Scooping in Geneva 

Last Updated :07/12/03

Geneva - by Steve Westby

Thanks to the budget airlines you can now fly to a number of places in Europe from East Midlands and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either. Back in early December when BMI Baby started flying to Geneva I decided to take my wife on a two night beer-hunting adventure (although she thought we were going on a romantic weekend!)

Switzerland can be a bit on the expensive side, but we booked into the comfortable if basic IBIS Hotel near the station for around 50quid a room a night. My other reason for selecting this hotel was its proximity to two brewpubs!

The first night we headed for Brasseurs des Grottes which was two minutes walk from our hotel. They had three beers on a Blonde, Ambrée, and a Blanche. The Blonde was thin and uninspiring, the Blanche was a mediocre wheat beer and the Ambrée was a bit weird. The place was almost empty and the few that were in were drinking the Ambrée, if they were drinking beer at all. The food was ok if nothing exciting. All in all a very disappointing introduction to the Swiss beer scene.

We finished eating at about 9 and we were not inspired to stay there as it was devoid of any atmosphere, so I suggested a walk round to Les Brasseurs opposite the station. What a difference! The place was heaving and full of life. It clearly belongs to the same company as Brasseurs des Grottes and they had the same three beers on i.e. Blonde, Ambrée, and Blanche plus a Noir. I tried the Noir first, a jet black beer, a little thin but certainly flavoursome. I then tried the Ambrée and it was pretty good. I was so impressed that we went and had a meal in there on our second (and last) evening in Geneva, and the food proved to be excellent too.

Swiss railways are very clean, quick, cheap and efficient, a bit of a novelty for us Brits then! So for our second day we decided to catch the train that runs alongside Lake Geneva to the very pleasant city of Lausanne. I soon developed a thirst and as it was lunchtime we went to Brasserie Artisnalle Lausanne, which is another branch of Les Brasseurs. I had a sampler tray of all four beers Blonde, Ambrée, Blanche and "La Noire De Fete". The Noire was described on posters around the pub as "notre biere artisanale au malt torrefie" (sorry, haven’t the foggiest what that means) and it was the pick of the four, almost stout like and very different to the Noir I had in Geneva.

It was now time to do some Christmas shopping. I had read about L'Epicerie on the Internet and I thought was a beer shop but it turned out to be a food store which sold just four beers. However three of them were from Brasserie des Franches, a microbrewery opened in 1977, They were La Meule (6% vol.) La Salamandre (5,5% vol.) and La Torpille (7,5% vol.). I bought as many as my backpack would take - and all in distinctive swing top bottles as well - haven't opened any yet though!

Our next port of call did not open till 5pm so we called into the Vinyl Cafe (or some such name) in the Place du Tunnel. I ordered a beer called Ittinger purely because I hadn't heard of it and because the other two beers were boring crap anyway. I have since discovered that Ittinger is in fact a Swiss Brewery started (I think, because it's in German) in 1980 Described as a Klosterbrau it wasn't a bad drop if a bit gassy.

Anyway at 5pm across we went to the Brasserie Artisanale du Château. What a gem! The brewhouse can be viewed from the street through large windows and I could see sacks of Fawcett’s malt piled in a corner. When we got into the cosy candle-lit bar I spotted a handpump! This is used to dispense their "bitter" a fine 4.3% brew served in pint or half pint sleeves. It is served without added carbonation and is believed to be the only true "real ale" served in Switzerland. Their other beers included a 4.3% ginger ale, which was pleasant but very gingery, a noir at 4.6%, a pale ale and a wheat beer all served under Co2 pressure.

So an enjoyable couple of days in Switzerland, some interesting brews and it didn’t cost a fortune. So I have now got the bug and have already booked cheap flights to Edinburgh and Brussels for some more beer-hunting.

Go to Scoopergen's homepage...