Probably my most interesting beer experiences this summer were in Italy. Italy has a blooming craft beer scene, as noted and written about by Mark Dredge, and being able to meet a local who was kind enough to show and tell us where to go, meant we could properly experince it.
After meeting Alessio at BBC11, we arranged to experience craft beer Milanese style on my whitstle-stop tour through Europe. Birrificio Lambrate was simply amazing - happy hour not only allowed us to try a dazzling array of fantastic lagers and ales, they also had a fantastic (mostly) vegetarian buffet, reputed to be one of the best in the city. A very popular bar, get there early to get a seat otherwise you'll be standing outside with hundreds of others (no exaggeration), which is kind of cool in a novelty - "this would never happen in England" way. I enjoyed the Drago Verde lager, a summer seasonal which definitely suited the hot and humid Milanese weather! Alessio told me that most of the beer doesn't leave the city - it's so popular that they can't meet demand outside of Milan!
Next we visisted Birreria BQ - a cool little beer bar situated on a canal, with great ambience and 23 beers on taps. I enjoyed the Brewfist Spaceman IPA or "one of the best IPAs in Italy, and my grandmother's favourite" (Alessio). Hop-tastic butwell balanced, definitely a winner. We also had a great peach beer that Alessio conjured up from somewhere, which tasted fantastic but I was far too drunk to remember its name.
We were also lucky enough to try a crafty trial keg from Birra OM, which was a thirst-quenching lager that everyone at the BBQ thoroughly enjoyed. After this, we went to Birifficio Italiano - Italy's first microbrewery and whose Tipopils is reputed as (and actually is) one of Italy's best beers, a great golden pilsner. Coupled with a fantastic crostini romana, it worked fantastically well together. Situated in Lurago Marinone (just outside Milan), it was interesting to see this brewpub and restaurant at the heart of the towns nightlife. People were queuing up, waiting 45 minutes just to get a table. It was the towns' go to place and a real local favourite, showing what a microbrewery and brewpub can potentially achieve.
Mostodolce in Florence was a place we also visited. A microbrewery that had a very similar vibe to BI - local, through and through. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to have too many styles on tap when we went. Their American Pale Ale (APA) was not exactly too my taste (not as hoppy as I was hoping, more like a bitter), but their chesnut honey beer Martellina was a very individual beer. Sticky, malty and sour, the misses loved it.