Ah, beer. The solution to, and cause of, many of life’s problems. At this time of year though, when sunny afternoon sessions slip seamlessly into evening soirées, the amber nectar is neither problem nor solution. It is our friend.
As the weather (and, at the time of writing, restrictions on drinking and dining) lightens up, so does our taste in beer. High-alcohol headsplitters like porters, stouts and barleywine ales seem far less appealing in the dappled light of a Vidy picnic than on a dark winter’s night. Much more enticing are beers that aren’t a meal unto themselves like lagers, pale ales and sours.
When the sun is shining and there’s sweat on your brow just about any ice-cold tube will quench a thirst. But with Switzerland’s independent brewing scene steadily increasing in size and quality, there’s been an influx of beers that unleash loads more flavour and character than any of the indistinguishable mass-market lagers.
Yes, beer from independent breweries costs more than a can of Feldschlösschen or Calanda. Think of the extra couple of francs as an investment in enjoyment. Good times are elevated by beer that’s as fun and interesting as the company you drink it in (if the company is boring, you can always drink your delicious beer until it isn’t). Plus, if the alcohol doesn’t give you a nice warm buzz, the knowledge that you’re supporting local producers who have been hit hard by the pandemic will.
So with that in mind, here are 10 independent local beers that pair perfectly with warm weather, a hot BBQ and a cool dip in Lac Léman.
Izipizi Ginger Beer
It doesn’t get much more local for Lausanners than Brasserie du Lance-Pierre. Located right in the guts of the city on Rue de la Tour, three childhood friends pump out a core range of artisanal beers with English and North American influences, as well as some interesting seasonal drops.
Their jasmine and green tea saison would have definitely been on this list but it seems to have been around for a good time, not a long time. Instead, the Izipizi ginger beer is here in time for summer sipping (it’s actually a hard seltzer – beer purists can opt for BLP’s equally zingy Voodoo Ginger Saison). Zesty, spicy and gluten-free, it’s perfect poolside refreshment.
Stirling Pale Ale
La Nebuleuse is one of the largest independent breweries in French-Speaking Switzerland. That’s great for us because not only does it mean they’re helping to forge a stronger independent beer scene by going up against the big boys (you may or may not be surprised that there was actually a formalised cartel controlling beer in Switzerland until 1991), but also because it makes their frothies easy to find. Most Coops now stock beer from La Nebuleuse, so it’s simple mathematics to pick up a few packs of Stirling while you’re buying cervelas for the barbie this summer.
The beer is cold chopped and fermented with a Swiss lager yeast, but the taste is true to its origins as a Californian-style beer. Lightly malty and slightly fruity, its distinct citrus notes make it an ideal match for Mediterranean dishes, summer cuisine and accidental sunburn (surely I’m not the only one who forgets the sunscreen. every. time.).
La Vaudoise Unfiltered Local Ale
Like that old guy who rocks a leopard-print g-string at Pully plage (keep an eye out for the local legend!), this unfiltered beer boldly expresses its frank and spicy nature.
La Vaudoise is brewed purely with ingredients from Vaud agriculture and is certified Terre Vaudoise (local product). It pours a lovely straw colour and is quite cloudy, with robust flavor. Bavois malt brings aromas of cereals and the Grandcour hops provide bitterness without aggressiveness. Just like some Vaudoise I know…
Californication West Coast IPA
American expats from the left coast will feel right at home with this great example of a west coast IPA made in the ouest of Switzerland. All the hallmarks of Californian brewing are here. Strong notes of sweet pale malts, resin and pine? Check. Citrus zest and tropical fruits? Dank, bro.
Another food friendly beer, with a ray of Golden State sunshine (and good brewing) in each sip.
Zephyr White Beer
This Vevey brewery is named after Haut-Lac; the upper part of Lake Geneva starting from Rivaz and ending at Meillerie in France on the opposite shore. And like the soft, pleasant breeze that caresses the upper lake on warm nights, the Zephyr refreshes.
It delivers the spicy notes of coriander and bitter orange familiar to lovers of wheat beer, while also being subtly sweet and summery enough to be a hit with those who don’t usually have the white stuff.
Delorean Session NEIPA
In these parts, the Doctor is well and truly in. To our eyes, Dr. Gab’s is probably the best-known independent brewery in Canton Vaud and, correspondingly, their beers are super easy to get your beer-loving mitts on. You can’t go wrong with Gab’s – their quality is consistent and their core range has something for all tastes.
This summer, look beyond their pale ale and white beer and give their Delorean Session NEIPA a test drive or ten. The Delorean is lighter in both body and alcohol than a typical New England IPA – a refreshing change from the gut-punch intensity of some NEIPAs. Instead, it’s intensely fruity, light and smooth.
‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads’ proclaims Doc Brown from a flying Delorean in Back To The Future II. Lucky, because after a few of these bad boys, you definitely won’t be driving.
Psykokwak Berliner Weisse
Don’t be put off by the fact this is a sour beer. The high carbonation, no hops and low bitterness of the Berliner-style weisse make it as refreshing as jumping in the lake on a hot day.
The Psykokwak recipe includes apricots, lemon and sage that unite to deliver a punchy combination of acidity, fruitiness, and a light herbal touch. This is the beer to drink when you’re sick of beer.
Kinzan Japanese Blonde
Cheers to another local Lausanne brew crew who are making diverse and delicious drops. The Kinzan is one of the most approachable beers on this list and, although a little harder to find, is definitely worth seeking out.
American bitter hops provide a subtle blonde fruitiness and the rice flakes added during the brewing give it a lightness that you’ll welcome after eating too many cervelas. Serve damn cold with just about anything.
Dent Jaune Kölsh
Great all year round, this Pale Ale-inspired Kölsh really comes into its own when the snow has retreated to very top of the seven peaks of the Dents du Midi, of which this beer’s namesake – the 3,186 metre Dent Jaune – is one.
Low bitterness, with notes of grain, hay and honey. This soft, light and refreshing beer is accessible to all. Keep an eye on your cooler bag.
Poor lager. A noble style enslaved by beer barons during the early days of beer’s mass commercialization because of its accessible flavor profile. It was corrupted by high carbonation and too much sugar, resulting in shithouse lagers dominating beer taps from Brisbane to Benidorm.
Happily, thanks to examples like the Blonde Lager from Nyon-based Cap’taine Mousse, lager is (sort of) no longer the whipping boy of beer elitists the world over.
This is a German-influenced lager, fermented at low temperature, with aromatic hops providing some citrus tang. A super-smashable beer for long, hot summer evenings.
The beers highlighted above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great local drops. There are plenty more local breweries to discover and enough seasonal editions and collaborations to tide even the thirstiest beer fiend over until autumn.
More great options to dive deeper into our local independent beer scene are the ever-changing tap lists at Cylure Binchroom and Le Pi Bar, and the supreme selection at the temple of hops, La Mise en Bière.