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Cantillon Zwanze Day 2011



Announcing Zwanze 2011 from Cantillon.  This HIGHLY sought after lambic will be making draft appearances at a few select U.S. locations. (Below.) This years vintage is made with Pineau d’Aunis grapes.  The prime ingredient changes each year – with the 2008 edition being rhubarb.  Only bottles available will be at the brewery.  Check out the full write up below from the website on the brewing process and 2011 release.

Since lambic is a type of beer produced through spontaneous fermentation, its characteristics will by definition vary from one batch to another. On top of this, the types of barrels, fruits and hops used during production can sometimes cause the beer to mature in new and unexpected ways.

For this reason, I have for several years been experimenting with my lambics and trying out new kinds of blends, barrel woods and fruits.

Some of these beers, such as Blabaer, Goldackerl or Don Quichotte, are intended for sale outside Belgium while others are produced exclusively for consumption at the brewery.

It’s interesting to note that even for brewers the inner workings of lambic continue to have a mysterious side to them, with on occasion surprising results. The kind of experimentation I do is important to me because it allows me to learn more about my beer and look at it from different angles. Following on from this, to make a distinction between these experimental beers and Cantillon Brewery’s other products, in 2008 I made the decision to call this beer Zwanze.

Taken from the Dutch dialect spoken in Brussels, the word «zwanze» describes the typical humour of the city’s inhabitants, which is characterized by a finely-balanced mix of self-deprecation and exaggeration. I quite like the idea of my lambic «Made in Brussels» having the same jovial and slightly derisive spirit as the people of Belgium’s Capital City, and of it also taking a light-hearted look at these blends, which I admit can seem a bit strange at times.

In 2008, I blended 20-month-old lambic with rhubarb and was happy to see that the beer’s acidic taste struck a very nice balance with the plant’s tartness. The following year, we decided to cold-soak elderberry flowers and the resulting product was so different from other lambic-based beers that we decided to start producing it under the name Mamouche.

The 2010 vintage of Zwanze was a white beer developed together with Yvan Debaets. It was a top-fermented product but, because of the specific bacteriological environment of a lambic brewery, the beer was certainly naturally inoculated and as such it was in fact a mixed fermentation beer.

In keeping with our approach to brewing and selling beer, as well as out of respect for the product and the attitude implied with the name Zwanze, we don’t want these vintages to become marketing tools designed exclusively to make a few bucks. A case in point: Zwanze 2010 was bottled with numbered stickers, and after one bottle had been sold at the brewery for 6 euros another one ended up on eBay less than a week later with a price tag of 80 euros. Because of my dedication to my work as a brewer and out of respect for the product itself, it is very important to me for prices to stay reasonable. Unfortunately, there are those out there who couldn’t care less about spontaneous fermentation beer but who do care a lot about making easy money. For this reason, it has been decided that not a single bottle of Zwanze 2011 will be sold by Cantillon Brewery.

The story behind Zwanze 2011 is one of friendship between a brewer of organic lambic and an «organic» winegrower, Olivier Lemasson. In a lot of ways, working with lambic is similar to winemaking, and so we in fact have much in common with viticulturists who use a biodynamic approach to agriculture. Although our products are different, we speak the same language: that of devotion to our respective trades, natural methods and harmony with nature. Olivier Lemasson, who produces Vins Contés, is an organic viticulturist in the French region of Val de Loire who works with what are often long-forgotten local grape varieties.

In 2010 we tried something new by blending lambic with Pineau d’Aunis. The result was quite surprising and wine-like with specific accents of fruit, pepper and other spices, both as regards smell and taste. With Olivier’s approval, and despite a substandard harvest due to poor weather conditions, we recreated the same beer for Zwanze 2011. I subjected it to some very limited cold hopping using Bramling Cross hops, which yields a slightly bitter fruitiness. My friend Rob Todd of the Allagash Brewing Company calls it the «kiss of the hops», and I’ve decided to use this fantastic expression. The balance struck between the lambic, the grapes and the delicate bitter fruitiness is surprising yet very pleasant.

As a side note, in 2010 I had called the first experimental batch Pinot d’Aunis Lambic while making use of the term Pinot in the sense of the Pinot gris, noir or blanc grape varieties. Despite the fact that this incorrect use of the name stayed on the brewery’s blackboard for several months for everyone to see, nobody ever made a comment to the effect that the right term was actually Pineau. Ultimately, I only discovered that I had made a mistake while looking for information on the wines produced by another renowned biodynamic winegrower named René Mosse. But on the other hand, since we are talking about Zwanze, so in other words a good joke, I think I’ll stick with the name Pinot d’Aunis and hope that the purists will find it in their hearts to forgive me.

So to recap, there will not be any bottles of Zwanze put on sale so as to avoid any overpricing. On top of this, contrary to what was done with the Zwanze in previous years (with 80% of the production going into bottles), 2/3 of the Zwanze production for 2011 has been put into barrels. The goal here is to try to make certain that Cantillon enthusiasts everywhere will have a chance to taste the beer while short-circuiting those whose just want to make a fast buck.

In order to create an ephemeral event for this ephemeral beer, I decided to have all these barrels opened and enjoyed on the same day, when possible at the same time, by our friends throughout the world in places like Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the United States, Japan, Canada, France and Belgium.

This event, which we’ll call «ZwanzeDay», will take place on Saturday, 17 September at the following locations:

  • America – USA :
    • Monk’s Café in Philly
    • Spuyten Duyvil in New York
    • Lord Hobo in Boston
    • Novare Res in Maine
    • Churchkey in Washington DC
    • West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago
    • The Avenue Pub in New Orleans
    • Holy Grale in Kentucky
    • Russian River in Northern CA
    • Stone in Southern CA
  • America – Canada :
    • Canada – Montréal : Dieu du Ciel
  • Europe :
    • Belgium – Brussels : Moeder Lambic Fontainas – Moeder Lambic Saint-Gilles
    • France – Paris : La Cave à Bulles
    • France – Fougères sur Bièvre : La Gardette – Les Vins Contés
    • Italy – Rome : Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà
    • Italy – Bergamo : The Dome
    • Italy – Nicorvo : Sherwood Pub
    • Finland – Helsinki : Pikkulitu
    • Denmark – Copenhagen : Olbutikken
    • Sweden – Stockholm : Akkurat
  • Asia :
    • Japan – Osaka : Dolphin’s

There is no such thing as a perfect idea and I’m well aware that many Cantillon enthusiasts, bar owners and fans of lambic beers will be disappointed because they won’t be able to taste or have their customers taste this Zwanze 2011. I hope they’ll accept my apologies but the brewery’s maximum production threshold is currently 1500 hl (1300 barrels) and I only have about 1000 to 2000 litres of lambic available each year which I can use to make Zwanze. Just one last thing: while all the barrels will be consumed on 17 September, the remaining 600 bottles will be available for tasting at the brewery.

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