Sin in the City
Stadtbrennerei & Stadtkelter
#sparklingwine #spirits #switzerland
Since 2017 the two brothers, Tobias and David Buser have been running a distillery at the heart of a residential district of Basel on the Rhine. Literally it could be described as a backyard-distillery. But if you were thinking along the lines of a hobby-like makeshift garage arrangement, then you would be mistaken. The business is located in a charming old courtyard. ‘This building was used to stable horses in the 19th Century,’ says Tobias Buser. Once horses were replaced by motorised engines several different handicraft businesses rented the building over the decades. When five years ago a change of tenant occurred the two brothers took the chance to adapt the historical building and convert it into a distillery and winepress.
Liquor distillation is not a skilled occupation
While David deals with the marketing side of things due to his educational background in commerce, Thomas, who trained as a vintner, leads the production area. His interest in distillation was awakened during his training. Unlike in Germany and Austria, in Switzerland distillation is not considered a skilled occupation you can study. The young vintner gained his knowledge and craft from a Master of Distillers in Berlin. With these skills and enthusiasm the brothers took on the adventure of starting their own distillery and winepress.
Wood firing and process steam
Distillation needs energy, after all, the wash has to be heated enough to vaporise into its parts of ethanol and water. The Buser brothers decided to opt for a steam generator to obtain the necessary amount of energy for the process. As ‘This allows us to finely regulate the heat during distillation.’ Wood from the local region is the energy source and the smoke generated from this has to pass through a filter in the chimney before escaping to the city sky.
The heart of the Stadtbrennerei is the approx. 200 litre holding copper pot and the connecting distillation column which has four levels. The advantage of this distillation column is the counter-flow distillation process explained by the Distil Master, ‘Through this we save having to distil the first distillate a second or third time so we can get the desired alcohol and flavour concentration levels. This system allows us to take this step in just one run.’ The finished distillate is then bottled and labelled right there on-site. Sales take place either over their online shop or directly through clients in the catering sector.
From a mad idea to sparkling wine
In order to create a unique selling point on the market, the brothers have concentrated until now for one thing on making spirits such as vodka which they have called Packs and a wheat schnapps called Der Säemann.
Apart from these they have also produced a maceration spirit such as Schweizer Alpenkräuterbitter and a herbal spirit like their Absinth which belongs to the basic range. ‘We are currently developing a gin,’ says David. But not everything is about high percentage liquids in the distillery. Resulting from a long night the brothers decided to produce their own sparkling wine. To do this the Busers process Chardonnay and Blauburgunder grapes which they get from a vineyard in the Wallis (A French speaking region in the west of Switzerland), where Tobias spent some years completing his education. They do everything themselves from harvesting to labelling. ‘Each step of the process is done by our manual labour.’ The evidence of this can be seen in the old manually operated corking machine used for the sparkling wine bottles. However, they don’t want to produce just any old sparkling wine, ‘We love trying out new things so that like our spirits the wine gains an unmistakeable characteristic.’
Although the pandemic isn’t making life easy for the young business, the brothers are convinced that their drinks will be discovered and enjoyed by those who love locally produced and high quality products. And if the pandemic would go on longer – well alcohol does kill pathogens and not only on the hands!