Staying in Venice I always rely on the same two spots where some non-ordinary beer is offered – Da Aldo and Il Santo Bevitore. Plus 3-4 varieties of craft beer are constantly on the shelves of my local Punto Simply. Going to Padua had no thoughts about finding something worthy – beerwise. But it was in Padua where I’ve discovered the most civilized bottleshop among the ones I’ve visited up to date.
Strolling down the street saw some bottles in a shop’s window, scattered among the fluffy New Year decorations. Unexpectedly – for a city in Italy – the bottles contained beer, not wine. The shop was open – I’ve discovered later this branch of Casa della Birra doesn’t close for the usual two and a half or three hours midday. A very lucky circumstance for me since I was passing by in an hour when most of the businesses are closed for lunch. Stepped in, saw a shelf with beer bottles immediately. Well, in this wine shop they have a nice – though small – beer department.
Had a look around. Oh. It’s solely beer all around. Christmas beer at the entrance, American beer – to the left, at the right corner – the local brew, Birra Antoniana, in all the imaginable variations: bottles of different sizes, beer-infused cookies, panettone and salame. Central shelf is filled with Italian craft beer and beer sets in wooden boxes.
The highest points on the shelfs are crowded by magnums and souvenir glassware up to 3 liters in size. Every brand of beer has a brochure lying by the bottles, anyone can read the full description of what is offered. And there are branded glasses for all the beer displayed. Brooklyn Brewery’s and Sierra Nevada’s t-shirts neatly stacked and are sold cheaper than the touristy ones offered at souvenir stalls all over the city. Got myself a Brooklyn Brewery maglietta — to gain some creed at the upcoming beergeek events. Bought a pint glass with Sierra Nevada logo – for a non-fetishist 2 euros. The pricing is very decent.
As much as I wanted to buy a lot of everything displayed so temptingly I had to curb my enthusiasm – a corner in my hotel room back in Venice was already crowded by a multitude of Italian and American craft beers. I even restrained myself from tasting the local brand, and so Birra Antoniana remained something to try next time I’m there. Birra dalla Nostra Terra’s logo travelled to Moscow stuck to a nice and solid bottle opener and toy-like universal bottle cap. BA salami was my dinner in Campo Santa Maria Formosa the same evening.
But some beer was bought anyway. I think any beergeek will agree: no matter how many bottles you already stock a few more are always welcome, there are always some beers you absolutely have to try. Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum was at my top of the beer-to-try – ASAP, some stuff from that brewery was added to keep it’s company. All the purchase was packed neatly in a logoed bag with special pockets inside.
What impressed me the most was the completeness of the whole experience. If a beer is displayed it’s offered in several bottle sizes, you can also buy the appropriate glassware, leaf through a brochure with vital data, if you are a fan you can advertise your appreciation by wearing the logoed apparel.
The only touch of imperfection I felt browsing the shop’s Italian craft shelves. Birra Baladin, Montegioco, 32 Via dei Birrai, Ducato, Birra del Borgо are not here, the choice is puzzling and very far from representative of what is currently happening on the Italian craft beer market.
Spoke to the guy (Hi, Simone!) who worked the store consulting the guests and converting visitors into buyers, asked for a reason Italian craft is not paraded here at it’s full ranks.
— There is a lot of beers that are brewed in Italy but copy Belgian or German originals. –
— Are there any styles that are definitely Italian? –
— No. Mostly the brewers just stick to the imported guidelines. —
So the shop prefers to display the originals waiting for Italian brewers to invent a more authentic brews. A very noticeable exception – Birra Antoniana corner is stocked abundantly. The range of the products on offer is staggering, transportation costs are minimal – since the beer is brewed not far from where it’s sold – and the tourists are very likely to buy it as a souvenir of their time in Padua.
— Is this a really good beer? –
— Well…it’s our beer. Birra dalla Nostra Terra. —
Aldo in Venice, when asked the same question, was also patriotically vague – so it’s left to me to get my own impression of that product.
The relative scarcity of the already famous Italian brands here is a bit underwhelming, but the shop is so good in so many other aspects that not even half a star is chewed off in my rating by this peculiarity.