When you think beer, you probably don’t immediately think Switzerland. And indeed we do not produce one of the big-brand beers nor are we the world’s top beer drinkers: with an average consumption of 57 litres per citizen and year, we are far behind Europe’s top nations like the Czech Republic (160 litres), Germany (114 litres) or the United Kingdom (101 litres). But that doesn’t mean Swiss breweries don’t brew some fine beers. The most common beer here is lager, with a taste that is in general a bit milder than you may be used to. Most brands feature a so-called special brew (spezli), usually brewed with extra hops which gives it a bitterer taste. You can also get unfiltered and cold-filtered Swiss beers and wheat beer is usually on the menu too, but often imported from Germany.
Globalization has put many mid-scale breweries out of business in the last decade or so. Many of them are now owned by Europe’s biggest players on the beer market Carlsberg and Heineken. Many brands still exist, but are brewed centrally and no longer in their cities of origin. Zurich’s traditional brewery for example, Hürlimann, merged with the biggest Swiss brewery Feldschlösschen in 1996 and stopped brewing beer in Zurich, before both were taken over by giant Carlsberg. These mergers gave rise to a new phenomenon on the beer market: local brewers unhappy with their beer being brewed outside their city started to brew their own beer, so that today we have a handful of small but successful breweries in Zurich. In many of Zurich’s restaurants you’ll still be served the solid lagers Feldschlösschen or Hürlimann on tap - but we recommend giving the new Zurich beers a try as well. You find them in an increasing numbers of venues, be it bottled or on tap:
Established after the closing of the Hürlimann brewery, Turbinenbräu quickly became the biggest brewery in the city. Try their Sprint, full-bodied and very drinkable special beer with a bitter note. Start is their wheat beer, while Rekord is a special brew with a touch more malt.
Brewed by Ralf Paul, master brewer from Zurich, this beer clearly has Zurich roots, though technically it’s brewed outside the city (actually in the countryside of neighbouring canton Aargau which Zürcher love to hate). The beer Paul 01 is a classy, tangy special beer, a bit bitterer than a Lager, but definitely for everyday use. Paul 02 is dark, unfiltered and malty. They have different specialities according to the season.
Amboss comes in four different tastes: Blonde (lager), Spez (bitter), Weizen (wheat) and Amber (mild and sweet). Established in 1991, Amboss has a large and ever-growing fan group. Even though at least part of it is now produced in the canton of Zug, this is a fine regional beer.