Mmmmm, Zwanze day! For those that actually read the Washington Post article I posted recently about the black market beer trade, you might remember a mention of the Zwanze beer from Brasserie Cantillon in Belgium. Brasserie Cantillon is one of the world's leaders when it comes to spontaneously fermented Belgian ales and one of their annual releases is the Zwanze. After 2010 bottles popped up on e-bay for 10x or more of the retail price the brewer decided to release the 2011 version on tap only at select locations throughout the world. Out of the approximately 20 locations worldwide that had the beer, one of them was right down the road, The Avenue Pub in New Orleans.
To help relieve the mass of people expected to be lining up for some of the beer, Polly had everyone sign in in groups (of 30 I believe) and then go to the upstairs bar in the smaller groups to try some beers of their choosing. A $12 ticket afforded anyone two pours and although there were other Cantillon beers available I believe most people went for the 2010 Zwanze (Polly had some bottles!) and then the 2011 Zwanze. Prior to the official release party which started at 2 PM we ordered up some of the other Belgian ales that Polly had made available!
Finally it was my group's turn and we started off with the older 2010 Zwanze that had been set aside in bottles. It was a blonde color with a fruity Belgian sour funk just as I expected from this one.
After trying that and receiving our Zwanze 2011 pours it was out to the patio to avoid the crowds from the next group coming in. The Zwanze 2011 was a lot different than the 2010 version and I think most people I was with preferred the older 2010 beer. They weren't the same style so it was hard to compare, but I think I enjoyed the 2011 version better. It was made with Pineau D'Aunis grapes used in some red wine making in that area of Belgium. Since I really enjoy a good red wine I thought the beer was fantastic but I can see how others would like the 2010 better.
In addition to these Belgian sours I was able to finally try the NOLA Smoky Mary and the Abita Select Honey Rye, which served as a nice changeup on the tastebuds to all the Belgian sours! Thanks again to Polly and everyone at The Avenue Pub for a fantastic time at Zwanze day 2011!