Tag Archives: Brussels

Cantillion Zwanze Day 2015 venues revealed

zwanzeday2015Aficionados of sour brews are sure to recognize the name of Brussels, Belgium brewer Cantillion. The brewer is renowned for creating some of the world’s best lambic brews and its brewery is always on the itinerary when visiting Belgium. Back in 2008, Cantillion brewed and bottled the first of a special series of beers dubbed Zwanze, a word that refers to a sarcastic sense of humor in the Brussels dialect.

That first beer – a special lambic with rhubarb added – led to more in the series created with untraditional ingrediants, thus Zwanze. As the beers became more and more sought-after, Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy used his Zwanze series to bring lambic enthusiasts together around the world for Zwanze Day.

At first the celebrations were sporadic and unscheduled. They depended on who could get the brews and when they could be procured. But, in 2011, the Zwanze series was released to select bars and taverns simultaneously world-wide. Zwanze Day had been born and has grown every year since.

This year the celebration will take place on Saturday, September 19 and include more than 50 establishments, 26 in the United States. The closest venue to Jacksonville is Redlight Redlight in the Orlando area.

This year’s beer is Wild Brussels Stout and will no doubt be a rich stout with a bit of tart funk. Previous entries have included a lambic with Pineau D’aunis grapes added, a lambic with elderflowers added and the highly-coveted Iris Grand Cru.

The full list of venues celebrating Zwanze Day 2015 is provided below.


– The Dutch Trading Company — Perth


– Tribaun — Innsbruck


– Moeder Lambic Fontainas — Brussels

– Moeder Lambic Saint-Gilles — Brussels

– Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon – Arlon

– Rose Red — Brugge


– Dieu du Ciel — Montréal, Québec

– barVolo — Toronto, Ontario

– Biercraft – Vancouver, British Columbia


– Olbutikken — Copenhagen


– La Fine Mousse — Paris

– La Capsule — Lille


– Stadin Panimo Baari — Helsinki


– Café Herman — Berlin


– Kings Arms — London

– Kernel Brewery — Bermondsey

– Six° North — Aberdeen


– Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà — Rome

– The Dome — Nembro

– LambicZoon — Milano

– The Drunken Duck — Quinto Vicentino

– Ristopub Margherita — Quartu Sant’Elena

– Ottavonano — Atripalda


– Brussels Otemachi – Tokyo

– Dolphin’s Umeda– Osaka



– De Bierkoning — Amsterdam


– Nogne O — Grimstad


– Masia Agullons — Sant Joan de Mediona


– Akkurat — Stockholm


– Erzbierschof — Zurich


– Anchorage Brewing Co. — Anchorage, Alaska

– Apex — Portland, Oregon

– Armsby Abbey — Worcester, Massachusetts

– Avenue Pub — New Orleans, Louisiana

– Bagby Beer — Oceanside, California

– Beachwood BBQ — Seal Beach, California

– Blue Monk — Buffalo, New York

– Brouwer’s Café — Seattle, Washington

– ChurchKey — Washington, D.C.

– Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar — Denver, Colorado

– Fool’s Gold — Manhattan, New York

– Hill Farmstead Brewery — Greensboro, Vermont

– Holy Grale — Louisville, Kentucky

– Jester King Brewery — Austin, Texas

– Lord Hobo — Cambridge, Massachusetts

– Monk’s Café — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

– Novare Res Bier Café — Portland, Maine

– REAL a Gastropub — Honolulu, Hawai’i

– Redlight Redlight — Orlando, Florida

– Russian River Brewing — Santa Rosa, California

– Schera’s — Elkader, Iowa

– Side Project Cellar — Maplewood, Missouri

– Spuyten Duyvil — Brooklyn, New York

– The Birch – Norfolk, Virginia

– The Trappist — Oakland, California

– West Lakeview Liquors — Chicago, Illinois

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Beer Festival


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Authentic Trappist ale to be brewed in U.S. for first time

authentic-trappist-logo_350 x 402Long-time readers of my blog know that I am a bit of a nut for Belgian beers. Top among the list of my favorite Belgian beers are those that come from Belgian monasteries like Chimay, Rochefort, and Westvleteren. These are known as Trappist ales, they are certified and approved by the Catholic Church and are the only beers allowed to carry the Authentic Trappist Product logo. This logo provides certain assurances to consumers that the brew is made to strict standards.

