Chopfab or “Heads off” is the name of the range of craft beers destined for the masses which is made by Brewery Doppelleu in Winterthur, Switzerland. This may seem a rather strange nomenclature but when Philip Bucher, who in 2012 founded the company together with Jörg Schönberg, pronounces the word in his Swiss-German accent, this rather martial translation of Bottoms up! sounds like a friendly invitation to knock down a beer with him and enjoy some refreshment in the company of fellow beer aficionados. And that’s just how it’s meant. In any case Bucher is pleased that people are talking about his unconventional brand. “Because of the rather meager marketing budget we have at our disposal we rely on mouth-to-mouth propaganda. A name like this helps,” he smiles. An expert in sales and marketing for many years, he knows exactly what he’s talking about.
Pioneering spirit and fast tempo
Like Bucher, with his background in business economics partner Jörg Schönberg is also a newcomer to brewing. Bucher quite happily admits that to start with neither of them had the slightest clue about brewing but as practiced beer drinkers they at least knew exactly what makes an excellent beer. They were also aware of the fact that the worldwide trend for craft beer had only just hit Switzerland – a little late. They soon realized which economic potential this offered. With pioneering spirit they very quickly built up the Brauwerkstatt or brewing workshop, as they call their brewery, and positioned themselves in the craft beer niche. Their cool and trendy brand and unconventional, modern marketing clearly set them apart from the more traditional regional breweries and from the two big industrial companies which dominate the market in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland – as was their intention.
With their top-fermented, diverse styles of beer they easily reach out to a young, urban, lifestyle-oriented public who also like to enjoy their beverages away from their local. “Under the Chopfab label we now offer eight beers which are not particularly wacky, easily drinkable, and perfect for those new to craft beer,” is how Bucher describes the portfolio. There are also six Doppelleu beers which are more for the experts. “Here, we also use more unusual ingredients, such as orange peel, coriander, and ginger, to create very special flavors.”
In addressing its target group the brewery can’t rely on advertising or TV campaigns with a wide distribution, meaning it has to resort to alternative channels. “We’ve been on the market for a good three years now,” says Bucher. “During this time we’ve attended 150 show days at various gourmet and slow-food events and provided around 500 tasting opportunities in the retail trade. These sampling sessions are extremely important for us as they help to make our style of beer known to the public and popular. After all, beer is a matter of taste.” One second mainstay are events such as music festivals or town fairs which Doppelleu exploits to directly convince as many people as possible as to the merits of its products.
The concept is paying off. In less than four years Doppelleu is the undisputed number one on the budding Swiss craft beer scene, with Bucher, Schönberg and their team now the market leaders for top-fermented beer. Seldom has a brewery in Switzerland grown so fast in such a short time; their initial capacity of 5,000 hectoliters has already had to be increased three times: first to 15,000, then to 35,000, and finally in September to 100,000 hectoliters. Accordingly, space has become rather tight in the production shop where the Brauwerkstatt is located.
To date, Doppelleu chiefly filled its beers in bottles and cans. In order to increase its presence in the hospitality trade, which is to play a greater role in the future expansion of its brands especially, the brewery has had to invest in a powerful and flexible keg racking system.
After seeing what was available on the market Doppelleu quickly reached an agreement with systems supplier KHS. “There was actually no alternative to their system,” explains master brewer Philipp Wagner. “Technically speaking, the people at KHS were the only ones to offer us a system which was compact enough to fit into our production shop without making any compromises regarding performance or speed.” The Innokeg CombiKeg indeed scores not only on its flexibility and racking power but also on its extremely compact design. The infeed and discharge conveyors for the kegs are placed next to each other to save space and both the interior washing and racking stations and the exterior washing stations are integrated into the system. Even the media tanks for the supply of caustic, acid, mixed water and hot water are tucked away inside the paneling.
As the Swiss needed their system very quickly, this was fast tracked at KHS’ factory in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. “This also triggered our decision to do business with KHS,” states Wagner. “The great thing here at Doppelleu is how quickly we make decisions. We always quickly know what we want and then consistently implement it. Things are then of course just perfect when we work with a partner who can match our tempo.” KHS could and still can keep up with the Swiss brewers. The system in Winterthur was installed, hooked up, and commissioned within a very short time indeed – because nobody lost their head during the project. ‘Chopfab!’
“Sampling sessions are extremely important in making our beer known to the public. After all, beer is a matter of taste.”