Living in Europe as an American is living two lives: the one you have now, and remembering the one you leave behind. In Europe I have new friends, new family, a new way of being. But when my family comes to visit, memories of home, who I was, and how I behaved all come rushing back. My English slang now fresh in my mind, I struggle with even the basic German sentences. It’s a weird dual existence, but one I am extremely grateful to have.
These past weeks have been like wrangling cats. You try to set a plan, but ultimately people do what they want to do. But that's how weddings go, or so I'm told. Thankfully everything went without a hitch, and we were even granted a few hours of sun! It was an albeit unique experience, worrying about everything going according to plan, making sure people are where they are supposed to be, and remembering to relax and enjoy ones self makes the day go by in a blur. Still, it was the perfect wedding for us.
Yet planning this wedding, coordinating family, giving tours through Switzerland, translating English to German etc. was more of an exhausting experience than I originally thought it would be. But hey, at least there was plenty of cheese and beer. Almost serendipitously, there was the craft beer fest in Zurich just before I had to say goodbye to my parents.
Walking down a random farm road on the outskirts of Zurich, we came upon a small barn with the smell of smoke wafting through the air. We arrived around 6:30 pm to a well attended beer fest, a band setting up gear, and the delightful (at least to some) smell of a pig roast. There were eighteen breweries in attendance, three of which were Danish (if WarPigs counts solely as Danish).
We showed our tickets, received our tokens and festival branded Teku glasses and headed straight for some beers.
(If I may have a get-off-my-lawn type side-rant, why all the Teku glasses, Europe?)
I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of beer available, from your standard IPAs and Stouts to table beer, pumpkin spiced beers (a rarity, I’ve come to find), and sours. All the breweries in attendance had at least three beers available to try. None of which were only IPAs or pale ales.
Every brewery on the scene was dishing out a variety of styles. If I’m to be honest, beer fests in Berlin were typically only IPAs and Pale Ales, so this beer fest was a breath of fresh air. I don’t mean to offend, but already the Swiss beer scene seems more healthy than some.
Frontrunners were for us the table beer from Blackwell (a close contendor for my favorite Swiss brewery), the aforementioned pumpkin spice beer from the Bier Factory, and a coconut porter by Broken City Brewing. Just a small curiosity I noticed, all of my Swiss beer drinking friends seem to reach for porters and stouts. Anyway, for me personally, the sour beers available from Brasserie Trois Dames and BFM were stellar (a sour red and a gose, and a saison respectively).
I intentionally avoided Warpigs and Mikkeller. Mikkeller has a tendency to charge more for less amounts of beer, and I’m just not into that. The concept though of creating a fancy place for fancy beer drinkers is a rant for another time. I’ve had an excellent stout from WarPigs, really excellent, but I don’t know too much about them.
Simply put though, I would much prefer to give my well earned tokens to Swiss breweries, even if all the foreign breweries were charging more for (all) of their beers.
Beer fests aside, life has been hectic. Bureaucracy, PhD/grant applications, finding an apartment, etc etc, but hey, brew setup is complete! Not fully 100%, but operational at least. So stay tuned for actual homebrew posts!
August 27 @ 15:25
I arrived here by happenstance. I was supposed to find herbs for a beer I'm brewing but was unsuccessful. I knew I was near another brewery which I tried to find, but failed. Not my finest hour. But I recognized the area as I was here briefly once before, and knew there was a Biergarten around.
I was here with my partner back in late September, fresh in Berlin with ten days to find a flat. Since she is Swiss and I American, we did not have the proper documents required by most tenants and were (understandably) being rejected left and right. In Berlin, our friends have stories of how it took them up to two years to find an apartment, most of the time in a shared flat. We were getting desperate.
The room we saw - which was only a student apartment meant for one person - was occupied by a mother and her child with another on the way. She herself wasn’t from Germany and had a large scar on her left cheek. The place was unkempt and dirty, with diapers scattered about and the sounds of cartoons on the television. The woman, who said she was to be married, seemed happy and was just looking for someone to cover the remaining months on her lease (which by the looks of it was illegal). We got out of there as fast as we could.
Now that we have (somehow) landed on our feet, my girlfriend and I like to revisit these areas. The biergarten is just to the left of that apartment complex. This time, I am alone, but the mood is vastly different. The sun is shining, there is the low mumble of pleasant conversation with children playing somewhere in the surrounding apartment complex. Nearly all of the 24 tables here are filled either with groups or with couples; out of the roughly 50 people here, only three are alone.
I order an amber ale, which had a forgettable malt flavor but an absolute killer nose (I would guess it was dry hopped with Centennial). My brain is telling me this beer tastes healthier than others, but I don't know why.
There is a large oak tree in the middle of the garden, with hedges separating us from the surrounding apartment buildings. Another couple arrives while two leave.
My German is markedly better than when I first moved to Germany, but not at the level where I can understand such a large crowd. Everyone here is probably from the area. Although one guy may be American telling by his accent, his German, however, is perfect.
On tap, there is a hefeweizen, pils, amber and a gold. You can also purchase fresh apple juice and whiskey all made at the brewery. Interestingly enough, every drink is equally represented amongst the patrons.
I start to wonder if such a place would work in the US. If this were a new craft beer bar and their selection was only a pils, a hef, a gold and an amber, it probably wouldn’t receive rave reviews. Probably something along the lines of: “solid, looking forward to seeing this place develop.”
Is this place craft? Does it matter? Everyone here is happy, and no one seems to care that there isn't an IPA on tap.
Another couple arrives, and one has a local craft brewery t-shirt on, amusingly enough. I order the hef, which was not too standout-ish, but incredibly sessionable. A man comes to simply fill a growler.
I am reminded of my old biology days, sitting quietly and observing life. Despite being alone, I am very comfortable.
Four more whiskeys are ordered for the party at the back (two men, two women, one whiskey each). The chatter of the people is muted by the noises of a playground as the shade protects us from the heat. Kids are playing with toy cars on the table next to me, two different groups arrive as one leaves. This place is breathing.
Time to gather juniper branches for that beer I’m supposed to be making.