I was thrilled to read about the fast walking lane proposed for Liverpool; if rolled out nationally it will certainly improve my retirement immensely. One place where fast lanes aren’t necessary in Brescia, a Cambridge-sized city close to Lake Garda. When I visited, a year ago, I was struck by how smart and brisk all it’s residents were. It made Milan’s residents look slovenly.
That alone would be enough for me, but Brescia is a relatively unknown gem, with gorgeous medieval cobbled streets, a castle, opera house and decent prices. Nearby Bergamo is the cheapest place to fly to from Stansted, and that’s hard to beat with it’s hill-top old town and craft beer scene.
Brescia wasn’t a place I expected great beer on my night in the city, but a quick Google revealed a newish bar near the ultra-modern shopping centre (the toilets of which are my featured image).
From the outside, Xander looks like a typical shop conversion in the inner suburbs. The inside is stunning, though with more than a touch of Brewdog styling.
The bar served 10 keg beers of the “craft” variety, none of which I’d heard of before, and a single beer on handpump from Brewdog. All of them were 4.5 euros for 0.4 litres, which was pretty close to a bargain for the stronger beers. I stuck to the Italian beers, and thought they were tremendous, even better than the range in the Bq pub in Milan.
Bars around here don’t tend to open before 6pm, but turning up early gave me a free aperitivo buffet, where the pizza alone would have been worth 5 euros. I had a really good chat about Brescia, football and Brewdog with Xander’s owner (in English).
He was very keen for me to finish my session with the Alice Porter, and I’m glad I did. I reckon this was as close to NBSS 5 as I’ve drank in 20 years, and given Brew Dog’s ditching of cask not likely to be repeated.
As the evening progressed, the bar filled with a broader mix of customers than I expected, but all were drinking the beers. While there I saw a change of beers, and rapid turnover of beers is clearly key to quality here.
It must have been a good evening; after leaving Xander I somehow found myself in Brescia’s Opera House, placed by the kindly staff in a box with the only person in jeans. The exuberant elderly Italian spoke not a word of English, and a modernised Don Giovanni made no sense to me, but it was a wonderful evening.