Thursday, July 7, 2011

Zwanze Day Aims to Undercut the Pirates.

For Jean Van Roy of Cantillon, the Zwanzes are his experiments, his toys, his babies. It must he hard to see one of your babies go up on eBay for 13 times the price at which you sold it. Especially when you assumed the person who bought it in the first place was someone who would enjoy the beer.

It's that sort of chicanery that led Van Roy to an interesting idea: Why not release the whole lot of it on draft, one day a year, to a smattering of the brewery's most loyal cafés around the world? Well, almost the whole lot. Two-thirds of Zwanze 2011 will go to kegs, Van Roy says. The rest will go to bottles meant for tasting only at the brewery in Brussels.

Zwanze Day 2011 is on September 17. Click on that link for the whole story from Van Roy himself. Luckier lambic enthusiasts will learn that there is a café, shop or bar near them that will be partaking in the event. Ten of them are in the U.S., 10 in Europe (including both Moeder Lambics), one in Canada and one in Japan. I reckon you Brits will have to ponder hopping on the Eurostar.

Says Van Roy:

There is no such thing as a perfect idea and I'm well aware that many Cantillon enthusiasts, bar owners and fans of lambic beers will be disappointed because they won't be able to taste or have their customers taste this Zwanze 2011. I hope they'll accept my apologies but the brewery's maximum production threshold is currently 1500 hl (1300 barrels) and I only have about 1000 to 2000 litres of lambic available each year which I can use to make Zwanze.
Zwanze 2008 was a rhubarb lambic (a bottle of which my wife and I recently opened; it's holding up very nicely thanks very much). The 2009 version got a steeping of elderberry flowers. Last year's was a mixed-fermentation experiment in blanche (read: Witbier) done in cooperation with Yvan De Baets from Brasserie de la Senne.

The 2011 version gets its twist from organic Pineau d'Aunis grapes--and from a very interesting idea about how a brewery might release a beer to its best customers while avoiding the profiteers who would extract the most money per ounce.


  1. Neat to see Novare Res in Portland, Maine got a nod from the brewery.

    A Good Beer Blog

  2. Just play a bit of the Devil's advocate here.

    Beer is a consumer good not a work of art. Once I buy a bottle it and its contents are mine and I can do with it as a please. I can wash my hair, pour it down the drain, use it for cooking, give it as a present, water my rosemary or sell it to fools who are willing to pay an arm and a leg for a beer.

    By doing this, Van Roy is saying "tough luck" to all those who won't be able to make it to this "special beer day" and who would have otherwise bought a bottle or two to perhaps cellar it waiting for that special moment for that special beer, who, I believe, were most of the people who bought the beer to begin with, and the only reason for it is well, his ego...

  3. No surprise that the gray market is a gray area. On eBay for example, it's supposed to be against the rules to sell beer. But the site appears to tolerate it under the "sale is for the collectible container only" charade.

    Maybe it is fair to sell a bottle that you own for whatever price you like. But surely it's also fair for the brewer to stop selling bottles if he wants, and release it all on draft on one day.

    Here's why I like it: It's not just a brewer shaking his fist and saying, "Hey, no fair! You shouldn't do that!" Jean Van Roy is trying to work out a way to undercut the profiteers and still get the beer to those who really want it.

    Because if someone is desperate enough to pay $100 or more for a rare Cantillon, surely they'd have to think about buying a plane ticket to one of those bars and enjoying the coveted beer with dozens or hundreds of like-minded geeks.

  4. For sure Cantillon should also keep some old bottles for sale later at higher prices. real market value of that year xxx.
    If Cantillon would sell some vintages at the brewery, both would profit.