Switzerland, in terms of its positioning on the globe, finds itself in a precarious situation. The country straddles the border between the wine-loving side of Europe, which features Mediterranean countries such as Portugal and Spain, and the beer-loving side of Europe.
But the Swiss were smart, they did not choose a side, and instead, embraced both of the different cultures leading to industries for both wine and beer existing in the country.
A Brief History of Beer in Switzerland
The start of the Swiss beer industry can be traced back to 1880 when phylloxera almost completely wiped-out wine production in the country. Beer benefited from this unfortunate event but went on to become one of the biggest alcohol markets in the country. After this event, the demand for beer increased with local breweries such as Cardinal, Warteck, and Carlsberg jumping at the opportunity to boost their sales.
Nowadays Swiss beer brands like Carlsberg and Heineken not only dominate the industry around the entire globe but also account for about 25% of all beer in Switzerland.
Major Beers in Switzerland
If you’re planning to visit Switzerland and want to participate in the drinking culture that has birthed itself in the country, then you simply must know about the major beers in the country.
Coming from the La Nebuleuse brewery the Namur Express is a Belgian-style beer, taking inspiration from the beer-loving side of Europe mentioned before. People have described this beer as crisp and malty. Something you’d expect from a Saison beer.
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The most popular type of Unser Bier is undoubtedly its blonde selection which features beautiful golden pale ales and lagers. Described as a “sommerbier” this beer is best enjoyed while out in the Swiss sun or at an American-style barbeque party.
Most Popular – Heineken Switzerland
Not much needs to be said about Heineken beer except that its quality and enjoyability are unarguable. There is a reason it has become one the of biggest brands of beer from around the world and it currently consists of 25% of all Swiss beer.
Authentic Styles of Swiss Beer
Switzerland is a country laden with its own culture and history, especially in the beer industry. As such they have produced some of the most unique and interesting beers on the market. If you’re ever in the country be sure to try some of these authentic Swiss beers.
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This rich yellow lager is perfect for the summertime and is characterized by its tangy, almost citrus-like flavours. The beer is interesting and unique and should be tried if you’re in the country during its warmer months. It’s refreshing and authentically Swiss.
This locally brewed beer has been described as a honey lager. Clearly a bit more on the sweeter side of beers, this one might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s certainly popular in Switzerland and looked at as a winter delicacy. It contains the flavours of fresh mountain honey and hops – a combination that works a lot better than it sounds.
Brought to life by the genius beer minds at the La Nebuleuse brewery, this one-shot brew is exclusively made during November, as this is the month when the brewery donates all money made from brewing to prostate cancer. So, if you’re looking to try authentic Swiss beer and looking to donate to a good cause, the Brewstache might be just for you.
Microbreweries and Craft Beers in Switzerland
Just as in every beer-drinking nation the craft beer market seems to be expanding and growing in Switzerland like never before.
The burgeoning beer scene in the country is starting to gain a bit of recognition for its high-quality and unique beers on offer. The destruction of the beer cartel in the country, at the end of the 20th century, has created space for inventors and innovators alike to enter into the beer market and start producing beers in microbreweries that the people of Switzerland had never yet experienced.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the people in the craft beer market of the country. Over the past few years, Swiss beer consumption has gone down, while the number of microbreweries popping up never seems to slow down. Microbreweries around the country are now having to battle for space in a slowly decreasing market with declining demand.
So, if you’re looking to support local industry in Switzerland be sure to check out the following Swiss beer brands when you’re there!
The Falkenbrau is a Swiss lager that has achieved awards for its excellent flavour and quality. It is one of the mainstays and most popular beers in the Swiss craft beer market as it took home the 2019 award for Worlds Best Lager.
This is one of the lighter beers from the famous Appenzeller microbrewery in Switzerland. The beer combines a high-quality malting process with juices from 28 different types of pears and apples to create a flavour that is akin to a sweet, sparkling drink. This beer is perfect for more adventurous types of drinkers.
Storm & Anchor Silly Nelson
This IPA was brewed in the Storm and Anchor Brewery in Zurich and despite its fun name is seriously one of the best IPA’s the world of craft beers has to offer. Infused with tropical flavours this beer came to be because of its New Zealand Sauvin hops.
Beer and Food Pairings in Switzerland
Raclette and Amber Weiss
Raclette is a traditional Swiss dish that consists of melted cheese, cocktail gherkins, onions, and a variety of other pickled fruits. It is best paired with beers of a fruiter variety and as such an amber Weiss will provide the perfect combination.
Fondue and Rolf Beer
Fondue is one of the biggest food exports out of Switzerland and for good reason. It provides fun for the whole family and a delicious eating experience. It has been said that Rolf Beer is one of the best beer pairings with cheese fondue, even sometimes being used in the recipe for the fondue sauce itself.
How to Order a Beer in Switzerland
Lastly, the most important thing to take home with you, after all this beer talk is this: Ein Bitte Bier – which translates to ‘one beer please’. German is the most commonly spoken language in Switzerland.