The Beer Gatherer

Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular, following 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die and other beer musings.

Archive for the tag “Beer in Zurich”

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.

oh hops, oh joy!

oh hops, oh joy!

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.

IMG_2795Oh, 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.

beautiful display - I want them all.

beautiful display – I want them all.

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.

A Weekend In Switzerland Part III: Progress

The European Beer Consumers Union tells us that “The eastern two-thirds [of Switzerland], that is roughly the German-speaking part […] is very much pale lager country, with very few deviations from the Germanic norm. Even micros and brewpubs tend to produce little else than unfiltered pale lagers, a few dark variations and the odd Weizen.” unfortunately, the newer beer institutions we visited on our short weekend in Basel and Zürich did little to contradict the quoted statement.

We drank the first round of beer about an hour after arriving to Basel. We checked in at our hotel, Ibis near the Railway station and headed straight to Unser Bier. Located in a converted factory that is now used for a trendy backpackers hostel, the brewery and the brewpub, Unser Bier was established in 1998 by a group of homebrewers, owned by thousands of shareholders and in 2011 produced some 600,000 liters that were consumed locally, in Basel and vicinity. Whereas the cheeky king can be seen in trendy cafe’s all over town and crates adorned by his face fill the local Drinks of the World, it was nowhere to be seen in Zürich. We were lucky to visit the brewpub, as it is open only two evenings a week. We were also fortunate to find the entrance (which is to the left of the main entrance of the building, in a courtyard).

High ceiling, minimal decoration, smartly dressed audience and a supercool lampshade made of beer glasses make it a modern, trendy spot. The Secret Agent and I prefer more shady looking watering holes, but we thought, maybe the creative design indicates creative beer?  IMG_2677Well, not quite. We sampled the 4 beers that were offered on tap: blond, amber, Wheinschaft – Christmas beer – and schwarzbier. All were really fresh and accurate. Granted, you may think, we were drinking at the brewpub, with only a door standing between us and the fermentation tanks. It isn’t taken for granted in Israel, that’s for sure. Fresh, accurate, filtered and not bad, but nothing was really great. We then shared a bottle of Aypiey, their organic IPA that again was alright: some citrus and pine in the nose and unoffensive bitterness in the mouth, but again not exciting. It’s cool that Unser Bier offers more than the traditional styles, but a bit more risque would have done them good.

IMG_2694Later in the evening, after fun time in Fischerstube we dropped by Cafe’ Hirscheneck, hoping to score a vegan meal. The kitchen was closed by the time we made it there, so we stayed for beer. Appenzeller on tap.  Locher Appenzeller Naturperle was first brewed in 1996 and is Switzerland’s first organic beer. This unfiltered, unpasturized brew contains 5.2% abv and smells a little like vegetable broth, as well as malt and grass. Broth is also apparent in the mouth, along with malt and canned corn water. It has a light body and smooth texture, but hardly any carbonation. I guess it’s because it’s unfiltered that the drink reminded me of vegetable soup, but hey, it was quite fine. The Secret Agent ordered Appenzeller’s helles lager, called Locher Appenzeller Swiss Mountain, which was also quite alright for a lager.

IMG_2763We told you about our first night in Zürich in a previous post. The following day, Saturday, began with hunting down Amboss 5. This is a local brewery that contract brews its stuff elsewhere. Their German-language website and a review on ratebeer indicate that they have some kind of brewpub/ Club. 10:30 a.m on Saturday may be a little too early for beer, but the place was open and we learned that there’s no brewpub in the address, only a warehouse/ distribution center. However, there were people at the place who pointed at a neighbouring cafe’ that pours Amboss 5 beer and brews Amboss coffee – they also roast and grind beans. I love coffee in my beer, both as an addition or as roasty porter/ imperial stout aromata, but these are two separate businesses. The beers we sampled were two rather standard lagers. Amboss Amber, Märzen beer, is grainy and has just a little roast, with fruity bitter taste (quite untypical for the genre). Amboss Blond is standard light lager. Again, alright, refreshing – which is the last thing you want from a beer in the freezing Swiss winter – but standard.

A couple of hours later we were the first customers on the bar at Steinfels, a trendy bar that serves burgers and brews beer in a well-designed space. The beer menu shows an attempt to think out of the Swiss box and we jumped at the opportunity to taste Swiss Saison. Well, it was as aromatic as tea, with cinnamon and jasmine and clove and tasted like tea as well. Nice, but definitely not Saison. The Weizen, however, was very good, with orange peel aroma, biscuit and somewhat sour taste. One of the better beers we tried at the brewpubs we visited. IMG_2783

With the 1001 mission in mind, we allowed ourselves to drift away from Swiss beer and visit Bonnie Prince Pub. Located near Zürich’s touristic old town, this is a Scottish-like public house that serves commercial Heineken bottles and cans as well as Scotch and Scottish beers in a stuffy atmosphere with velvet-covered walls, wooden bar  and squeaky stools and Walkers crisps for sale – of course. They offer some 8 different Scottish beers, out of which we chose Isle of Skye Black Cuillin which is a rather good porter and Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, our reason for dropping by and staying in despite the bartender’s refusal to let us use the Wi-fi. This is the 4th Harviestoun beer we ever drank and like its predecessors, this is one great beer. All black, with honey and cocoa aroma, aggressive cocoa and coffee taste and syrupy, engine oil-like texture. A great beer and definitely a fresh change in the Land of Pale Lager.


Locher Appenzeller Naturperle and Harivestoun Old Engine Oil are beers #162 and #163 I Must Try Before I Die. Stay tuned for the 4th part of the Swiss Weekend series and other 1001 Beers adventures.

