• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Record numbers join Swiss craft beer boom
La Nebuleuse has expanded quickly since launching two years ago. Photo: Caroline Bishop

Record numbers join Swiss craft beer boom

Caroline Bishop · 3 Mar 2016, 13:38

Published: 03 Mar 2016 13:38 GMT+01:00

Asking Jeremy Pernet, co-founder of Lausanne microbrewery La Nébuleuse, to pick a favourite among his many beers is like asking someone to choose their favourite child. “You can’t say you prefer one over the other,” he smiles. “But right now I would say Brewstache, a German smoked beer. Basically it tastes like liquid bacon.”

These days beer drinkers in Switzerland are spoilt for choice. The global trend for craft beer is making its mark here too, with a huge variety of Swiss-brewed beers toying with diverse flavours from hops and malt to vanilla, blueberries and even chilli and chocolate.

According to the Swiss customs office there are currently 632 active breweries in Switzerland.

That’s a steep rise from the mere 81 that existed in 2000. Around 150 launched in the last two years alone.

The popularity of craft beer with Swiss consumers is evidenced by the sheer demand that a new brewery like La Nébuleuse has experienced since it opened just over two years ago, with its beers now found in numerous bars and restaurants in the Lausanne area.

Founded by Pernet and two university friends, none of whom had any professional experience of brewing, La Nébuleuse originated in a small room in the basement of Lausanne’s MAD club at the end of 2013.

Back then, they were producing 700 litres a month. These days, after giving up their day jobs to dedicate themselves to the brewery, they produce 32,000 litres a month.

“Definitely for me it’s a surprise,” says Pernet of this rapid expansion when I meet him in their 1,200m2 premises in Renens, the brewery’s third location in two years.

“But at the same time we are really entrepreneur driven, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, and we wanted to expand very fast to catch the market. I think we were lucky that everything we expected went well.”

From cartels to quality

La Nébuleuse is surfing both a spike in entrepreneurial spirit and a wave of interest in craft beer in Switzerland at the moment. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Before the current beer boom a few regional breweries “had divided Switzerland”, says Monika Saxer, the Zurich-based author of BierWandern Schweiz, a book about Swiss hikes that take in craft breweries.

“Their beer was not bad, but it was the same everywhere – only the name on the bottle was different. Then the bigger breweries bought up and closed the smaller ones,” she tells The Local.

These ‘cartels’ had a huge impact, and by 1990 there were just 32 breweries in Switzerland, the lowest figure on record.

“A hundred years ago there was a brewery in almost every town and village, then the mass operation breweries killed this market,” agrees Pernet.

“Now we can see it’s starting to grow again because people really want not only local beer but craft, quality beer.”

“There is a renaissance of quality, not only in drinking but also in eating and behaving, taking care of yourself, knowing where the product comes from,” he adds.

Rabei Allouch has seen huge changes in the Swiss beer scene in the seven years he has owned Pi Bar, a popular Lausanne craft beer bar.

 “When I started Pi Bar we [Switzerland] were pretty backwards here compared to the US, and what was happening in the Nordic countries. Now we have closed this gap a bit... because it’s really evolved,” he tells The Local.

Armed with his knowledge of flavour and style gained from Pi Bar, Allouch starting brewing himself in 2014.

With capacity for just 300 litres, his Echec & Malt microbrewery is at the other end of the scale to La Nébuleuse.

The relative ease of setting up a microbrewery and the modest initial investment that’s required mean that many of Switzerland’s 632 active breweries are small, with people brewing for the love of it, rather than to make a living.

But they will find plenty of support in what is a very collaborative industry, feels Pernet.

“We understand a lot from other breweries,” he says, crediting longstanding Yverdon brewery Boxer for helping his team set up La Nébuleuse. “We would be nobody without them. It’s a very sharing community. There’s not a lot of secrets between us.”

In turn, La Nébuleuse regularly offers advice to newer breweries “even though we’re only two years old!”

Echec & Malt

Story continues below…

Allouch has also experienced this give and take. He started a craft beer festival in Lausanne last year (it returns on June 3rd-4th this year) to promote other microbreweries, while Echec & Malt’s beers were in turn boosted by the Rapperswil Craft Beer Festival which last year named one, an IPA, among the event’s five best.  

Festivals like these are essential promotional tools for small breweries, and the beer boom has sparked more of them. Another is the Zurich Beer Festival, which showcased some 155 different beers in its first edition in April 2015. It returns for its third edition on April 15th-17th this year.

 “The main idea was to give people the opportunity to taste different kind of beers, with the intention that maybe some of these beers will end up in their favourite bars or restaurants,” organizer Markus Forster tells The Local.

Some 2,400 people turned up to the first edition, which took a democratic approach by inviting Swiss and foreign beers from both microbreweries and – to the chagrin of some, says Forster –  industrial brewers such as Carlsberg-owned Feldschlösschen, the largest brewery in Switzerland with 43 percent of the market share.

“We allow any kind of brewer to attend,” he says. “It’s for the customer to decide what kind of beer he likes. If you like an industrial beer that’s ok with us.”

And some do. The craft beer trend appeals mostly to younger generations, says Forster. “People above 60... all these IPAs and crazy different beers, that’s not their thing. They stick to the classical ones.”

Whatever your taste in beer, the current abundance of breweries in Switzerland can only be a good thing for consumers, feels Pi Bar’s Allouch.

“I think [competition] is good for consumers. It’s always when there’s more choice that you start to become demanding, and then the quality rises.”
 

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Caroline Bishop (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Foreigners in Switzerland surpass 2 million mark
International flags outside the UN in Geneva. Photo: Martial Trezzini/AFP

For the first time, there are now more than two million foreigners living in Switzerland.

Geneva runs out of permits for non-EU workers
File photo: The Local

Canton complains to the federal government after it reduced the number of permits available to third state workers.

Scorchio! Late August heat breaks record in Geneva
Lake Geneva on Thursday. Photo: The Local

The mercury in Geneva hit 33.3 degrees, a record for the final week in August.

US and Russia meet in Geneva for Syria talks
John Kerry with UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Thursday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Expert predicts major quake for Switzerland by 2040
A fireman stands in the Italian village of Amatrice, which was badly hit by this week's earthquake. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The canton of Valais is particularly at risk.

Aggressive deer put down after attacking four in Geneva
File photo: Michal Kosacky

The buck attacked four people in the same area over the course of 48 hours.

Navigation error ends badly for Basel driver

A man accidentally drove his car down a flight of steps after his passenger directed him the wrong way.

Blatter 'confident' as he faces Swiss sports court
Sepp Blatter. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is back in court on Thursday as he seeks to overturn a six-year ban from football.

Federer teams up with Nadal for new tennis tournament
Federer and Nadal at the Laver Cup launch with Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images North America/AFP

The duo will play doubles together in a new competition pitting Europe against the rest of the world in a tennis team event.

Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
File photo: C Carlstead

The secular canton of Geneva has issued guidelines for teachers on how to deal with religious issues in the classroom.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Starship
Technology
Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
Politics
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Photo: Neil Heritage/Endeavour Fund
Features
Amputee's Matterhorn trek 'makes it more possible' for others
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: EPFL
International
Switzerland tops global innovation table – again
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: Vasily Cotovanu
National
Asylum centre plans shelved after Swiss village protests
Photo: The Local
Politics
Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
Photo: AFP
Sport
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
National
Experts debate rail security following Swiss train attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
File photo: AFP
Sport
Two basejumpers die in Lauterbrunnen accidents
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
4,633
jobs available