Up until recently, all Trappist beers were brewed in Europe, primarily Belgium where there are six breweries. But, The Netherlands and Austria also host a Trappist brewery each with a second brewery under development in The Netherlands as well. Never has certified Trappist ale been produced outside of Europe until now. But, on December 11, 2013, the International Trappist Association in Brussels, Belgium announced that Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass. Will become the first American brewery to be designated Authentic Trappist.

“At a meeting yesterday of the International Trappist Association in Brussels, the Spencer Trappist Ale was awarded the ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ designation,” François de Harenne, Commercial Director of the Orval Trappist brewery, said, “The decision was made after several controls made on the premises during the last weeks. We also were lucky enough to taste the beer.”

According to the association’s official website (;

A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:

  1. The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

While the brewery is still under construction, some information has made it out including the style of beer and its flavor profile. According to the label that will appear on the bottles, Spencer Trappist Ale has an alcohol content of 6.5 percent and is “inspired by traditional refectory ales brewed by monks for the monks’ table. Spencer is a full-bodied, golden-hued Trappist ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness.”

Output for the brewery will be limited. According to zoning commission minutes from Spencer, the brewery intends to produce one batch of beer per day, four days per week. The eventual output is expected to reach 10,000 barrels per year.


Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Beer News, Beer Styles


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sour beers a taste worth acquiring

Brettanomyces, also known as "Brett"...

Brettanomyces, also known as “Brett”, is a yeast strain commonly found in red Burgundy wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Want to see a grown brewmaster shake in his boots? Just bring a vial of Brettanomyces into his brewery and toss it up into the air a few times. Brettanomyces is a strain of yeast that, given the opportunity, will absolutely take over a brewery and infect every surface, fermentation tank, and bottle in the place. In most beers, the organism can produce undesirable sour or acidic off-flavors. But, to a brave few brewers, those off-flavors are a source of complex and often delicious artistry.In Belgium, sour beers are nothing new. For centuries brewers have been crafting brews that are sour, acidic and utterly delightful. One such style that has been gaining ground in the United States is Flanders Red, an aged ale that obtains its sour characteristics from Brettanomyces or lactic acid. An excellent example of this style is Rodenbach.

Another Belgian sour style is Lambic, a spontaneously fermented brew that is aged for a minimum of three years before leaving the brewery. Because the yeast that inoculates this brew is only found in Belgium in and around Brussels, the style cannot be made anywhere else. The brew that results from the combination of wild yeast inoculation, aging, and blending is powerfully sour and yet refreshingly bracing. The brew is often fermented with various fruits to produce sweet and sour combinations such as kreik (cherry), framboise (raspberry), and peche (peach).

But, back to Brettanomyces. Brett, as it is called by many in-the-know beer aficionados, competes with brewer’s yeast, and other microorganisms, in fermenting the wort, giving the beer a distinctive sour taste. The yeast is notoriously difficult to clean and can easily get out of control and colonize a brewery spoiling other beers that are not supposed to taste sour. In fact, the yeast strain is considered a spoilage organism in the wine-making industry that can impart “sweaty saddle leather”, “barnyard”, “burnt plastic” or “band-aid” aromas to wine. But, in beer, the yeast can create aromas one might consider musty, and flavors that are often described as funky.

Brett turns beer sour by eating the sugars that are left in beer by normal brewer’s yeasts. The result is a sour-tasting brew that is something of an acquired taste. Other organisms that bring on the funk in beer include lactobacillus (also found in fermenting yoghurt too) and pediococcus, which  provide sour, tart notes and acetobacter, which gives a beer vinegary component.

