Helvetiq started as a tiny games publisher in the small Swiss city of Lausanne 15 years ago and has since grown into a global books and games publisher, with books in French, German, and English distributed in many countries around the world.
In 2014, we read about Monika Saxer in a supermarket magazine. She was leading a group of women hikers on brewery tours. The combination of hike and beer, Monika claimed, made breweries more enticing to women. The endeavor was so successful that Monika had soon collected a whole list of hikes—and thus, Beer Hiking was born!
When our founder, Hadi Barkat, contacted Monika, she insisted she was not a writer. Hadi promised that we would find a way to turn her list into a book. After some work, it became Beer Hiking Switzerland. That first book has become a huge success, selling more than 70,000 copies in Switzerland alone. And it has led, in the near decade since, to 19 other books in the series, which now covers Switzerland, Belgium, and France, as well as parts of Canada and the USA. Our wine hiking series was started a few years later, with Wine Hiking Switzerland and, in the USA, Wine Hiking Oregon. In Scotland, the more appropriate Whisky Walks Scotland has expanded the range of hikes and drinks.
Each local author brings their personality to the book and to the region: from Beer Hiking New England’s Carey Kish, who tested upwards of 300 miles of hiking and 200 craft beers over two years; to Beer Hiking Chicago’s duo Dan and Jessica, who took their son along on every hike exploring diverse communities in the Windy City; to Beer Hiking Berlin’s focus on discovering the hidden and historic parts of the world-famous culture city—everyone has their own ideas of what Beer Hiking is about.
“Hiking and microbrewing are often taken very seriously,” says our community manager, Mathilde Spriet. “But combining them makes it fun.” Hiking is also an interesting way to explore the region around the brewery or vineyard, and to discover the inspiration behind the beers or wines you have come to try. And it’s clear—with more than 812 hikes to just as many breweries, vineyards, and distilleries, covering 9,759 km and climbing 227,337 vertical meters—there’s clearly an appetite and plenty of opportunities for the pairing.
For a series that covers such a wide range of areas (and beers), it is perhaps surprising that the books are not mass-produced, cookie cutter projects. Every beer bottle and can is separately drawn by one of our illustrators, every map carefully created by one of our graphic designers, every cover brought to life by our art director—and all of it comes together here in our offices in several locations in Europe.
In an age of e-books and endless lists of hikes on Google, the question of why people should choose to pick up a physical book is a challenging one for publishers to tackle. Put simply: “People collect books to remind them of what’s important to them,” says Richard Harvell, head of our North American imprint. “Beer and getting out into nature—that’s what many people love.”
Myriam Sauter is an editor at Helvetiq in Lausanne, Switzerland.