Zwanze Day: Celebrate Lambic Beer! Wait, What’s Lambic Beer?

For beer drinkers around the world, Zwanze Day is a much anticipated yearly event. This day celebrates the release of Cantillon’s Zwanze, a special release lambic series which began in 2008. Zwanze Day 2018 takes place on September 29th.

Cantillon Brewery is located in Brussels, Belgium and is a world-renowned producer of lambic beer and gueuze beer. We’ve posted on this blog in the past that when they expanded to a bigger location in 2015, Cantillon sprayed their walls with beer to assist in perfecting their “spontaneous fermentation process” and ensuring that the brewing environment remained the same.

Cantillon 2012 in a glass

A picture of the Cantillon 2012. Note its raspberry color. Photo courtesy of sourbeerblog.com.

So what makes Lambic beer unique?

Lambic and Gueuze are both sour beers brewed using spontaneous open fermentation. This unique process naturally uses the yeast from the brewery and region in which it resides only – no yeast is added by the brewer. Most breweries “pitch”, or add a specific type of yeast to the mash, but not so with lambic style. Lambic alcohol content typically ranges from 5%-7% ABV, and are much appreciated by beer lovers for their distinctive flavor. Authentic gueuze and lambic beers are so rare because they are specific to the Senne River Valley in Belgium. The yeasts specific to this region and their fermentation process give these beers their unmistakable taste.

What do Lambic beers taste like?

Lambic beers are known for their sour, fruity taste. People who taste lambic beers also will notice an earthy, barnyard note that seems to honor the natural fermentation process. These beers are noted for being very crisp and easy drinking despite the amount of flavor packed into them. The reason Zwanze Day is so highly anticipated among beer lovers is that each year, Cantillon’s batch is so different from the last, again due to their open fermentation.

This year’s Zwanze produced by Cantillon is a blend of three separate batches aged in different wine barrels: Sangiovese, Amarone, and Chianti. Cantillon brewmaster Jean Van Roy describes the 2018 Zwanze as “a fruity beer with notes of mango and citrus and a fine, lingering mouthfeel. Its wine-like character is not only evident, but accentuated by a slight woodiness. The Zwanze 2018 should be tasted at cellar temperature.” If you get your hands on some for home enjoyment, be sure you use a tasting glass worthy of this beer drinker’s dream:

Are Lambic beers healthy?

As far as being a “health food” or something like that…well, it’s still beer. As far as beers go though, lambics do have many health benefits that other beers do not. Despite its sweetness, there is very little residual sugar in lambic beer. It is more of a probiotic than other beer, which can help with heart health and with one’s digestive system. There are less hops in lambics than most beers, and hops tend to be a testosterone inhibitor, so less hops means better for the health of both men and women. Cantillon beers specifically are certified organic in Belgium, so that’s another positive as far as being relatively healthy. A common misconception is that all Lambic beers are gluten-free. This is incorrect. 

What’s the difference between Lambic and Gueuze?

Well, the difference is that gueuze is lambic, but lambic isn’t gueuze. Does that explain it? No? Ok. Well, gueuze is a blend of one, two, and three years aged “straight” lambic beers. A straight lambic means that it has not been sweetened by with fruit. The gueuze blends these straight lambics together and ages them in a wine barrel, adding a different layer of flavor to this style of lambic.

More About Zwanze Day

The local event held in Brussels keeps growing every year, and now comes complete with entertainment, great beer (of course), and costumes.

A woman carrying a torch rides a horse at Zwanze Day 2017

Photo from the 2017 Zwanze Day festivities in Brussels, courtesy of OurTastyTravels.com.

I’m sure some of you are itching to try the 2018 model of this great beer. Unfortunately Zwanze Day tickets are an EXTREMELY hot item, with many of the lucky breweries chosen reporting that they sold out in minutes! Most locations will be selling some of Cantillon’s other batches during the event for people who didn’t get tickets, such as last year’s Zwanze. With all the beer connoisseurs attending their bars, many locations are using this event as an opportunity to push out some of their own new barrels. Check it out, here’s a map of the locations where the event will be held in the USA:

Map of Uinted States Zwanze Day locations

And here’s the full list of locations, per the brewery’s Facebook page:

2018 Zwanze Day Locations – 9/29/2018

United States
Venue City State / Province
Bagby Beer Oceanside California
Beachwood BBQ Seal Beach California
Mikkeller Bar SF San Francisco California
Russian River Brewing Santa Rosa California
Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar Denver Colorado
Redlight Redlight Orlando Florida
St. Somewhere Brewing Co. Tarpon Springs Florida
The Porter Beer Bar Atlanta Georgia
West Lakeview Liquors Chicago Illinois
Schera’s Restaurant and Bar Elkader Iowa
Holy Grale Louisville Kentucky
Avenue Pub New Orleans Louisiana
Novare Res Bier Café Portland Maine
Armsby Abbey Worcester Massachusetts
Lord Hobo Cambridge Massachusetts
Seymour Greenfield Massachusetts
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Dexter Michigan
Side Project Brewing Cellar Maplewood Missouri
Alewife Brewing Company Long Island City New York
Spuyten Duyvil Brooklyn New York
Thin Man Brewery Buffalo New York
Fonta Flora Brewery Morganton North Carolina
American Solera Tusla Oklahoma
De Garde Brewing Tillamook Oregon
Monk’s Café Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Jester King Brewery Austin Texas
The Masonry Fremont Seattle Washington
The Sovereign Washington D.C.  
International
Venue City Country
Carwyn Cellars Melbourne Australia
Tribaun Innsbruck Austria
Moeder Lambic Fontainas Brussels Belgium
Moeder Lambic Saint-Gilles Brussels Belgium
Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon Arlon Belgium
Rose Red Brugge Belgium
EAP – Emporio Alto dos Pinheiros Sao Paulo Brasil
Dieu du Ciel Montréal Canada
Birreria Volo Toronto Canada
The Drake Eatery Victoria Canada
Beer&Barrel谷木 Shanghai China
Himmeriget Copenhagen Denmark
Stadin Panimo Baari Helsinki Finland
La Fine Mousse Paris France
La Capsule Lille France
Brasserie du Mont-Salève Neydens France
Au Poêle de la Bête Toulouse France
Le Sur Mesure Nantes France
Café Herman Berlin Germany
Mon Petit Café Stuttgart Germany
The Clink Birmingham Great Britain
Six° North Aberdeen Great Britain
Moor Beer Bristol Great Britain
Beermerchants Tap London Great Britain
The Pilcrow Manchester Great Britain
Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà Roma Italy
abbazia di Sherwood Caprino Bergamasco Italy
LambicZoon Milano Italy
The Drunken Duck Quinto Vicentino Italy
Ristopub Margherita Quartu Sant’Elena Italy
Ottavonano Atripalda Italy
Birre & Mondo Crudele Crema Italy
Storie di Pinte San Lazzaro Italy
Dolphins Umeda Osaka Japan
Café Lembeek Nagoya Japan
Smakelijk Tokyo Japan
The Town of Grimstad Grimstad Norway
De Bierkoning Amsterdam Netherlands
Garage Project Wellington New Zealand
Mikkeller Bar Warsaw Warsaw Poland
Eric the Red Moscow Russia
Masia Agullons Sant Joan de Mediona Spain
Zum Franziskaner Stockholm Sweden
Bière Café Au Trappiste Bern Switzerland

Even if you weren’t able to score a ticket and just get a chance to check out the 2017 Zwanze, it’s worth it to attend and see for yourself what all the fuss is with this style of beer that has become so world famous. Cheers!

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