Weekend in Switzerland Part IV: Innovation
Now that’s what we were really looking forward to in that Swiss weekend of ours 2 months ago: the promise that the border with Italy brings. New, challenging, hoppy brews like the ones our buddy troubles shares when he returns from business trips to Rome and Milan. It was a bottle of Bad Attitude he once brought that made me fantasizing about a funky beer paradise that has the best of both worlds: traditional German-style quality lagers and those contemporary ales. In fact, I’ve been drooling over the scrapbooky website for weeks before our departure date, fantasizing about Hobo and Bootlegger and Rudolph the winter warmer. Alas, their distribution map and also Ratebeer spotting revealed that in order to drink these sought-after brews we have to change our plans and head to the Southern, Italian cantons. Despite what it sounds, we weren’t planning a beer trip – it was The Young Gods’ show that brought us to Switzerland. Being quite persistant when it comes to beer, a couple of days before we took off I contacted Bad Attitude via their facebook page and asked if their beer is available anywhere in Basel. Turns out it does, but nowhere in Ratebeerville: All Bar One, centrally located in a pedestrian street in the city center. This smart, modern-looking bar serves top-quality alcohol, be it wine, liquors, cocktails (not sure about their quality, and I’m the world’s worst cocktail snob, but still…) and beer. Some from tap, some bottled, a bunch of international in the line of Sierra Nevada, Brewdog and Fuller’s. sounds dull but in a city dominated by local breweries and multinationals, this is a fresh change. Oh, and there were also the Swiss-Italian beers, the reason for our visit.
There were a bunch of BA brews on the menu, including the great Two Penny Porter which we drank before. Since we heard good things about The Dude Double IPA we ordered this one. There were other Swiss beers on the menu which we haven’t heard about before, so we opted to try one of them instead of another bottle of BA, which I have a feeling we’ll get to drink again in the future. The bartender recommended La Rossa by by Birra San Martino, that after a through investigation I learned that this is where BA contract-brews their beer. The dude was nothing short of awesome. Tropical aroma of mango, pineapple and lychee, fresh bitter taste with a little malt and biscuits and a fruity aftertaste. Quite the opposite of the other Swiss beers we sampled during that weekend. La Rossa is a strong amber ale, 6.7% abv. with more malty dominance: sweet biscuit, grain and yeasty fruitiness in the nose, bitter, dry and starchy in the mouth. Quite alright but nothing like The Dude. These two beers cost more than other domestic brews: we’re talking 8-9 chf per can/ bottle!
We found our favourite beer spot in Zürich where we least expected to find it: we googled it. Yup, it wasn’t listed on Ratebeer and wasn’t even reviewed by Bov. Desperate by finding nowt that resembles anything edgy in these sources I turned to Google and found Fork and Bottle. Opened in 2012 and located off the beaten path this lovely bistro (and beer garden in season) serves food, Italian wine and most importantly – Italian craft beer! Keep in mind that Zürichi s a relatively small town. Off center means a 10 minute train ride from the city center, then 3 minutes short walk under the freeway in a safe and quiet tunnel.
Before we asked about beer, we inquired if there’s anything to eat. I wasn’t too hungry myself and didn’t really count on stuffing myself there – my experience in omni eateries in Switzerland had so far left me with pretzels. However, there was a veggie burger on the menu which was actually vegan! and the brilliant, garlicky tomato soup was vegan too! The owner, an American, told us that there are plenty of VEGetariANs among the regular patrons and that when ordered in advance, more vegan dishes are available – tres cool!
Anyway, we’re here for the beer, right? Get this: with the exception of Bad Attitude, Fork and Bottle curates around 30 Italian craft beers, selected by the owner, Mr. Mike Goguen, on his travels to Northern Italy. The beer menu is divided to sections that both beergeeks and newbies understand (session, light, semi-bitter, sweet, bitter, Belgian-style triple, hoppy and cask-aged). As strange as the beers on the menu were to us, as much as we wanted to sample them all. Due to financial and temporal restrictions – we were on our way to the Rote Fabrik to see The Young Gods (remember? The reason for our trip to Switzerland on the first place), we planned to stay for one round only and asked Mike to help us choose from the menu.
Oh, of course I chose Elav‘s Punks Do It Bitter myself – can’t resist a brew with such a title! Luckily, this hazy golden English Pale Ale was just the right thing: pine, pineapple and that hoppy mango thingy in the nose and bitterness, slightly hoppy-fruity in the mouth. Light bodied, balanced and well made. Great name for a great beer. Mike hit it right by recommending Grado Plato Sticher – a variation on Altbier that The Secret Agent was eying. An easy to drink beer with and aroma that hints of roast, some wood and cocoa beans and a roasty bitter taste with, again, hints of cocoa. It’s a medium-bodied beer with a smooth and sweet finish – good choice here.
The clock was ticking but we were having such a good time at the Fork and Bottle, so we opted for a second, quick round. Mike picked another beer from Elav, Grunge IPA, and Stradaregina Imperial Hop. Grunge IPA is a clear ruby-bronze brew with a floral, grapefruit aroma and a bitter taste that isn’t dry and is just a little burning and alcoholic. It was pretty yummy, smooth and light-bodied. The Imperial Hop was the weakest link in this session, but only because the other 3 beers were so good. Clear to hazy ruby-brown colour with and and off-white head. Wooden aroma, some pine and cooked veggies as well and a very bitter, dry taste.
I’d drink any of these beers again.
By far, the Fork and Bottle was the best beer experience we had in our short getaway to Switzerland. It was clear that the owners love their beer. A must stop for any beer lover who visits Zürich, especially to those who don’t make it to Italy or the Italian Swiss cantons.
It took us 2 months to complete this field report. We hope that readers and googlers who plan to visit Basel and Zürich find it useful. Our next destination seems to be Romania. It’s gonna be a family trip but we’re sure that we’ll find time for beer. The Secret In-Laws have already asked if we started looking around for beer locations in our itinerary. Til then I plan to do a major catch-up with project 1001. I’ve accumulated a few dozen beers and notes that have yet to make it to this blog for one reason or another, so February will be dedicated to clear the to-write list.