Books & Lit

beer hiking switzerland: a test walk

Lately Zürich, though not especially cold, has been relentlessly grey. Some days the impenetrable, overcast sky seems to descend on your head, which makes it all the more unappealing to move yet all the more important to do so. However, thanks to Monika Saxer, and her book, BEER HIKING SWITZERLAND: The Most Refreshing Way To Discover Switzerland, there’s plenty of motivation to go outdoors. So weather notwithstanding, I decided to test it out over the last week or so. Full disclosure: the book was given to me by its publisher, Hadi Barkat of Helvetiq, but it had already caught my eye at Orell Füssli. Either way, I was inclined to like the title as it’s the kind of idea I wish I had conceived. The book is also attractively designed with superb typography and easy to use, allowing you to choose your journey based on the location or the beer. For my initial hike, I chose one where the end point is about a 20-minute walk from home at Rote Fabrik (the Red Factory). At some point I will have to devote an entire post to Rote Fabrik, a cultural institution which delivers a lot of value to the community it serves. But now to Leimbach Station and our walk ….

All the walks/hikes seem to commence at a train station, or major public transit hub, which makes life simple. Though I didn’t employ any of the maps, I found the written descriptions pretty clear and easy to follow. This walk was pretty gentle at roughly an hour and a half. If you’re going to tackle some of the longer ones, you’ll definitely want waterproof, comfortable footwear and perhaps a companion, if you are not with someone who values solitude, or perhaps watched an excess of Twin Peaks recently.

It was a uniformly grey day with regular smatterings of rain. The sun did not even make a cameo. It was, however, interesting to see how suddenly the landscape morphs between wood to suburban then agricultural space. After a walk up through the hills and the woods, suddenly you’re in the middle of a development and back in so-called civilisation. There were parts of this route which were not especially beautiful, but still interesting as I find the canton foreign enough still that I can enjoy the difference. It still astonishes me how orderly and tidy the Swiss are, and I particularly like deconstructing sign names and words to see if I can translate them. Yes, I am a word-nerd.

Once back in Wollishofen, I crossed over into more familiar territory and resisted the pull of the Shamrock Pub, where I am usually able to find a good chat with either the landlord, Ian, or one of the regulars, and proceeded through the pastures and farmland on down the slope toward the graffiti soaked walls of lakeside Rote Fabrik. This hillside neighbourhood is a really charming area where city lifestyle and pastoral village living converge.

So would I recommend the book? Absolutely. A brisk walk and the quest for a single craft beer beyond the convenience of the refrigerator seem like a pretty salubrious combination to me, especially when it gets me acquainted with the varied landscape of our new home. The Amboss Beer was one I hadn’t previously sampled and it lived up to its promise, as did the benefit of exceeding 10,000 daily steps. Cheers to Monika Saxer, for pairing two of life’s great pleasures in such an original fashion.

Once I have a better pair of hiking boots, I’d like to embark on some of the longer expeditions outside of Zurich Canton. In January, however, with the weather unpredictable in many other parts of the country, including serious avalanche warnings, I’ll content myself with the smaller forays, where the city is still within easy sight.

The only question I am left with is: which beer, I mean, trail, next?