The best way to decide if you like these unusual, yet rewarding brews is to seek one out and just give it a try. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy the labors of the little beasties that some might call an infection while others might call a blessing. Just be careful if you do decide to toss around a vial of Brett, you certainly would not want to cause your local brewmaster to ban you from his brewery.

Keep up to date on all the beer happenings and news going on in town by joining our newsletter mailing list at the ALL NEW

1 Comment

Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Beer, Beer Education


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sour Beer, Warm People

Traditional wooden lambic barrels; the L on th...

Image via Wikipedia

Back in late February and early March of this year, I had the opportunity and pleasure to take a nine day pilgrimage to the Mecca of beer: Belgium. While I was there I tasted nearly 50 different beers and fell in love with nearly all of them. But, even with the astounding variety and selection available in that great country, my mind kept wandering back to the first beer I tried – just a couple of hours off the airplane – in Brussels.

I found myself wandering in the city center historical district as night fell and the city began to light up and transform into a magical fairy tale land. It was damp with the near constant mist that this part of the world gets and the air was cold on its way to frigid. I wrapped my jaunty red scarf around my neck and snuggled into my wool coat as I walked through the cityscape.

At last I found myself standing in front of a bar that looked both inviting and adventurous. Sitting at tables outside the place were several patrons sipping at their beers, seemingly oblivious to the elements, laughing and joking. I stepped inside and was immediately awed at the bar with it brass beer tower running the length of it. There had to be 40 taps, all with Belgian beers, all calling my name.

But, before I had left the United States I made a pact with myself to try a specific type of beer first upon arrival in Belgium. I wanted a beer that was out-of-the-ordinary for a wayward gentleman from Jacksonville, FL. Something that was rare if not non-existent back home. I had promised myself a gueuze as my first Belgian brew.

Gueuze is often referred to as the champagne of the beer world for its effervescent, acidic, and very dry flavor. It is also a brew that is extremely limited in production as it can only be produced in a very small geographic area immediately south of Brussels, Belgium. The reason for this is two-fold. First, gueuze is a spontaneously fermented beer, meaning that yeast is not added by the brewer; rather wild yeast is allowed to inoculate the beer while it cools in a large, open copper tub usually in a room on the upper levels of the brewery with open windows to let the yeast blow in. This yeast is only found in the river valley of the Sienne near Brussels. The second reason that gueuze can only be produced in this region is that Belgian and European law governs the production of this beer and allows it only in the designated appellation region.

To understand why this beer is so special and why I chose it as my first beer in Belgium, you need to have an understanding of what it takes to make this unusual beverage. It goes beyond the spontaneous fermentation; there is also an extensive aging process. Gueuze is a blend of several lambic beers that have been aged in either oak or chestnut barrels. Lambics require an extensive amount of time to fully ferment – up to three years. Gueuze is made of older, three-year-old lambics blended with younger one- and two-year-old brews. The older beer imparts the majority of the flavor and aroma characters while the younger brews supply sugars to restart the fermentation process. A good gueuze will be allowed to ferment at least one additional year, but unlike most beers, this brew can be cellared and aged for up to 20 years. The flavor will mellow and deepen, just as a wine’s, the longer it spends in the cellar.

Back in Brussels, I sat near the end of the bar and smiled at the pretty waitress sitting two stools down at the end. Later we struck up a lively conversation about beer and how different American beer was from Belgian. The bartender asked in French what I would like to drink, when he realized I was American he switched seamlessly to English and repeated his query. I explained what I had decided and asked for him to make a suggestion. I immediately went to a tap and drew a tulip glass of a deep golden liquid with a slight haze; he made sure that the pour had a rich head that he scraped even to the top of the glass with a beer knife. Before he sat it down he looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted this beer, he warned that it was very different than any other beer I have ever tasted. I assured him that that was what I wanted and he set it down in front of me. He explained that I was about to taste one of the best gueuze beers brewed in Belgium: Cantillon Lou Pepe gueuze.

