Beer companies grow their own hops

Hops and malt, may the Lord preserve it

Five beer specialties have been brewed all year round in Monstein since 2000. (Photo: BierVision Monstein)

Small and micro breweries in the canton of Graubünden
A number of small and micro breweries in the canton of Graubünden are serious about their own beer. What began after the turn of the millennium has evolved. Be it for the sheer joy of your own beer or with clear marketing strategies behind the brew kettle.

It all started with the then highest brewery in Switzerland in Davos Monstein, BierVision Monstein AG. It was founded in 2000. At that time, a new company was to be set up in the empty former cheese dairy in order to create jobs and bring guests to the small mountain village. With a wafer-thin majority, the village community decided against the dairy and in favor of a brewery. Today it has established itself. Five specialty beers are brewed all year round. Depending on the season, the range is expanded with one or the other variety. Wherever possible, BierVision uses certified organic mountain barley from Gran Alpin. The brewery was even awarded two silver labels at the first Swiss Beer Award from the Swiss Brewery Association in 2017 for its Monstein house truffle and organic Steinbock beer.

Bieraria Tschlin launched the first Graubünden wheat beer with wheat malt from Graubünden on the market. (Photo: Bieraria Tschlin)

The participants in a future workshop in the Tschlin community in the first few years of the new millennium also had brewing ideas. The community board then dealt with a brewery project in 2003. On June 30 of the following year, Bieraria Tschlin SA was finally notarized. It started small: from 2005 to 2008 the brewery delivered 650 to 680 hectoliters of beer, the standard beer “Biera Engiadinaisa”, the winter beer “Boc Dubel da Tschlin” and two summer beers. Brewing is done in the Bieraria from Engadin malting barley. After an agreement was reached with a major distributor in 2015 to list the Biera Engiadinaisa “Tschlin Ambra”, over 1000 hectoliters were produced for the first time. At the beginning of 2016, Bieraria moved to new premises in Martina, a fraction of the municipality of Valsot, where capacities could be expanded. Today over 1500 hectoliters are produced. Since 2016, the brewery has also been producing a Tschlin single malt and a beer brandy as special specialties. Bieraria Tschlin was also able to assert itself successfully on the market and was nominated for the Bio-Grischun Prize this year.

The brewery is brought to the boil in stainless steel kettles. (Photo: Käslin Beverages AG)

After the Bieraria Tschlin moved to Martina, things became quiet again in the village when it came to beer production. But not for long. Florian and Susanne Geyer set up the Girun Alpine brewery in a former hay barn. The small family business does not see itself as a competitor to the brewery in neighboring Martina. The Geyers pursue their own operating concept in the event gastronomy. In addition to the home-brewed beer, they also offer homemade creations and regional products in the bistro.

Another beer enriches the Engadin's brewery landscape in Pontresina. In 2006 Daniel Käslin, managing director and co-owner of Käslin Getränke AG, began to tinker with his own beers. Two years later, the "Bernina Bier" was the first to be tapped. Successful, demand increased, in 2010 a small microbrewery was set up in a truck garage. This enabled the development of new types of beer. Even the small system soon became too small. A new 10 hectolitre brewing system was therefore installed in an additional parking garage in 2016. Today the Engadiner Bier brewery brews seven types of beer.

In Pontresina, the Engadiner Bier brewery is currently bringing seven types of beer onto the market. (Photo: Käslin Beverages AG)

In Chur, when it comes to the art of brewing beer, they didn't want to be sidelined compared to the rest of the canton. In 2010, the brewer Christian Nold and food engineer Patrick Arnet founded the Chur AG brewery and brought the unfiltered Chur beer to the domestic market. Unfortunately, the beer was not very successful. Sales fell short of expectations. That is why the Chur AG brewery set sail again in 2014. The Chur beer made way for the Bündner beer. In terms of quality assurance, this time the 9-beer test was determined with a twinkle in the eye. It was considered passed if, after consuming nine glasses the evening before, the beer was still tasty the next morning. The result of the extensive series of tests was a pasteurized, cold-filtered premium lager that the manufacturers described as “spicy, tasty and not so bitter”. The range has been expanded to include the handcrafted bock beer. However, the successful placement of the Bündner beer in the beer landscape did not really succeed. At the time of going to press, there was nothing to be learned about the future of Bündner Bier.

Almost at the same time as the Chur AG brewery, a second microbrewery began to woo the beer drinkers in Chur: Sacha Schibli and his colleague Roland Paulweber founded the Stadtbier Chur AG brewery. It was a start with obstacles. The brewery was delivered seven months late and could only be put into operation six months later due to technical defects. Schibli's enthusiasm for beer remained. Despite everything, he wanted to convince the consumer with an honest, substantial, natural beer. In addition to the city beer Blond, the Pale Ale and the Jägerbier, he also produces the 4-Seasons beers, an amber in spring, a wheat beer in summer, a rice beer in autumn and a brown ale in winter. The brews are each limited to 2000 liters. This is also the case with Christmas beer, a red ale that is produced for the holidays.

In Davos, four homesick Davos residents dared to make the leap into beer production with craft beer. (Photo: Davoser Craft Beer)

“We are actually office rubbers and we used to have no idea how to make beer,” said Davos-based marketing consultant Jan Caflisch in July 2018 to “Südostschweiz”. Office rubber or not, the four of them had just ventured into the beer adventure with a 50-liter brewing system. The first steps were not yet suitable for the market: "You could drink the beer, but it was still a bit too tart to sell," said Caflisch. So they continued to practice in Davos until the business idea of ​​craft beer had a hand and foot. The tinkering of Jan Caflisch, Lukas Christen and the brothers Stephan and Markus Schlunegger has meanwhile become a standard range with three different types of beer and several special editions. The "Wildmannli-Gestalt", which packs the beer products in a legendary story, offers assistance in the sales strategy.

The story of Domleschger beer originated in 2006 in a kitchen in Domleschg. A semi-automatic home brewing kettle allowed the first attempts at walking. Around 40 liters of beer were produced, which did not yet meet the brewers' expectations, but aroused their ambitions. They decided to plan and build a 500 liter brewery themselves. To finance the whole thing, the Rolpibrau cooperative was launched. Two years later, the first Domleschger beer found its way onto the market. Business was going so well that the production hurdles became too high. The operation was therefore stopped and the plant dismantled and stored. She fell asleep for two years until she was awakened to new life in 2014 in an empty dairy in Feldis. The beer soon caught up with the old days. Today around 5000 liters are sold at around 30 sales outlets and the Rolpibrau cooperative has over 100 members. "The fan base among locals and holiday guests is growing," says board member Andreas Gredig. In his free time, he and his four board colleagues stand for the naturally cloudy amber beer at the brewing kettle.