Switzerland: Will pils beer soon flood the country?

Since the beginning of this year, bottom-fermented beers in Switzerland are allowed to bear the designation Pils which was previously reserved for Czech beers, namely from the city of Plzeň (or in the German language Pilsen). At the end of 2022, the Swiss Federal Institute for Intellectual Property announced that the protection of Pilsner beers from the Czech Republic, which had been in place since 1927, no longer applied.

A state treaty with the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia and the successor states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia limited the term "Pils" to Czech beers from 1927. At that time, the Federal Council approved the absolute protection of Pilsner beer in return for reduced customs duties on cotton embroidery.

However, even though it is now allowed, Swiss brewers don’t see a need to change the name.

For almost 100 years the Swiss named their hoppy bottom-fermented beer Spezial. Over the time, this beer style has been adapted to customer tastes and now differs analytically and tastefully from Pils. For this reason the national "Swiss Beer Award" beer awards are not only awarded in the traditional beer categories but separately also for "Pils"

Back to the time when there was an official beer cartel in Switzerland,Swiss brewers have also developed other beer types like Spezial dunkel, a dark bottom-fermented beer which does not have a lot in common with other Pils beers from Germany or the Czech Republic (Bohemia).

Another variety is “Spezial Light”. This beer type has a certain relationship with Pils, as both are brewed bottom-fermented, are light in color and have a similar alcohol content.

Still, people close to the matter believe that Swiss brewers will soon start their first steps with a Pilsen type beer in order to give consumers a choice who currently feel inclined to drink imported beer.

Switzerland’s oldest brewery, Schützengarten does not want to rule out the launch of a Pilsner beer. "Our brewers are constantly working on new beer creations, which could include a pilsner at some point," says Reto Preisig, CEO of the Schützengarten brewery. The Pils would appeal to many consumers, so there is a certain potential, according to Preisig.

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