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UNDERSTANDING THE SWISS

Seven beers to try in Switzerland

Better known for cheese, chocolate and wine, Switzerland is currently undergoing a beer renaissance. Here are seven of the best.

Seven beers to try in Switzerland
Beer. Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or a sometime sipper, you’ve probably heard of the big market brands like Feldschlösschen, Haldengut and Gurten.

READ MORE: How the Covid crisis led to a boom in Swiss beer production

Here are some lesser known brands which will tickle your fancy.

Quöllfrisch

While most of the beers on this list are relatively unique, Quöllfrisch is a standard lager type beer with which most people will be familiar.

However, it’s anything but standard and represents perhaps the best a blonde lager can be. From Appenzell, this beer is relatively easy to find no matter where you are in Switzerland.

In fact, it’s served on Swiss airlines.

De Saint Bon Chien

The L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is a truly unique beer. With a strength of 11 percent, the sour beer is aged in wooden barrels that previously contained red wine.

Highly sought after, the beer comes from Saignelégier in the canton of Jura close to the French border. It is the highest ranked Swiss beer on the beer ranking site ‘Untappd’, with several discontinued beers from the same brewery sitting alongside it.

Relatively difficult to get, it is available in small bottles or 20 litre kegs.

Brüll!Bier

Zurich’s Brüll!Bier is one of the city’s best microbreweries.

Unlike many other Swiss breweries which tend to focus their efforts on only a few beers, Brüll!Bier brew several varieties touching on traditional styles, contemporary classics and experimental offerings. 

While the red ale and the helles are excellent session beers, one speciality is the Prince of Ales Yorkshire Pale Ale, which can only be found at the British Beer Corner in Zurich. 

Brewed to resemble a Yorkshire Pale Ale, it’s tasty and delicious – and will go down well even if you’ve never had a YPA before. 

Calvinus

Another beer that can be found in most parts of the country, Calvinus has several different traditional beer styles including a wheat beer, a thick dark ale and a Belgian pale ale.

Originally from Geneva, it is now brewed in the mountains of Appenzell using only organic ingredients.

According to legend, it is based on a recipe handed down in Geneva by Calvin the Reformer.

Ittinger Klosterbräu

An amber ale with a relatively standard alcohol content (5.6 percent), Ittinger Klosterbräu is bitter but fruity.

The beer is brewed in a former Carthusian monastery on the banks of the Thur river.

It’s also one of the rare Swiss beers to be made with local hops – which are actually grown by the brewery itself – with more than 90 percent of beers made with hops exported from elsewhere in Switzerland.

Bier Factory Rapperswil

Rapperswil, on the outskirts of Zurich, is not only a great place to live if you work in the city – but also a great place to have a few beers. 

The brewery has a taproom where you can try many of the beers they brew, including some staples and some experimental favourites. 

One of the best is the Wanderlust Pale Ale, a hoppy pale ale which can easily be a session beer. 

Appenzeller Castégna

Another beer from the beautiful Appenzeller region, Appenzeller Castégna is brewed with chestnuts grown in the southern canton of Ticino which give it a “sweet, chestnutty aroma” according to a rather uninventive online review.

Brewed by Brauerei Locher, the Castégna is relatively difficult to find throughout the country other than in Ticino.

It’s a proud vegan friendly beer, whatever that means, and is often served with desert due to its sweet taste.

Drastic increase in popularity of brewing in Switzerland

When it comes to food and drink exports, Switzerland is best known for cheese and chocolate. While Swiss wine has carved out a niche on the global stage, it is Swiss beer which has recently started to make its mark on the global stage.

In 2020, 80 new breweries were established in Switzerland.

Switzerland now has 1,212 breweries – which gives it a higher ratio of breweries to people than any of the other big brewing nations in Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Belgium.

Just ten years ago, Switzerland had only 246 breweries, while in 1990 there were only 32 breweries in the entire country, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports.

Switzerland is getting thirstier

The explosion in brewery numbers is a consequence of a change in the Swiss appetite for beer.

Reader question: Can you drink in public in Switzerland?

In recent years, the classic lager variety has gradually fallen out of favour, with the share of craft varieties growing by 43 percent over the past five years.

The change is a genuine example of quality trumping quality when it comes to beer consumption.

In 2010, the average amount of beer produced by each brewery in Switzerland was 11,000 hectolitres, while that is now less than 3,000.

According to Switzerland’s NZZ, only 14 breweries produced more than 10,000 hectolitres of beer last year, while more than 1,000 breweries produced less than 50 hectolitres.

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UNDERSTANDING THE SWISS

Reader question: What is Switzerland’s ‘Bünzli’ and how do I spot one?

In Switzerland, you might hear the term 'Bünzli' to describe someone. What does it mean?

A person wearing socks with sandals
Socks with sandals are a part of the Bünzli uniform. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

One of many cultural curiosities, a Bünzli is someone who is simultaneously very Swiss – but whom the Swiss make significant fun of. 

The term has no direct English translation, which can make it a little confusing at first to understand. 

At least in part because it is relatively difficult to translate into English, the word Bünzli itself is often used among English speakers who live in Switzerland. 

Here’s what you need to know about Bünzli, a truly Swiss phenomenon. 

What is a Bünzli? 

The term Bünzli is a Swiss German insult to describe a particular type of person who is set in their ways, has narrow mind and view of things and tries desperately hard to hang onto tradition. It is almost always used as a criticism or in a negative context. 

While the internet gives up the translation ‘philistine’ in English, there are other elements which make a Bünzli a Bünzli. 

This insult – based on a real Swiss surname – applies to those boring people who follow all the rules and make sure everyone else does too.

Other English words like fussy, fastidious, stodgy and exact also describe a Bünzli. 

A Bünzli is the sort of person who would never cross the street when the light is red, who never stays out too late and never gets too drunk.

A Bünzli will have a perfectly manicured garden and will never want to split a bill evenly, instead demanding to pay exactly what he or she had – and nothing more. 

He is also the person most likely to complain to the building president when you dare to do your washing on Sunday, or to ring the police when he sees someone parked in front of a fire hydrant.

Some say Bünzli are particularly Swiss, like a distilled, concentrated form of pure Swiss-ness, although the fact that Bünzli are usually the target of ridicule from Swiss people indicates that foreigners are not the only ones who find the behaviour weird or out of line. 

The best English translation is probably a ‘goody two-shoes’, although in this case the more likely attire is socks paired with Adiletten. Yep, you get the idea.


Wearing Adiletten with socks doesn’t make you a Buenzli…but it helps. Photo: Christian H. Flickr

Still not sure what a Bünzli is? 

If you still don’t know what a Bünzli is, it might be helpful to see a few further examples. 

The following YouTube video goes through some specifics of the Bünzli is in Swiss German (although if you already speak Swiss German, you’ll likely know what a Bünzli is). 

Switzerland’s English forum often holds debates where expats look to discover the exact meaning of the term

Swiss news site Watson lists several reader examples of their Bünzli experiences, from having the police called for a noise complaint at 10:01pm, to telling tourists who asked for directions while holding a train door open to let go of the door so the train can leave. 

How do I spot one? 

For those who still don’t exactly know what a Bünzli is, don’t fret.

It’ll often happen the other way around, i.e. the Bünzli will discover you, when you haven’t done your recycling or when your doormat is the wrong way around in front of your apartment or when you cycle across the pedestrian crossing with no cars around. 

Keep the above in mind and trust us, you’ll know one when you see one. 

Have you had any Bünzli experiences? Please let us know in the comments below. 

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