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Posts Tagged ‘beer’

There are certain things that we absolutely love about Europe and other things we could do without.  But not a day goes by without some sort of culture shock moment where you realize how extremely far you really are from “home”.  I find myself shaking my head a lot here — sometimes I’m shaking it in wonder, other times in disbelief.

Last night Tim had a group of friends over and this morning, as we cleaned up the kitchen, I washed out the massive 2L drink bottles the boys left behind. It made me think about the popular drinks here in Switzerland.  Considering the über-healthy eating habits of the locals, it’s surprising to realize that their go-to beverage choices are all absolute garbage…and this, coming from the North American (who eats four single-serving portions in every meal and coats everything in refined sugar, didn’t you know?!).

If you walk into a Swiss grocery store, you’ll notice that they have 1/10th of the selection we have in NA and not nearly as much processed crap.  But their beverage sections are just as large as ours — turns out they have plenty of guilty pleasures in liquid form.

The only department that might actually have a larger selection than us would be their chocolate aisle…and well, that makes perfect sense. And believe me, the top-of-the-line chocolate in a North American store is equivalent to the no-name budget garbage they sell here. Yeah, I’m bragging.

The "Swiss Chocolate Aisle" in a local grocery store.

Anyway, back to beverages.  Many of you have said that you enjoy hearing about the day-to-day life of the Swiss culture. So for this post, I will showcase the Top Five Swiss Beverages.

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I’ve spent much of the past few years in Victoria enjoying the wonders of local craft beer. I love it.

Topping my list of Victoria craft breweries is Phillips Brewing Company, whose Amnesiac double-IPA is a wonderous invention, Lighthouse Brewing Company, and Spinnaker’s Brew Pub.

In the not-too-distant-past, I went on a triple-brewery tour in Victoria with a group of friends. Three breweries in one glorious afternoon. In the more recent-distant-past, I accepted a new job in Basel and packed up my life to move overseas.

Switzerland isn’t known for it’s beer. This is strange to me, considering that it borders both Germany and Austria, which are famous for the “Bavarian Purity Law” and have high standards for quality beer. Then again… Switzerland also borders both France and Italy, renowned for their wine. So the Swiss go with vino instead of ale.

The “national” ale of Switzerland is an aweful thing called Feldschlösschen.

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This stuff is aweful. It should really be called Feldsucken. It’s the equivalent of Molson Canadian. For the first few weeks of life in Switzerland, I was making regular trips over the border into Germany just to buy large cases of decent beer.

And then I met Rafael.

One Saturday afternoon, as the family and I – plus Martin and Anne – were wandering through the small streets of old Basel, I found a man with a table full of beer set up in front of a specialty liquor shoppe. I recognize a craft brewer when I see one, and I made a beeline for his booth.

Dude is serious about his beer

Dude is serious about his beer

La Brasserie Trois Dames is a young Swiss Venture, started by Rafael Mettler. And he makes quality beer.

We sampled every single one of his beers right then and there in the street, and then I purchased … well … lots. It turns out that he is Swiss, from the French district, and he lived in Vancouver for two years, working with many local craft brewers in Gas Town, and on Vancouver Island. In 2007, he cleaned up at the British Columbia Beer Contest (Victoria), taking home the Best In Show award, and Gold and Silver awards for several brews. Heck, the label for his “Pacific Ale” features the Vancouver skyline!

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He mentioned that there would be a party event at the brewery in Sainte-Croix at the end of October, and that I should come down for it. The perfect excuse for a boys’ adventure – travel by train to a small Swiss town in the French quarter and bathe in beer. Mmmmmm. Joel and Martin put up little resistance.

So on Saturday morning, we packed up and headed to Sainte-Croix. The train ride was beautiful, and we had an amazing view of the Swiss Alps breaking through a layer of clouds. Awe-inspiring.

At one point on the trip, everything switched from German to French. Announcements on the train. Signs in the towns. Conversations of people near us. It was great for me – my French is quite good – but it threw Martin and Joel.

The Brasserie Trois Dames has restored my hope in Swiss beer.

À votre santé!

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