14 January 2012

Own brands

We come to the end of Swiss Week on this blog, you'll be glad to hear. And, in many ways, it's bottom-of-the-barrel time. I avoided the pissy local lagers sold in pubs so instead had to get my pissy local lager fix in the supermarket. Of the big Swiss supermarket chains, Coop had the best selection. But bored of all the Chimay, Schlenkerla and St Peter's I turned to some of the own brands to see how they fared.

In a land of expensive beer, finding Tell lager on offer at little over €4 for 15x33cl bottles wasn't to be passed up, on a how-bad-can-it-be? basis. And the name is cute in an appropriately Swiss way. So how bad can it be?

Well, since I didn't opt for the canned version, it's skunked, but only slightly. A decent amount of head, 4.8% ABV and no other off flavours. The worst I can say is it's a bit boring but I didn't pay for anything else and it did clearly say it was bière normale on the label. Refreshing, cleansing and just what's required after a day trudging around being fleeced by the rest of Switzerland.

And then there was Bio Spezial: a non-filtered 5.2% ABV lager. Skunked as well, it wafted pungently as soon as the cap came off, pouring an unattractive hazy pale yellow. Beneath the lightstruck aroma it's dull and watery with some nasty oxidised cardboard and lots of those noble hop nettle notes I dislike intensely. One to avoid and, at €1 a bottle, very poor value.

Another week and I'd probably have grabbed another 15-pack of Tell to see me through, but it was time to go home.

There is, it seems, plenty of good beer in Switzerland. But, as in a lot of countries, it makes you work for it.


  1. In the Coop own-brand range, the canned "Helvetia in their low-cost "Prix Garantie" range (white and pink cans) is actually quite a decent lager with a slight flowery nose, suprisingly full body (no high-grav brewing, probably, although i's brewed by Heineken), rather crisp bitter finish, and it's a mere 65 centimes a half-litre can...(
    According to one person I now who worked at Heineken's Swiss plant in Chur, Heineken, Calanda, Haldengut and Tell are the same high-gravity brew at different dilution rates. Helvetia is a separate brew)

  2. I saw that, but the branding didn't do it for me.

  3. Oh yeah, most poeple around here have issues with it too... you should see the bewildered looks I get when I arrive at parties and pull cans of it out of my bag. Priceless. :o)