mentioned in the post, plus a few more and a list of beer shops - in case you want to bring something home...
Enjoy your Milan beer hunting!