Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A ZWANZE-LESS ZWANZE DAY IN BRUSSELS

Have to admit that any Cantillon "Zwanze Day" hype had completely passed me by in the years prior to this one; I'd never heard of the beer until everyone started flipping out over the summer about this 1-day-only Cantillon special that was going to be on draft in a few select bars & locations around the world on September 19th. Drop everything! Given that this was the day that I had scheduled myself to be in Brussels, Belgium between German work assignments, I reckoned it was a serendipitous turn of events, and I made a hasty plan to spend a little time at MOEDER LAMBIC FONTAINAS in Brussels that day - as it was one of the few places on the planet that would be getting some of this precious nectar (a "sour stout") on draft.

Now, I was going to go to this bar anyway. My research indicated that it was/is the place to go in Brussels for godlike Belgian ales on draft. 40-some-odd taps, and wouldn't you know it, when I was there the brewer getting featured that week was CANTILLON. Not a "tap takeover", but something close to it. So I figured I'd do this - go there in the afternoon, before the Zwanze celebration started at 9pm and try a few specialties, then go to a soccer game in the evening (which I did - RWS Bruxelles game with 200 other hardy souls), then head back to the bar around 9-something and get a taste of that ZWANZE, and maybe down a few other things as well.

Everything worked according to plan, except for that Zwanze. Guess you had to buy tickets in advance or something, and wait in a line, and it was all gone by 9:15pm anyway. Who cares! Let the tickers and the obsessives dither their lives away. I had some real beer to drink.

CANTILLON - "LOU PEPE GUEUZE 2009" - On draft, pictured above. I know it was pretty special to get this beer delivered this way, and yeah, I know there was probably only one place in the world serving it at that given time. I missed Zwanze, but I got this - and it was outstanding. A sour and chewy lambic blend, with a wonderful funkified smell and sour cherry explosion all the live-long day. Wet, oaky wood, but soft and creamy nonetheless. It left a big ring of tart funk on my upper teeth, and it really and truly tastes natural & raw. Complex, as they say, and the first real truth-bringer I've had from Cantillon. Now I'm finally a friggin' believer, too. 10/10.

JANDRAIN-JANDRENOUILLE - "IV SAISON" - This saison may not be especially rustic nor
farmhouse-like, but served moderately cold in a pint glass as it was here, it was more than all right. Faint earth/wood tastes, and maybe some faintly sour green grapes, but refreshment is really more the modus operandi here. Despite an acidic swallow, it was super tasty & something I can imagine tracking down in a bottle should it ever make its way to the US of A. 7.5/10.

So then I left, saw the Belgian Division 2 soccer, came back, missed the Zwanze (a British fella told me it was really unbalanced and no big deal, so that settles it), then tried these three Belgian bangers:

KERKOM - "ADELARDUS BRUNE" - A dark brown abbey ale that was nearly all right. Sticky toffee and brown sugar, maybe even a little Vietnamese coffee action. I shot wildly and got this, but probably could have aimed a little straighter. 7/10.

BRASSERIE DE LA SENNE - "ZINNEBIR" - Uh oh, notes are starting to get incomplete and foggy here. I only wrote down "Belgian golden ale" and "5.5%". Was it good? Sure! People on RateBeer say so. I wish I could agree, but I honestly don't remember, so caught up in the act of drinking I sort of forgot who I was drinking for - you guys, or myself.

MOEDER LAMBIC & BRASSERIE DE LA SENNE - "BAND OF BROTHERS" - The house draft ale, a collaboration between the bar and the other, non-Cantillon local brewer De La Senne. It was a simple blonde ale, yeasty and "Belgiany" and full of hoppy/spicy character despite an absurdly low 3.5% ABV. Great way to end the night, and possibly the last beer I will ever drink in Belgium. 7.5/10.

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