Since 2008 Belgian brewery Cantillon, famous for its Lambics, has released a special limited-edition sour. In 2008 the Zwanze series kicked off with a special bottling of a lambic with rhubarb added. However, each year the recipe is different, and it’s not uncommon for the beer to reach the high 90s and even 100 on Ratebeer, and well over 4.0 on Untappd. The release is draft-only, but there are around 75 locations around the world pouring this beer with 28 of them right here in the United States, AND a few of them are right here on the east coast!
The specific beer being poured is Zwanze 2018, which is a blend of lambic aged in three different types of wine barrels for two years: Amarone, Chianti, and Sangiovese. According to the brewery, the Amarone barrels were filled in December 2015 while both the Chianti, and Sangiovese barrels were filled in January 2016. The 2018 Zwanze Day was held on September 29th. As in years past, the annual event put on by Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon will be held in various locations around the globe on the same day, with each location pouring that year’s released beer specifically for the festivities by the Brussels, Belgium-based brewery.
Zwanze beer was first done in 2008 but it didn’t get its own event day until 2011. Zwanze 2011 was also the first beer of the series to have the majority of the product placed into kegs for on-site consumption. Approximately 2/3 of the Zwanze production for 2011 was put into barrels, whereas previous years had nearly 80% of the production go into bottles. This was due to the fact people were taking bottles and selling them on the after-market for crazy prices.
The event itself was created to bring lambic enthusiasts together around the world. Cantillon’s website notes that the word ‘zwanze’ in the Brussels dialect refers to a semi-sarcastic style of humor. That sense of humor is often reflected in the experimental nature of the beers, which are not always the most traditional of lambics. In the Flemish dialect, the verb ‘zwanzen‘ means to ‘joke‘ or to ‘kid‘, and this has been reflected in some of the stories associated with the Zwanze beers over time.
Each year the dates seem to be different. This years has past so keep your ears, and eyes open for the announcement of next years release. And if you decide to try and make it to a bar that is pouring Zwanze…get there early.