The pretty waitress watched with a mischievous smile as I smelled the beer. My eyes must have gotten quite wide as the waitress and other staff let out a small laugh at my expense. The aroma filled my nose with a plethora of surprises. I could smell sour apple and grape along with vinegar and grass. There were notes of cherry and, of all things, a musty old blanket that evoked a barn in the summer; not unpleasant, more reassuring and homey. There was also the famous Belgian funk, a smell that is hard to describe, but easily identified when you smell it.

I brought the glass to my lips and took my first sip. An explosion went off in my mouth as the intensely sour flavor of the beer shocked my uneducated palate before it mellowed and flavor nuances began to unfold. I could begin to taste the sour apple and fruit flavors my nose had detected, but I also noticed oak from the aging barrels along with citrus notes from the hops. Lemon rind and earthy notes began to creep into the sweet, clean finish. Again, the staff laughed, but it was a friendly laugh, welcoming and knowing. They all could tell that that first sip had hooked me and gueuze had just shot to the top of my list of favorite beers.

Anais, the waitress, informed me that most Americans do not react as I did. Most take a sip of a gueuze and immediately ask for something else. After a brief burst of French conversation with the rest of the staff that had gathered around (it was a very slow night in the bar), she announced that my first few beers, including the gueuze were on the house if I agreed to allow them to suggest my next few choices. I readily agreed and, for the next couple of hours, had a delightful evening tasting new beers and making new friends.

Some gueuze to look for and try:

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, Brasserie Cantillon
Aromas of the barn with pleasant funk and lemon. Flavor of lime with an acidic, tart finish.

Oude Gueuze, Hanssens Artisanaal
Citrus, oak, and florals on the nose. Big wood and earth on first sip with a sour apple, dry finish.

St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition, Brouwerij Van Honesebrouck
This golden amber brew smells of tart lemon and green apple. The flavor is sour, fruity, and funky.

At the end of the evening I understood why many people fall in love with the country of Belgium. It certainly isn’t for the weather; it’s for the people and their passionate love of beer. These people were friendly beyond anything I had experienced before. They embraced a fellow beer lover and ushered me into their world of extraordinary beers with a fervor that was astounding. They were remarkable in every way and I can’t wait to go back again.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Belgian


