Monday, May 16, 2011

Week 14

On Monday we had a long day of travel. We had breakfast in Brussels, lunch in Paris and dinner in Milan. On the train we did a beer sampling of three different saison's I had purchased in Belgium. Not surprising, Saison Dupont was the best. We had a pretty exciting moment when we crossed the Italian border and the police boarded the train with a drug sniffing dog. They came straight to us and asked for our luggage. Of course we were fine, but it just show's you that we as tourists really do stick out.

We got to Milan late, had dinner then crashed out at our hotel. We got up had breakfast and decided what we were going to do next. One of the main reasons for coming to Italy was to check out some Italian craft beer. They are really on the forefront of beer right now, and Milan is sort of the central hub for it. We found ourselves not really impressed with Milan itself, so we decided we would check out one brewery there, then head up to the Lake Como area. We had some time kill before the brewery opened so we just walked around the city. Finally we went back to check out Birrificio Lambrate.   I had read some great things about this place, and it turned out they were all true. We started with a sample of each of their beers. This was such a great thing for me. Most of their beers were very similar to what American craft brewers are doing. They are using a lot of American hops and really pushing the envelope. It was a welcomed change from German beer, which I do enjoy, it's just very one dimensional. We also had some great food, but the true highlight was when I asked for a t-shirt they asked if we would like to meet the brewmaster. We did, and it turned out to be a great experience. He gave us a short tour and explained their system to us. They have a new 20 hl automated Kaspar Schulz system, and some cramped cellar space. They were pretty excited about the fact that we were from Portland.

Talkin' shop

After that, we boarded a train and headed north. Our destination was Lecco on the shores of Lake Como. We randomly booked a hotel online that turned out to be absolutely fantastic. It was high on the hillside overlooking the lake. They had a superb kitchen and even had great Italian beer. We ended up spending two nights here. The hotel is right at the beginning of a path that leads up the side of the mountain to the ruins of an old castle. We hiked up the trail the second night and had a picknick.

Next it was farther up the Lake Como coast to the town of Verena. It is a really tourist heavy town, but quite beautiful just the same. We had another hotel half way up the hillside with a stunning view of the lake.

Later in the day we decided to take the ferry across the lake to the town of Bellagio. We had a beer outside and it started to rain, but it was still nice and warm. We took the ferry back, walked along the esplanade in Verena, and hiked back up the hill to our hotel for dinner. It was a great day.

Friday we packed up and headed south again to the town of Mandello Del Lario. Our main goal here was to visit the Moto Guzzi motorcycle museum. Since I own a Moto Guzzi this was pretty special for me to see where my bike was born. The museum is only open for 1hour everyday. It was neat to walk through reading about some of the history and looking at very cool motorcycles.

Pretty close to my bike

One of my dream bikes

After the museum we walked to the waterfront had a beer, then walked back to our hotel for some food and more drinks. The place we were staying at had some of the best pizza we have had while in Italy. They also served beer from Birrificio Lariano. This is another one of the breweries I had read about, and wow they are making some nice beer. I tried four different kinds and was not disappointed with any of them. I really like their approach to their brand concept and I hope to be able to get these again somewhere. They do unfiltered, unpasteurized bottling, so that can be a bit of a risk but these were in great shape.

We left the Lake Como area, and made our way over to Venice. This is one of those places that I would recommend seeing once, but it's really not my kind of place. The architecture and the layout of the city is great, but it's full of tourists in a bad way. We did have some dinner and I tried a lager called Bierra Castello, ehhh.
Afterwards we walked around the city a bit and found a wine bar right by our hotel that also had beer. I tried the Bierra Moretti 150 year anniversary Grand Cru. This was an interesting beer. Bierra Moretti is most famous for a light lager that is usually quite oxidized, comes in a green bottle and generally lacks flavor. The Grand Cru however was in a 750 ml bottle, had a nice amber colo,r and had a good fruity Belgian yeast influenced flavor to it. The CO2 was nice and high, really bringing out the volitiles. I was quite impressed with it. Not the best beer I have ever had, but far from the lager they normally make.


We left Venice the next morning. I guess I would have liked to explore more, but I honestly feel I got enough of the city to be happy with.

We took the train through northern Italy and through parts of Austria, that I would love to return to. The scenery was stunning. We got back to Munich by early evening, and met up with some friends for some dinner and beers. I am glad to have a little down time for the next week, that is to say I'm glad to not be traveling too far for awhile. I have basically been traveling for about a month, and a little rest will be nice before more traveling, then eventually back to school.

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