A Weekend In Switzerland Part II: Tradition

When The Secret Agent and I decided to visit Basel and Zürich, two cities in German speaking Cantons, one of which, Basel, located practically across the street from the German town Freiburg, we expected to encounter a beer culture similar to that of Germany: large beer halls that’s been around for centuries and serve one or two dirt cheap, fresh house-brewed lagers on tap. Sounds boring? That’s the setting that The Secret Agent idolizes; he’d rather sit in a bierhall and chat in pidgin with local retired men over visiting any cutting-edge multi-tap bar.

However, his Bavarian fantasy didn’t come true over our Swiss weekend. The market is dominated by Feldschlösschen, once family owned that’s been a Carlsberg subsidiary since 2000 that brews pale lagers. With the help of Ratebeer, we visited 3 beer halls that have the patina we’ve been craving.

ueliLocated in the heart of Old Town Basel, a minute from the Rhine, is Restaurant Fischerstube, a lively brewpub in a 15th-century building that serves traditional Swiss dishes and the house beers on tap as well as bottled seasonals and specialties. As expected from a microbrewery in a town know for its winter carnival, Ueli Bier‘s icon is a (thankfully not intimidating) jester. Fischerstube is a packed, yet cosy place. Filled with chatter and clutter, a welcoming atmosphere and crowd that consists of locals and foreigners at once. We sat next to two women who were having a drink after a shopping spree and exchanged looks with them, over the loud Americans who occupied the opposite table and bragged about the thriving microbrewing scenes of Colorado and Idaho. In the corner there was a large table of 60-70 years-old women, celebrating something over wine glasses.



We loved the atmosphere and enjoyed the beer we sampled – 5 different beers in total, as those on tap are offered in different size glasses, from 100 or 200 ml. to 3L jugs. The spicy, almost-chewy Hefe Weizen was our favourite with the roasty dunkel a close follower. There was nothing really outstanding about the beers in Fischerstube, but their freshness and the lovely, lively happening around us added to our enjoyment.

IMG_2692You can buy Ueli Bier in Drinks of The World in Basel, which we mentioned in the first entry in the Swiss weekend series, but I’m afraid that outside the restaurant they’re just simple lagers, so if you can (and if you’re in the teeny-tiny town known as Basel, you can), drink it on location.

There must be other traditional beer halls in Basel, but we had only one evening in the city and opted to visit brewpubs (yes, in plural. Wait for part III). We arrived at Zürich on Friday evening, dropped our luggage at the spacious room we found on AirBnB and returned to the crowded train station, for a taste of Christmas Market and beer. Located in the main hall of Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Brasserie Fédéral that specializes in Swiss beer, attracts quite a few of the 400,000 passengers that enter the station every day. The menu offers more than 100 Swiss beers, almost all of them bottled, most of them conservative; beer from new Swiss micros wasn’t spotted on the menu. We were seated in a corner table and were served by an impatient waiter that was somewhat irritated that we read the menu and didn’t just opt for some Feldschlösschen. The prices were high, we were tired and wanted to switch to our pajamas so we ordered two bottles of hard-to-find stuff that’s in the 1001 book. Felsenau Bärni Dunkles Spezialbier an unfiltered dark lager thathails from Swiss capital Bern pours clear dark bronze and smells of honey and diluted caramel. Tastes rather sweet with a little sting, its body is light and the carbonation quite soft for a  lager. This is not a bad beer. It is properly done, but you can lead a peaceful life and die happily without trying it. Rosengarten Einsiedler Hell is another rather difficult to find beer. That’s a pale lager that, according to the book “is a must-try beer for scholars of the Swiss beer landscape”. Beers like that is the reason the 1001 book pisses me off so many times. There’s one Israeli beer in the book, a hard-to-find, tap only seasonal and then there’s this mediocre Swiss pale lager? Gee, Goldstar is much more worthy! Even Tuborg Red that has an interesting story behind it is worthier than Einsiedler Hell. Clear Golden with a quick dissolving white head, honey and mineral aroma, bitter, malty and roasty taste, light body and way-too-soft carbonation. Something was wrong with the bottle, as the flip-top opened without any resistance. Mediocre.

clearly uninteresting

clearly uninteresting

Our Classic Beer Hall craving was satisfied on our last day in Zurich. Restaurant Zeughauskeller, a huge, busy place in the heart of Old Town, has been in business since 1926. Before that the building that was constructed in 1487 was used as arsenal warehouse. The restaurant website tells that “[legend] has it that the crossbow from William Tell […] was issued here.” It comes as no surprise that the walls are decorated with all sorts of armor. It’s a touristy place and as such is expensive and offers multi-lingual menus, but when we visited on  Sunday noon, it also boasted of dining Swiss families. Menu is full-on Swiss traditional dishes, has limited vegetarian/ vegan options (but the bread is to die for!) and a small, but alright beer menu: a few Swiss beers on tap and a bunch of “international” bottles (Schneider Weisse, Chimay and more Swiss beer). Draught beer is offered in 300ml and 400ml glasses. We opted for the small ones and finally drank some beers from the aforementioned Feldschlösschen: Feldschlösschen Urtrüb that’s in the menu is called Naturrüb that was alright, with grassy, vegetal aroma that’s quite typical for unfiltered beer. We also drank Dunkle Perle that was a bit too watery for me, Oberländerbier Amber that was quite nice, bitter and malty with some caramel and the house beer that was brewed by local brewery Turbinenbräuhaus that was quite nice as well, with spices and biscuit in the nose and soft herbal, slightly dry bitterness.

more beams!

more beams!

I would highly recommend visiting these 3 places but more for the atmosphere than for the beer. Meanwhile,  Felsenau Bärni and Einsiedler Hell are beers #158 and #159 *I* Must Try Before I Die. You, however, don’t have to.

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