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 increasingly doing their own experiments with hops and malt. Bern has around 150 breweries and microbreweries – more than any other city in Switzerland. There is tinkering and brewing everywhere, including in garages, back rooms, and even laundry rooms, as you can see from the Cinderella story of the Schuum brewery. With so much creativity and passion, it is no surprise that an order for just an “ä Stangä” is increasingly rare in Bern. People here drink freshly brewed beer and chat passionately about pale ales and IPAs, whether at the bar, around the table at home, or at government drink receptions. The annual highlight is Bern’s craft beer festival ZAPF! every June, which brings beer fans, connoisseurs, and beer producers together at the Brache Warmbächli.
#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 beer cellar. 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
If you order a kiss from a bearded barman in Bern, what you will actually get is a beer. After all, Bärner Müntschi (meaning “Bernese Kiss”) is the flagship of the capital’s beers. This 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 its own Facebook page with around 5,000 fans, and has been featured in several songs. People say that a few mouthfuls of Bärner Müntschi are a particularly effective remedy for anyone missing Bern, so it is also very popular with 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. It has been brewing right on the Aare, Bern’s favorite river, since 1881. You can even visit Bern’s largest brewery by water! 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 definitely worthwhile for any connoisseurs feeling thirsty (and thirsty for knowledge). Take advantage of brewery tours, beer brewing classes, tastings, ramp sales, and also lots of 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 to stout, craft beer enthusiasts can choose from over a hundred exceptional beers from microbreweries all over the world (even a chocolate-flavored variety!). 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. There is also 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.” This 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 in one of the world’s best brewery facilities. The two huge, gleaming copper vats stand in the middle of the restaurant, and even the corridor to the restrooms is an experience thanks to the brewing room in the cellar. Incidentally, 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 “Altes Tramdepot” restaurant offers a 45-minute journey through the world of beers every Saturday (“Meet the Brewery”), as well as beer brewing classes lasting several hours that are offered every now and then or upon request.
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#8 From garage to 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, trendy restaurant, and local bar rolled into one) sold 1,000 liters of beer and crippled the district’s traffic with the massive influx. Beer is still flowing freely there today. In the brewery in the back of Barbière, named “Garage” as a tribute to its earlier 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.