The Principality of Liechtenstein, with Hans-Adam II as head of its monarchy, is a very small landlocked German speaking country, resting entirely on the Alps. To be found in central Europe, nestled in between Switzerland to the west and Austria to the east, with a total area of 160 square kilometres (62 square miles). It’s tiny!
It is the fourth smallest country of Europe, after the Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino, with a population of just under 37,000 people.
Despite its limited natural resources and tiny capital of Vaduz, Liechtenstein is a very rich country. The nation is known for its strong financial sector, and low corporate tax rates, making its residents enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living.
The family, from which the principality takes its name, originally came from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria. They purchased the land, but it was just another piece of real estate in their collection of domains throughout the Hapsburg Empire (Austro-Hungarian). With the destruction of World War One and the subsequent break-up of the said empire, Liechtenstein got more autonomy away from Austria. After World War II, the ruling family decided to actually live in neutral Liechtenstein and from afar could see all their lands in the old Empire descent into the hands of the Nazi’s, and thus lost forever. Liechtenstein was what remained of their lands, and that’s what we, more or less, have today!
1. Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens. Whisper it softly, it’s a “tax haven”
2. Liechtenstein also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world at 1.5%.
3. The Prince of Liechtenstein is the world’s sixth wealthiest monarch with an estimated wealth of 5 billion USD
4. Liechtenstein has no airport, but don’t fret as Zurich Airport is an hour and a bit away in neighbouring Switzerland.
5. On the country’s national holiday all “subjects” are invited to the castle of the head of state, which eerily overlooks the capital. A significant portion of the population attends the national celebration where speeches are made and complimentary beer is served, which just sounds fantastic.
6. There is only one television channel in the country, the private channel 1FLTV which was only created in 2008. Let’s hope they get Sky Sports then.
7. Liechtenstein football teams play in the Swiss football leagues, with FC Vaduz making it into the top tier, the Raiffeisen Super League, last season. Vaduz also have a North Korean player, Pak Kwang Ryong, with them on loan from Basel FC, so now you know how little Kim back home gets his regular supply of Swiss cheese that he so craves.
8. It is the smallest nation to win a medal in any Olympics, winter or summer
9. The Liechtenstein National Police has a total of about 125 employees. But don’t let that fool you as they are armed and work closely with their colleagues in both Switzerland and Austria, just in case you try and make a run for the border! Overall the country has one of the world’s lowest crime rates and its prisons are (or should that read prison?) virtually empty, with anyone serving more than two years shipped off to an Austrian prison for practical reasons.
10. Liechtenstein has a policy of neutrality and is one of the few countries in the world that maintains no military. During the 1980’s the Swiss army fired off shells during a military exercise and mistakenly burned a patch of forest inside Liechtenstein. The incident was said to be resolved “over a case of white wine”. If only all conflicts were solved in this manner!
11. Liechtenstein has a constitutional monarch as Head of State, and an elected parliament which enacts laws. It is also a direct democracy, where voters can propose and enact constitutional amendments and legislation independent of the legislature. The Prince, looking for even more power and control of his tiny nation, put a referendum in 2003 to the people seeking new and improved veto laws that could dissolve parliament at any time he so wanted. Hans-Adam II threatened that if he didn’t get his wish in the referendum he would just sell some of his royal property (the property of Liechtenstein) into commercial use and just move to Austria. “I’m going to take my ball and go home”, he was quoted as saying, allegedly. Needless to say the resolution passed with about 64% in favour.
12. In 2006 the country actually grew in size! New surveys using more accurate measurements of the country’s borders in set its area at 160 km2 (61.776 sq mi), with borders of 77.9 km (48.4 mi). Thus, Liechtenstein discovered that its borders were 1.9 km (1.2 mi) longer than previously thought! A handy trick!
13. Liechtenstein is a largest producer of false teeth in the whole world.
14. Currently, there is only one hospital in Liechtenstein, so be careful when climbing the Alps on a winters days as I am not so sure they will have enough man power to send out the few ambulances they have to rescue your sorry ass.
15. The gross domestic product (GDP) on a purchasing power parity basis is $5.028 billion, or $141,100 per capita, which is the second highest in the world. Which sounds pretty bloody good. When I was there I noticed that most people had a vineyard in the back garden. There is wealth and then there is real wealth!
(All facts and figures thanks to good old Wikipedia!)
Liechtensteiner Brauhaus Hell’s
Brewed by Liechtensteiner Brauhaus
So let’s talk about beer then. As Frank Zappa famously said, “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer”, and even though Liechtenstein is small it does indeed have a decent brewery.
World War One caused a shortage of raw materials (barley and malt!) on the continent of Europe, and with that seen the closure of Liechtenstein’s last brewery in 1917. That’s was until 2007 when Bruno Güntensperger opened up The Liechtensteiner Brauhaus. Güntensperger was a dreamer who always had a passion for brewing, and while studying at the Institute of Food Science at ETH Zurich, the notion of a brewery in Liechtenstein was evoked when he did an internship in an actual brewery as part of his studies. Due to work commitments and everyday life his dream was put on hold until during a wedding celebration back in his home country, he started chatting about his idea with some old friends. The idea started to gain legs and he went for it, and on the 23rd of October 2007 the brewery was a reality. Liechtenstein was a real country again!
Located in Schaan, the brewery produces a traditional lager, a darker malt beer and a wheat beer. The brewery also produces seasonal specials that are created especially for the carnival season, and a fruity beverage popular during the summer months. Despite a young history and a relatively small operation, the beers are winning awards: Swiss “Newcomer of the Year 2009” and its wheat beer “Weiza” was “Swiss Beer of the Year 2009”.(IG small and medium breweries of Switzerland).
Review: Bottle of Liechtensteiner Brauhaus Hell’s, 5%ABV
The beers produced by the Liechtensteiner Brauhaus are brewed with the best craftsmanship and using only the finest ingredients. A special mashing process, partially handed, using natural hops, a slow fermentation process and a long cold maturation in low temperatures ensure the highest quality clean and fresh beers. When you think that the Alps and the Rhine is the backdrop to this brewery then it would make sense to have a good high expectation for this beer.
Pours a lovely golden colour, with a very good sized frothy head with some lacing. This very clean beer looks pretty damn good. Top marks for appearance.
The aroma was also very enticing. I got notes of sweet grainy malts, some fruitiness, and a very rustic kind of smell (the smell of the Alps perhaps?). Again top marks, this time for the smell.
On taste I got a nice light flavour of grainy malts, some sweetness, a bit of caramel
The aftertaste was interesting, a touch of hops biting at the end.
Overall I liked this beer. I had it straight from a cool fridge and it tasted really smooth and very drinkable. Each mouthful had a lovely feel to it and had a lot going on with a nice mix of flavours, making this beer a favourite. Not a very strong drink but very drinkable, and it would be a decent session beer. A good refreshing beer.