Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cantillon Zwanze Day is Upon Us!

Happy Zwanze Day!

Every year, Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels releases a special batch of beer, never to be rebrewed, called Zwanze. The word comes from the Flemish dialect spoken in Brussels and describes the humor of the city's inhabitants, characterized by a finely-balanced mix of self-deprecation and exaggeration. Brewer Jean Van Roy enjoyed the idea of calling his experimental batches Zwanze since the name suggests a light-hearted approach to the blends which he feels have a similar jovial and slightly derisive spirit as do the people of Brussels.

This year's Zwanze beer is Cuvée Florian, a hoppy lambic aged on a small amount of cherries and brewed in honor of Jean's son Florian. It will be release world-wide this Saturday, 20 September.

Jean selects bars around the world to pour this draft-only release and tapping takes place  at 3 pm (9 pm Brussels time), on Saturday. Two bars have been selected in New York City:  Alewife in Long Island City, Queens (opening at 11 am) and Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg (opening at 12 pm). Both bars will be selling tickets for a glass of Zwanze - first-come, first-served - but the event itself is free and there will be other Cantillon drafts at both bars, including Gueuze and Cuvée St-Gilloise, available on a pay-as-you go basis.

We hope that you can join us in toasting Flo with a glass of Cuvée Florian on Saturday. Below is a more detailed description of the beer from Jean Van Roy.


Dear Zwanze enthusiasts,
Some of you have already had the opportunity to taste Iris Grand Cru aged 3 years in a 400-litre cask. This product was sold without having been blended with a younger beer and so there was no possibility of secondary fermentation. As a result, Iris Grand Cru is a non-sparkling beer and it is meant to be drunk like cereal wine. Without cold hopping, its fragrances tend more towards the characteristic acidity of a spontaneous fermentation product associated with a slight caramel taste.
In other news, my eldest son, Florian, turned 18 on 3 May. To duly celebrate his transition to adulthood, and as the worthy son of a lambic brewer, Flo received a rather original birthday gift: an entire cask filled with “Cuvée Florian”.
Admittedly, finding the name was easy, but it was another matter to come up with the actual beer we were going to produce on this occasion. When I first tasted the Iris Grand Cru, I immediately thought that adding a touch of fruitiness to the caramel accent could be very complementary. And since my son’s favourite beer is kriek, I based myself on a mix of these two products to create his birthday present.
As my goal was not to create some kind of kriek clone, I reduced the amount of fruit by 40% in this blend with the Iris Grand Cru. After all, the core idea was to contribute fruitiness and mellowness to the base beer, not recreate a beer that tasted like sour cherries. Although cold-hopping with the same quantities used for “traditional” Iris would probably have masked the blend’s very subtle fragrances, I still wanted to add a touch of bitterness to this birthday present and decided to opt for a small dose of superb and very delicate Bramling Cross hops. The linger on the palate is very complex while the fruity fragrances of the hops play a subtle role without throwing off balance the beer's range of flavours and bouquet.
For this Zwanze 2014 I had originally planned on using the spontaneous fermentation stout brewed at the beginning of 2013, but despite the fact that this beer is already very good I have the feeling that another year of maturing in a cask will give it more delicateness and character. In light of this we needed another beer to replace our “wild” stout so as to be able to organise our Zwanze Day, and as you will undoubtedly have understood by now, the success of “Cuvée Florian” meant that it did not take very long for us to make a decision.
I did ask the kid if he was OK with me making a new version of his birthday present, and since this was not a problem for him, it was only logical to call this Zwanze 2014 “Cuvée Florian”!
Happy birthday, son!

Jean Van Roy
Lambic Brewer and Blender

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