Last month we traveled to italia once again. From the Chesapeake to glacier waters fueled by run off from the Italian & Swiss Alps, we headed to Lago Maggiore. This mystifying body of water is Italy’s second largest lake – Lago Garda is #1. It’s our second time to the lake, but “la prima volta” for our 3 month old son. Worries about flying with a baby were quickly quelled through a baptism by fire, and my thoughts began to wonder towards this blog and what treasures I might bring back in beer form!
Here are some notes and shots from the Piedmonte side of the lake in and around Verbania.
First stop was La Casera, located in Verbania’s main piazza just across from the ferry dock. This is a hybrid deli, wine store and gathering place for meeting friends, enjoying a bottle of wine or beer and noshing on fresh cheeses and meats from around Italy. We were immediately struck by the menu. I’m not normally a fan of giant one page menus that consume the table top, but this one was special.
As is usually the case, wine took precedence over beer in the shop. And being in Italy, you should always prepare for the possibility of no wine, beer or drink list – as these are typically spoken; or answered in a game of 20 Italian Questions. Knowing this to be the case we carefully perused the offerings of the shop first and discovered two beers by Birrificio Math of Tuscany. Just south of Florence and to the west of Livorno, the brewey opened in 2011 and offers 4 standard beers and occasional seasonal beers, all of them named by a number. We tried LA 68, a pilsner style beer, and LA 10, an Imperial IPA.
On another evening out we discovered Trattoria Concordia, a recommendation from my dear friend Paolo from Bottega delle Delizie. The lovely proprietress, Francesca Barengo, welcomed us to our table with a brief explanation of the restaurant’s concept. We were pleased to have arrived to find the restaurant was booked for the evening as walk-ins were being turned away. The venue focuses on local fish from the lake, so I partook in the lake fish influenced menu while others chose a menu focusing on the pathway of Italy’s prized anchovy, from sea to mountain.
The beers were local to the mountain region coming from the town of Domodossola to the north, and brewed by two young Piedmontese guys that apparently make easy to drink beers without pretense. The funny thing about Domodossola is the importance of its name – used in children’s books that teach the Italian alphabet: D for Domodossola. It’s a long name and a long pronunciation for sure! The brewery’s name is Birrificio Balabiòtt and the first beer we sampled was Rabelòtt which is Piedmontese for “throwing a party” according to our hostess Francesca. It was billed as an ambrata, but it’s color and taste were more inline with an American IPA – not a bad thing really. The second beer was Bísa, a peppermint weiss beer whose name translates to “stiff cold wind”. The Bísa paired well with the trio of grilled lake fish and provided a good dose of peppermint with the banana peel flavored finish I typically associate with Weiss beers.