Bern, the Beer Capital
#1 Why the beer capital?
The Bernese love (craft) beer! However, as well as keenly enjoying it at the bar, they are also doing their own experiments with hops and malt. To date there are around 150 breweries and microbreweries in Bern – more than in any other city in Switzerland. There is tinkering and brewing everywhere, including in garages, back rooms, and even laundry rooms. With so much creativity and passion, it is no surprise that an order for just “ä Stangä” (a lager) is getting rare in Bern. People here drink freshly brewed beer and chat passionately about ales, unfiltered and dark beer, whether at the bar, around the kitchen table, or during the coffee break at the office. The annual highlight is Bern’s craft beer festival ZAPF! Every June, beer fans, connoisseurs, and brewers get together at the Brache Warmbächli, discuss, try and enjoy the newest products.
#2 Home to over a hundred craft beers
A beautiful old vaulted cellar at Marktgasse 38 is the gateway to a shopping paradise for craft beer enthusiasts: the Craft Gallery. Grain was stored here in the Middle Ages, but now it is home to around a hundred different types of craft beer lovingly arranged on the wall shelves. All come from small and microbreweries who work meticulously with passion and creativity to achieve the best possible flavor. Every now and then there is a Brewer’s Eve: within the historic walls you can hear tales from a brewer, find out more about their personal history, and finally taste some selected gems from their own production. Cheers!
#3 A tasty kiss
Fun fact and good to know: If you order a “kiss” at a bar in Bern, you will actually get a beer, namely a “Bärner Müntschi” (Bernese Kiss). It’s the flagship of the Swiss capital’s beers and popular across the whole county. The light, naturally cloudy blonde with its legendary blue and red “mischievous angel” label is slid across the bar countless times a year. And not just in Bern: Bärner Müntschi is popular across Switzerland and definitely no C-lister – it even has been featured in songs. People say that a few mouthfuls of Bärner Müntschi are a particularly effective remedy for anyone missing Bern. No wonder it is also very popular among homesick Bernese natives living in Zurich.
#4 Visit the brewery by water
Anyone who has tried a Bärner Müntschi knows that (almost) no one “kisses” quite like the Felsenau brewery. Since 1881, it has been brewing its beers right on the river banks of the Aare, Bern’s favorite landmark. The Felsenau is Bern’s largest brewery and definitely worth a visit! Rafters can float gently along the Aare route from Bern to Lake Wohlen, stopping off to “lay anchor” at the Felsenau brewery on the way. This detour is a must for any connoisseurs feeling thirsty (and thirsty for knowledge). Take advantage of brewery tours, beer brewing classes, tastings, ramp sales as well as concerts and brewery parties. Hydrophobes can take bus no. 21 toward Bremgarten (five minutes from Bern station).
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#5 What beer has to do with monks
“Au Trappiste” beer café is the beer pilgrimage site in the Old Town of Bern. From IPA to lambic and stout, craft beer enthusiasts can choose from over a hundred exceptional beers from microbreweries all over the world (even a chocolate-flavored type!). The two beer sommeliers Oliver Vurchio and Eliane Münger are constantly updating the range so as to introduce Bern’s beer drinkers to every single barley variety. A nice side effect: the café follows the principles of the Trappists, a Roman Catholic monastic order from the 17th century. Alongside their prayers and reading, the monks brewed their own beer within the monastery walls and used the majority of their income to support social work. Similarly, the two hosts of “Au Trappiste” donate a portion of their earnings to people and animals in need. A wonderful gesture!
#6 YB beer sold out in 30 hours
The Bernese are faithful souls, as can be seen in their love of the BSC Young Boys (YB). Throughout a dry spell of 32 years without a title, Bern’s soccer fans cheered and suffered alongside their heroes in yellow and black and never lost faith that YB would shed their reputation of being “always second best.” The fairy tale finally came true in late April 2018. To celebrate this historic Swiss championship win, Gurten Bier launched its official “Meister” beer: unfiltered like the atmosphere in block D, authentic like YB fans, and golden like the trophy. Taking a “first come, first served” approach, production was limited to 50,000 bottles. The response from fans was huge: just 30 hours later, every single bottle of this liquid gold had sold out on the online shop.
#7 Beer in the BearPark?
Bern, bears, and beer go together like hops and malt. The famous BearPark, where Bern’s brown bears Finn and Björk live with their daughter Ursina in a 6,000 m2 natural enclosure, is just a stone’s throw away from the “Altes Tramdepot,” a restaurant and brewery rolled into one. While papa bear Finn takes his daily bath outside in the Aare, inside 3,100 hectoliters of beer are brewed every year. The two huge, gleaming copper vats are located in the middle of the restaurant, and the brewing room in the cellar makes the way to the restroom an experience. By the way, if you have to look up the difference between top-fermented and bottom-fermented in a dictionary (sorry, on Google), then master brewer Christian Stoiber and his colleagues can offer some assistance: the restaurant “Altes Tramdepot” offers a 45-minute journey through the world of beers (“Meet the Brewery”), as well as beer brewing classes every now and then or upon request.
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#8 From the garage to a trendy restaurant
Definitely no trouble brewing: ten years ago, a few thirty-somethings were experimenting with brewing their own beer in their garage. It worked so well that they quickly grabbed a hammer and chisel to transform an old pharmacy at the heart of Bern’s popular Breitsch district into a cool bar with an industrial look. After all, great beer needs a fantastic atmosphere, doesn’t it? Even on its opening night, Barbière (a microbrewery, restaurant and bar rolled into one) sold 1,000 liters of beer and crippled the district’s traffic with the massive influx. In the brewery in the back of Barbière, named “Garage” as a tribute to its origins, the two master brewers Matthias and Christoph work on their own creations far beyond the mainstream. Inspired by Belgian, English, and American brewing culture, they have now created well over 50 beers – the favorites being stout, porter, and India pale ale. The sparklingly fresh house beer can be exclusively enjoyed straight from their taps.
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