Today was Zwanze Day; something I didn’t know existed until about… oh… two days ago. My sour beer knowledge leaves much to be desired, but I am an apt pupil of my buddy, Matt, who is an avid sour drinker. Matt – who lives in Baltimore and works at Max’s Taproom – just happened to be in town for a wedding this evening so the two of us and Mike (the oft-included third man who basically never says no to anything that involves either leaving the house or drinking) headed out to Lord Hobo in Cambridge.
A brief overview of Zwanze Day: basically Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels release this special beer – Zwanze – on one day per year, to only a limited number of bars in the world (22 in the US and 2 in Massachusetts. What.). Apparently the beer is only served at 3pm (EST) and that is the only time it is available. For a little more info on Cantillon, you can check out this video:
So Matt, Mike and I waited in line for almost 3 hours trying to get in. We got to the point where we were third in line… and didn’t make it in for the 3pm tasting. When we got in a few minutes later, the bartender informed us they weren’t allowed to sell any more of the Zwanyze. Hearts broken and hopes dashed, we managed to drown our sorrow in some other fine beverages.
We started off with a trifecta of Cantillon Cuvée Saint-Gilloise. This is a dry-hopped version of the Belgian brewery’s unblended 2-year-aged lambic. This beer was absolutely delicious. Smooth but tart with a nice medium mouthfeel. Not being able to try the Zwanyze, I couldn’t tell you which was better but this made the almost 3 hour wait seem like no big deal.
I bought round two, which started with Cambridge Brewing Company’s The Colonel. CBC is right down the street from Lord Hobo and has been consistently one of Massachusetts’ best breweries for years. The Colonel is a porter fermented with Brettanomyces (Brett). This was everyone’s least favorite beer, but only because of its stiff competition. I enjoyed how the sour, barnyard notes from the Brett played off the heavy malts of the porter. I definitely wouldn’t turn down another glass.
We tried another Cantillon beer, the Cantillon Kriek. Kriek is basically a lambic fermented with cherries. This was as delicious as it was beautiful. The cherries were both sweet and tart. Just a fantastic beer that we didn’t want to finish. (I kept the bottle)
The final beer was Matt’s “panic pick.” We had initially ordered Lost Abbey’s Cuvée and Trillium’s brand new Cuvée, but both had sold out. So as not to keep a busy bartender waiting, I ordered the Colonel and Matt shouted out “Lost Abbey’s Deliverance.” This beer blew me away. It was probably my favorite of the day – sacrilege, I know, but I’m more sweet than sour. This is one of the best stouts I’ve ever had, and Mike seemed to enjoy it…
It would be hard to call Zwanyze Day 2013 for our merry band of misfits, but we didn’t manage to have a pretty decent time after missing the guest of honor. Next year we’ll be there earlier… and with food. And chairs.
One final note – while waiting in line we were standing with a guy named Ray who lives in Cambridge. He homebrews with his girlfriend and they sound like they’ve got a pretty serious operation going on. We exchanged numbers and hopefully we’ll be able to get together for a brew day soon. I always love meeting other people who are passionate about beer and brewing. The fact that he was the second guy in line and also missed out on the Zwanyze just brought us all closer together in our mild misery.
See you for Z-Day 2014.