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

400 Years of History and Beer

I like to wander, particularly when I am somewhere new and I want to learn about it. I like to immerse myself in the culture of a community, to learn how the natives live, and to blend in as much as possible. So, with that philosophy, I went about finding the places the people of Brussels frequent, the back-alley, ancient pubs people have been drinking in since before the United States existed. My scouring of these back-alleys is how I came to drink in the 400-year-old bar called Au Bon Vieux Temps (which roughly translates to ‘in the good old days’).
This place is the real deal. You don’t get more authentic than this hidden gem. To find it you have to be very lucky. First you have to be patient enough to check the myriad alleys that are around every corner and in odd places. These alleys – sometimes barely wide enough for one person to fit down – are everywhere. And, in my limited experience in Belgium, the absolute best bars are located down these alleys. All you have to do is wander down them.
Now, I know what you are thinking, is it safe? Actually, surprisingly enough, it is. The alleys are clean, well lit, and only marginally scary looking.
Au Bon Vieux Temps is nestled in the corner of one of these alleys. I almost passed it because a sign on the door mentioned something that my very poor French translated as bathrooms outside or something of that sort. I actually thought that it was a bathroom or storage room of some sort. But, being the intrepid soul I am, I pulled on the door and revealed a beer-lover’s wonderland.
The interior of this paradise is warm, rich wood paneling complimented by copper and brass coat hooks and antiques lining a shelf just below the ceiling. Above the paneling the walls are painted a mustard yellow (dark mustard, not French’s mustard) and a large wooden bar forms an “L” shape to the left. A large fireplace complete with ancient and ornate coal heater sits just past the bar. On one wall a wooden carving of a pontiff looks down upon the happy patrons and on another a wooden Madonna surveys all. But, most impressive of all, are the stained glass windows. On the wall facing out to the alley are two windows, artistic mosaics of bubbled clear glass, and colored squares. On another wall is a window depicting a knight and maiden in stunning color and artistry.
Breathtaking as the bar itself is, it is the people the make this bar so enjoyable to visit. As I sat at the bar sipping my first beer in this heaven-on-Earth – a Corsendonk Blond – a wonderfully colorful woman came over and began talking to me in French. When I said I spoke very little French she effortlessly switched to English and asked if I was American. We began a conversation which soon revealed her to be the current owner of the establishment, Marie, and an invitation to sit at her table with her and her friends. I was introduced Etiennne, a judge in Brussels, and Robert, a banker. Thus began an evening of stories, drinking, and laughter that is one of my fondest memories from Brussels. In the good old days, indeed.
Colorful local characters came and went as we sat and talked about American, Belgium, the state of the world, philosophy, and gutter humor. My hostess insisted I be treated as an honored guest and my other two companions proceeded to suggest beers for me to try. After several awe-inspiring beers, Marie asked if I had ever drunk a Westvleteren 12. She must have seen the look in my eyes because she immediately disappeared into the cellar behind the bar and emerged with a plain brown bottle. Channel, the bartender that evening opened the bottle, presented me with the cap, and poured the deep brown liquid into the appropriate glass. This beer is widely considered one of the best and rarest in the world. It is extraordinary Trappist quad-style beers treasured for its ability to age and deepen in flavor. In order to get this beer one has to travel to the Trappist monastery where it is brewed – by invitation only – and hope that they have some that they will sell you. Many people make the trek only to return empty-handed.
Marie brought the beer to me and insisted I try it right away. I sniffed the thick head that formed at the top of the glass and smelled dark fruits – figs, plums, spices, caramel, and alcohol. The first sip was an explosion of sweet maltiness, spices, and a hint of oak. This was a truly great beer, one that I can easily say well remain burnished in my mind forever.
Around 11:00 PM, Marie announced that it was a slow evening and that the pub was closing. I gathered my scarf and coat and began making my goodbyes when Etienne suggested we all go to another pub for some food and more drink. So, the night continued with my new friends. They kept ordering food and beer until the early hours of the morning. When it was finally time to leave Etienne and Robert escorted me to the Metro station, made sure I got on the correct train and told which stop to get off at. Later, as I walked through the door of my hotel, Etienne called to make sure I had made it without incident.
The people of Brussels are gracious, friendly, and generous. I felt as if I were a visiting dignitary during my visit at the Au Bon Vieux Temps. My new friends Marie, Etienne, and Robert will always occupy a place in my recollection as wonderful and kind people, people who were truly and genuinely interested in me, people who were the very epitome of perfect hosts and hostesses.
Beers I Drank at Au Bon Vieux Temps
Corsendonk Blond — Full-bodied, blonde top-fermented beer, bubbly beer with a herbal bouquet and hoppy aftertaste.
Rochefort 8 – Very dark brown with yeast visibly floating in the glass after the pour. This is a very sweet, malty beer with a slightly bitter finish.
Kasteel Donker – Another dark beer, this one with a reddish tint to it. A hint of raisins and prunes on the nose reveals a sweet malty, beer with notes of the same dark fruits.
Malheur — Rich, dark colored beer, with a wonderful hoppy, floral nose and well-balanced flavors, makes it easy to drink. Nuts, honey, and rum flavors from the brown candy sugar used in brewing. The aftertaste is bitter-sweet, long and warm.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!
Marc Wisdom

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Travel


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,