A Weekend in Switzerland Part I: Beer on the Go
The Secret Agent and I spent the last weekend of November/ First weekend of December in Switzerland. Sort of an early birthday getaway and making my latest biggest wish come true: seeing The Young Gods Live. I wrote about going to Switzerland and returning from Switzerland before, but it’s about time I actually write about the trip. I’ve already written a detailed account about the trip in our Hebrew blog, focusing on date and location, providing travel and (vegan) food tips to the readers. Since the nature of The Beer Gatherer is more geeky, I decided on a different approach for this blog.
First, some background and disclaimer: We spent 4 days in Switzerland, in Basel and Zurich. With 12 Swiss beers in my book, we were also mission-oriented. Naturally, tourists tend to generalize and get a somewhat superficial impression of their travel destination, and despite doing the best research Ratebeer, Google and Bov’s website provide, there’s a good chance we missed stuff or just didn’t get the essence of things due to a language barrier and general cluelessness. Having written that and making this introduction useful in a way, let’s begin with some shopping tips
Actually, in order to get your beer fix to Switzerland, all you need is one tip: Drinks of the World. A small chain that carries, well, drinks from around the world. If the store’s called *Drinks* of the World, it probably means that you can get there all kinds of whine and rum and tequila and scotch, but the truth is, we didn’t notice, because the two branches we visited, in Basel and Zurich, are so loaded with beer that we were almost blinded by the choices we had to face. But first thing first. A small chain, right? It has 5 branches at the railway stations of Zurich, Basel, Bern, Luzern and Winterthur. Unlike other places in the world, Switzerland’s railway stations are well-lit, safe spaces with a thriving commercial space – quite the opposite of Tel Aviv’s Central Bus station, to those who are familiar with the lovely scenery.
We read mediocre reviews about the stores and its selection, but since we compare it to what we know from home, we were thrilled. Europeans, there’s a nice, small selection of American beerP Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, Kona, Anchor and Flying Dog (and also some Coors, Miller and Colt 45 if you insist). Americans – there’s a decent selection of European Beer. Good German stuff, Belgian ales, French stuff, English beer and also BrewDog. Everybody, there’s a vast selection of Swiss beer, including gift packs for the indecisive, and also a fair bunch of (mostly) pale lagers from “rare” countries: we couldn’t resist and despite being well aware that we’re taking room from good quality beer we bought bottles from Morocco, Mongolia and Cuba (did read this, Americans? Cuban beer).
Although we decided to leave beer shopping to the end of the trip, we bought a couple of bottles before getting on the Train from Basel to Zurich. We are target-oriented and used the 1 hour train ride to drink Schneider Weisse Original that we bought at the store in Basel. Cold from the fridge, this refreshing, full-bodied wheat beer was pleasing to drink, but since we had to look after our suitcase and share our seats with other passengers and, we decided to give up on the other bottle we bought, and take it home with us.
We visited the zurich store right before getting on the train back to Basel, the night before our flight back home. We bought a bunch of bottles to take home with us and since we had a night to kill at the airport before the morning departure, we decided to make the most of our free time and picked some beer to taste in the vacant airport. Here’s what we drank:
These were selected from the fridge. Vollmond is domestic, brewed only on full moon for mystical aura and promotional reasons, I guess. It’s a regular lager with a nice label and a nice story behind it, that’s all. It has funky piss-like as well as cooked-veggies aroma and that mediocre pale-lager bitterness, or in other words, almost tasteless. Why is it in the book? Probably because of the full-moon story. The other beers we drank in that nightly airport session were better, with Brewdog’s Dogma being the highlight of the tasting: rich tastes of wood and roast, bitter, a little sweet and a little coffee-like sourness and wood, espresso and acetone aroma.
Schwaben Bräu Das Echte Märzen was quite alright too, malty and balanced, and Schlösser Alt was just great: simple, robust, very drinkable although a tad bit on the sour side. Meanwhile at home we already opened our bottle of Trois Dames IPA from Brasserie Trois Dames, one of Switzerland’s new microbreweries. It’s a huge difference from most of the beer we tastes on our weekend, and that’s a compliment. Murky amber in colour with dry and fruity aroma and dry, fresh bitter taste, it is a good, refreshing beer.
Suffice to say that being true beergeeks, we didn’t only rely on these two chain stores. Paul Ullrich in Basel is another good source for beer and drinks in general. There we also explored the other shelves and let me tell you, their rum section is to die for, with great editions from classic and contemporary distilleries alike. Beer Planet in Zurich has a smaller selection than Drinks of the World, but it’s worth mentioning, because sometimes you can get harder-to-find domestic brews over there. We got a bottle of Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2011 there, a beer I didn’t even imagine finding in the German canton.
Stay tuned for more Swiss musings. Meanwhile, Schneider Weisse Original, Vollmond and Trois Dames IPAare beers #155, #156 and #157 I Must Try Before I Die.