Articles Comments

The Beer Circle » Beer Release, Cantillon, Lambic » Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 at Churchkey – Washington, DC

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 at Churchkey – Washington, DC

Welcome to Zwanze Day!

Since adding Kenton to our regular cast of characters, we have been looking for a reason to get a bunch of us together for in-person introductions and a chance to share some celebratory beers. Figuring the weekend that held Cantillon’s Zwanze Day was our best bet, plans were set in motion and our cellars shivered at the destruction that was to come.

Zwanze Day is in its second year; Cantillon’s head brewer Jean Van Roy sees it as a way to “buck the system,” making sure his releases don’t end up being sold on Ebay for exorbitant prices. Cantillon chooses 34 bars across the world (15 in the United States) to tap a single keg of Zwanze for those really willing to enjoy. The brewer’s notes on the beer:

“Zwanze 2012 is a Lambic mixed with rhubarb. The process is the same as our fruit cuvees, like Lou Pepe or Fou’foune. An average of 300 grams of rhubarb per liter were added directly to 20 months old Lambic at the beginning of July 2012. The maturation took 2 months and we bottled/ kegged the beer on the 6th of September. Zwanze 2012 is fruity and dry with a very good balance between the Lambic acidity and the rhubarb acidity, and in many ways Zwanze 2012 resembles rhubarb wine.”

Cantillon bottles poured at the bar.

By Saturday morning, Greg, Paige, Kenton, and Bob had all made the trek to Russ’ place; after a stop at a local bottle shop for the PA residents to stock up on out-of-state beer, we crowded the metro and headed into the District towards Churchkey.

While Russ (and Chase, his typical partner in crime) are no strangers to Churchkey, the majority of The Beer Circle’s writers have never experienced the best beer bar in our nation’s capital. We arrived around 12:30 to partake in the really enticing Cantillons available, with the Zwanze tapping occurring at 3pm (as it did across the globe).

We got in early enough to get a large table by the windows and started to do work on some Belgian sour beers. The final list of Cantillon’s included a keg of two-year-old unblended lambic and bottles of Fou’ Foune, Bruocsella 1809 Grand Cru, Iris, and Classic Gueuze, which were all either $6 or $7 per 4oz taster. Fou’ Foune was considered the darling of the early list, so Greg and Russ ordered that first while the others knocked off some of their wants.

Churchkey’s tasting card.

Unfortunately, Russ ordered a full pour of Fou’ Foune, but only a taster was brought out. After notifying our server, Josh, to the error, he took the taster and went to get a full pour. Much to our dismay, Fou’ Foune kicked–as much as a case of bottles could kick–and Russ was left without. Luckily, Paige saw that the original taster was still waiting at the bar and flagged Josh down, who brought to our table with much pomp and circumstance! It was the beginning of what was to be phenomenal service at a bar that for some reason was not ready for the crowd it encountered.

After sharing the eight ounces of Fou’ Foune, all of the other Cantillons went down smoothly with all getting their share. Churchkey was out of all Cantillons around an hour before Zwanze was to be tapped, so the group turned to a number of beers to refresh the palate from the sour bombardment we had just subjected it to. Popular choices included De Molen Kopi Louwak–an imperial stout with civet poop coffee–, 3 Stars Peppercorn Saison, and Boulevard’s Harvest Dance, a wheat wine. As usual, Churchkey had plenty of top-notch offerings to bridge the gap.

De Molen Kopi Louwak

Around 2:50pm, six magical glasses of hazy, yellow Zwanze 2012 rhubarb lambic made their way to our table and, as if we hadn’t already been drinking since noon, we imbibed quickly and heartily. Our notes of the beer were incredibly positive, which you can read about here!

Overall, our server, Josh, was outstanding and took care of our table amidst a heavily crowded, standing-room-only crowd. Last year, Churchkey still had tables available at 4pm, nearly an hour after Zwanze was tapped. This year, probably because of the amazing list of Cantillons available early in the day, the bar was packed long before 3pm. Churchkey has a policy of taking orders for rare beer releases for people who show up early, and much of the crowd that arrived anywhere near the the tap time was left wanting. The entire Zwanze keg was spoken for nearly a half hour before tapping it. My guess is the bar will be better prepared for next year’s release. We’re hoping that Churchkey gets pegged as one of the lucky few to get chosen by Cantillon as this tradition continues.

After grabbing dinner at R.F.D., we departed the District for Arlington, VA, where there was a tasting of epic proportions. Keep an eye out this week for a number of reviews from the beers we decided to open. Special thanks goes out to faithful reader Kevin Snyder for meeting us at Churchkey and enjoying a few bottles afterwards.


Last updated by at .

Written by Bob Pack, Chase Tralka (Guest Author), Greg Bruce, Kenton Martin, Paige Deckert and Russ Beck

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

Filed under: Beer Release, Cantillon, Lambic · Tags: , , , , ,