Feldschlosschen Hurlimann Holding


From Basel I ride along the winding Rhine River for about 15 miles to the town of Rheinfelden, headquarters for Feldschlosschen Hurlimann Holding or better known as home to Switzerland's largest brewer of beer.

It isn't hard finding the place from the center of town because it's easy spotting the large brewery perched up on a nearby hillside. It also helps when the brewery is built to look like a castle. Passing the local train station I notice a slew of rail cars parked along a siding with the Feldschlosschen name stamped on them.
The closer I get to the place the more I like it. Farmland surrounds the brewery and I pass a barn where horses are being hitched up to deliver kegs of beer the old fashioned way: via horse-drawn wagon. Next to the spiffy-looking brewery is a tavern, there's an old steam engine train on display near the front grounds and quite a few apple trees dot the property.

About a block away from the brewery I find the head offices, a modern four-story orangish-building. Entering I get a feeling this might be a fun visit because a sign greets you in English saying, "May we give you our latest 6-pack?" However, this promising visit turns bleak as the receptionist calls around and finds no one has seen my letter sent three weeks earlier. Just when I'm about to leave, in walks Brigitte Schmid, Communications Manager. She's due in a meeting in two minutes so I quickly tell her about my trek. She says if I can hold on for a few minutes she'll be back and take care of me.

True to her word, Schmid is quickly back and I must admit she ends up taking great care of me. No sooner is she done pouring a "Quinto", one of the company's new beers she wants me to try, when a women rushes in out of breathe. Schmid asks me, "you want to have a tour of the brewery?" "No", I answer, "I've visited lots of breweries so I've pretty much seen how they work". "But", she says, "You haven't seen this one. The head of Anheuser-Busch was here not too long ago and said it's the best-looking facility he's seen". Well that sold me so off I go with the tour guide (the out-of -breathe-woman).

Built in 1902 and added on in 1958, it's a beautiful facility with the castle facade on the outside and the inside's walls lined with beautiful mosaic tiles. After the quick 15 minute tour (regular tours take more than an hour) the guide drops me off at the tasting center. I'm given a wide selection of beers to try and I opt for a bottle of Celtic Whiskey Brew (5% alcohol content). Now, I'm not much for whiskey but this beer is fantastic! Then again, it could be that it's a nice hot day and anything wet and cold would have tasted good.

Returning back to the head office, Schmid shows me a 10-minute company video. I've seen hundreds of these kinds of videos but this one is well done because it's fast-paced and has great music accompanying it.

Why is the company headquartered in Rheinfelden? Because Feldschlosschen, its flagship beer, has been brewed here since 1876. Revenues in 1998 for Feldschlosschen Hurlimann Holding were 1.1 billion Swiss Francs. The company also owns quite a bit of prime real estate in Switzerland, notably in Zurich. . About 700 employees work at this site. The company has no formal art collection but does have a collection of antique delivery trucks. That steam engine train I saw upon arriving, it still works and sometimes when they have a big group of visitors they'll fire it up (it takes fours hours) and make the two minute trip down to the company's own private rail depot to pick up the visitors.

There's no company cafeteria but employees get vouchers and can eat in the tavern or several company-owned restaurants in town. It's a minute to the nearest freeway and a 20-minutes drive to Basel's airport or 30 minutes to Zurich's. Any perks for employees? Free drinks, which is consistent with every beer company I've visited.
Checking out CEO Gerard Stalder's second floor office I make note of his computer, fresh flowers, one real plant and a view of the fields which usually have horses running about (when they're not working of course). I ask Stalder if there's anything special about the three paintings on the wall. He says the paintings as well as everything else in the office (desk, chairs etc.) are from his predecessor and Stalder left everything in place on purpose. Why? Stalder recently took over and belt tightening was in order so this is a way of showing he can make due with what's already here. Stalder can also see the company's rail cars lined up on the nearby train tracks. 75% of the company's beer is transported by rail using its own fleet of 130 rail cars. The rest of the beer is delivered by 240 trucks and of course, several teams of horses.

Schmid makes sure I don't leave without a Feldschlosschen T-shirt and cap and tries to give me a six pack but I decline since there's absolutely no room on my bike.