It’s one of the highest-altitude breweries in Europe, with an international reputation for making premium quality ales using locally grown alpine barley-malt and hops. BierVision-Monstein Brewery, sited 1625 metres above sea level, has become Switzerland’s highest beer-tourism hotspot, attracting 250 tour groups to the tiny 190-inhabitant village of Davos-Monstein each year.
Essentials spoke with brewery manager Carlo Wasescha, who says the brewery is also well known for its specialty range of air-dried meats including dried beef, bacon and sausages. Spent grains and malt from beer production are fed to the pigs and cows to further flavour the meat, while spent malt and yeast from the brewer’s mash is also used in making fresh bread. And if that’s not enough there’s even a house cheese to add to the tasting experience!
BierVision Monstein Brewery was founded 15 years ago, primarily as a tourist venture to bring people to the small village of Davos-Monstein, the baby brother to Davos. It worked: visitors now come from as far afield as the USA. It’s about 12 minutes by car from Davos main town, one of Switzerland’s largest ski resorts, and a little under 2 hours’ drive from Zurich.
‘In Switzerland and most parts of Germany,’ Carlo continues, ‘the beer that’s drunk mostly is clear, like a pilsner – ours is the Monsteiner Huusbier – but we also make two dark beers, and a wheat beer called “Häusträffel” – a typical hefeweizen that features sweet yeasty scents of banana and spice. Then we have a lighter styled wheat beer with only 3.5 percent alcohol, Mungga beer.’
The brewery’s darkest ale is the Wätterguoge beer made with fermented barley and named after the Wätterguoge, the alpine salamander as it is called in Walser, the German dialect of the Swiss and Liechtenstein alps regions.
‘The Capricorn is a bock beer [named after the rugged male steinbock, the Capricorn or alpine ibex] so it has 6.5 percent alcohol and is intense with a variety of complex flavors. It’s made with more malt and more sugar, increasing the alcohol content, but it’s balanced with caramelised malt which makes it easier to drink, reducing bitterness.’
Monstein Brewery makes around 200,000 litres a year; four 1000-litre batches a week is typical. Most of the beer is sold locally, within a 40km radius, but the Mungga and the Capricorn bock are more highly sought after as they are made with organic mountain malt from the Swiss Alps barley grown locally, more than 900 metres above sea level.
Organic Swiss hops are also used – about 80 percent of the total – which is news to us, as it’s far more common for hops to be grown in Germany. Magnum is the variety used and they’re sourced from a grower about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the brewery. Magnum is known primarily for its high bittering value but features subtle aromas of black pepper, nutmeg and a touch of citrus. It’s also valued for having a very clean aroma, and is thus a fairly versatile hop used as a bittering base.
While Carlo says he prefers a few wheat beers in the warmer months and the darker, slightly smokey Wätterguoge in winter, we’re just pleased to learn about Swiss beer rather than army knives, watches and alpine meadows. Cheers, Monstein!
BierVision Monstein AG
Hauptstrasse 36, 7278 Davos Monstein
Tel. +41 81 420 30 60