Bern’s old town centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and rises majestically on a peninsula above the Aare. The Swiss capital surprises its visitors with a pleasantly slow pace of life.
A festival site in the middle of the city with long lines in front of beer stalls and a laid-back atmosphere. This is ZAPF! A Craft Beer Festival in Bern, where beer connoisseurs can meet up with fellow beer brewers and discover (as yet) unknown Bern beers. But the greatest attraction is meeting like-minded people who love drinking, talking about and hearing about beer. Visitors can come to the Warmbächli festival grounds and celebrate the Bernese attitude to life at ZAPF! Alexander Balajew, who everyone calls Bali, and Lukas Hasler from the Schuum brewery will also be in attendance. Their beer is one of the Bern's great success stories.
Bali and Lukas brew beer together for their own label, Schuum. Schuum is known for producing handmade, unfiltered and unpasteurised beers. Bali is the drummer for the band Troubas Kater, Lukas plays bass for Gustav.
The two not only share a passion for beer, they both play in a band. A few years ago, they started brewing beer in the laundry room of a small apartment. They tasted and tinkered until they had a really good beer — a beer that they themselves enjoyed.
Bali and Lukas have improved their beer step by step, year after year, before eventually moving to their small brewery on an industrial site in Bern Bümpliz. From this brewery, they continue to work on different varieties of beer, experimenting and tweaking their products. Schuum beers are becoming more and more popular and the residents of Bern flock to the regular warehouse sales. The two brewers don't have a secret recipe. However, they allow their beer to take its time. They let it ferment for up to four weeks before bottling. Schuum beer focuses strongly on quality rather than quantity.
Our beer is first and foremost something made by hand, with a lot of love.
Good things take time becomes a mantra when brewing beer.
The Weyermannshaus open-air swimming pool is right next to the Schuum micro brewery. It is the largest swimming pool in Europe and a popular meeting spot for locals. However, during the warmer months the Aare is the “place to be” in Bern. Bern has a unique and long-standing tradition of river swimming. In fact, life in Bern revolves around the Aare. The cooling waters are shared by ordinary workers and politicians alike. Bali and Lukas enjoy both the open-air pool and the river, but are more likely to be found relaxing by the waterside. When they're not brewing, you can often find them in the recording studio of the band Troubas Kater. Bali plays drums for the band. The Groovefactory studio is located near the Dampfzentrale cultural centre, just a stone's throw from the Aare.
At first glance, you might think brewing beer and music don’t have much in common. Bali has a different view, however. "I don't see myself as an incredible musician, but as a craftsman". Troubas Kater is an eight-piece band or a motley crew as they describe themselves. All of the band members previously worked as buskers. They perform dialect songs, rap, chansons, folk music, rock, hiphop but will "take on any challenge". Their performances range from small, fairly intimate concerts to large open-air events, such as the Gurten Festival held on Bern's local mountain. And the songs they have written, which seem to beat in time with life in the city, have become deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Bernese people.
But why is Bern so famous for its rhythm of life? Bali has the following explanation: "The pace of life in Bern is certainly a bit slower than in other cities. That's why everything that the people of this region do is of a higher quality. Because people take their time a bit more. And you can afford to take your time because the other person doesn't expect something to happen overnight. ‘Let's wait and see’ is a common phrase in Bern. This allows you the freedom to contemplate your decisions in peace. However if we say we’ll do something, you can be sure it will get done — thoroughly. We might not do things quickly, but we do them right.”
Visitors to the Aare cannot help but notice the relaxed pace of life in Bern. This is a place where commuters can be found swimming or paddling in the river, rather than riding home in the car or bus. After their rehearsals, the band likes to enjoy a beer together on the river — brewed by Schuum, naturally.
Schuum is also served a little further away in the old town, at The Old City Irish Pub. In the cellar bar, the patrons raise a glass of Schuum and cheer their local football team, Young Boys, to victory. The pub is another place with a tempo all of its own where the whole city comes together on its own terms.