Cantillon Zwanze Day 2015 is Saturday, Sept. 19


I’m not sure how I missed this news, because it was apparently announced more than a month ago, but Cantillon’s Zwanze Day 2015 will be held at 56 different locations throughout the world on Saturday, Sept. 19.

If you’re unaware, Zwanze Day events are held in bars across the globe once a year, and the Belgian brewer o’ spontaneous beers always unveils a sour ale that’s specially made for the occasion. This year, it’s a sour stout, according to Jean Van Roy, Cantillon’s brew maestro. Cantillon occasionally posts updates and images to its Facebook page, and way back in March of 2013, it hinted that a sour stout it was working on could end up becoming the 2014 or 2015 Zwanze beer.

Here’s a quick description of the 2015 Zwanze libation, from Van Roy:

“I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation.

“The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a ‘surreal’ stout. The dry and tart notes of a spontaneous fermentation beer combine with the roasted, slightly burnt and delicate chocolate flavours sometimes found in certain stouts.

“For the 28 months of maturing we used three types of casks: 50% of the casks had already contained lambic, 25% had already been used for CoÌ‚tes du RhoÌ‚ne wine and 25% had already been used for Cognac. Beers that have matured in old Cognac casks take up the warmth of the alcohol while those from casks having contained red wine adopt winey and fruity characteristics.”

Cantillon Zwanze Stout wort

The French word “zwanze” refers to “humor typical of Brussels,” according to, and it’s used to describe the Cantillon brews, because many of them are kind of odd and experimental.

Check out the Cantillon website for more details. And here’s the list of the 26 U.S. venues serving Zwanze 2015 on Saturday, Sept. 19. (You can find the full list of the other 30 venues outside of United States in the related Facebook post.)

  • 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
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Barfly’s View: City Beer Store in San Francisco, CA

I spent the last week in the glorious city o’ San Francisco, and I drank enough great beer to pickle an aging Irishman, which is to say much quality brew was consumed. 

San Francisco is one of the best beer cities in the world, due in no small part to its focus on craft everything and an array of top-notch beer bars. I’m flying home as I write this, and I already miss the city and its beer. One of my favorite beer spots in SF is City Beer Store in the SoMa (South of Market St.) neighborhood, an unassuming, friendly and inspired combination bar and bottle shop. 

The space is half retail shop and half bar, and it’s split accordingly, with a number of jam-packed shelves and a cooler to the far left when you enter, and the bar area and a few small tables to the center and right of the entrance. 

Unless it’s very busy, a friendly clerk usually greets you as you walk in. You can stop by, grab a few bottles and be on your way. Or you can sit and drink a few pints, shop around the retail space while sipping your suds or even open any of the bottles they sell and then drink them there–though they do charge a “corking fee” of up to $3 for bottles you bring over from the retail side to drink in the bar. 

Behind the bar is a two-door cooler with vintage bottles, and City Beer always has an impressive lineup of aged selections. During my most recent visit, they had multiple Cantillon bottles, early vintage Russian Rivers (some in 750ml bottles, which they haven’t offered for years) a few different Bourbon County Stout variants, rare Cascade and Bruery releases and much more. The vintage bottles are a bit overpriced, but the drafts were reasonable, with most ranging between $6 and $10, depending on the beer and size of pour. 

City Beer also serves many local SF and California beers, so it’s a good place to try out the local beer terroir. Unfortunately, City Beer doesn’t have a kitchen, so it’s not a great place to grub, though you can buy some snacks, such as crackers, popcorn and jerky. 

The vibe at City Beer is welcoming, and the bartenders are mostly friendly and willing to answer any questions patrons have. It’s a great place to learn about the local craft beer scene, because the staff is both knowledgable and willing to converse with curious beer nerds.

City Beer Store is also one of the few places I know of in San Francisco where you can consistently find bottles of Pliny the Elder to go. I always ship beer back home to Boston when I visit San Francisco, and the bulk of it comes from City Beer. (Note: If it’s Pliny bottles you seek, be prepared to visit on a Wednesday in the early afternoon. That’s when their weekly shipments arrive, and the bottles go very quickly. Also, call first to make sure they have some. Unfortunately, they won’t hold bottles for you…at least they won’t for me, but maybe you’re cooler and/or betterlooking, and people just do nice things for you. If so, fuck you.)

If you’re in San Francisco, and you’re looking for a laid back spot to enjoy a local or rare beer, you’ll appreciate City Beer Store, which is located at 1168 Folsom St. You can learn more on the City Beer Store website.


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Scenes from Allagash’s Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon, Russian River

AllagashWildFrienshipCelebrationYesterday, Allagash Brewing Co. held its Wild Friendship Celebration, with Brasserie Cantillon and Russian River Brewing Co., at the Allagash brewery in Portland, Maine. Allagash did an absolutely amazing job of arranging and organizing the event, which had a casual, festival-like feel, as beer nerds and brewers drank world-class brews and milled about Allagash’s tasting room, brewery, wild barrel room and a large tent outside.

For background, the Wild Friendship Celebration was a series of events to celebration and share a collaboration lambic, a blend of beers from all three brewing companies.  The three brewers contributed versions of their own spontaneously fermented beers, and two versions were made, one blended in Belgium by Cantillon’s head brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy, and another blended by Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and Allagash’s Rob Tod in Portland. The first event (called Quintessense) was held in Brussels last May at Cantillon’s location, the second took place last week at Russian River’s Santa Rosa, Calif., brew pub, and finally, Allagash held its event yesterday.

In addition to both versions of the Wild Friendship Blend, the three breweries shared a number of additional beers. (Hit this link for the full beer list.) And the brewers were on hand to chat with beer enthusiasts. I spoke with Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie, and they both got a kick out of this Boston boy’s knowledge of where to find their beers all around San Francisco, where I frequently work–and drink. I also chatted with Cantillon’s Jean-Pierre Van Roy, who was treated like some sort of Sour Beer God by many of the folks in attendance.

Here’s a first hand, beer nerd’s view of the Allagash/Cantillon/Russian River Wild Friendship Celebration day session. Click one of the photos below to open up a carousel of larger pics. (The image quality isn’t great in all of the photos. Blame my Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, which I used to capture the images.)


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Beer list for Allagash’s Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon, Russian River


I haven’t posted to this blog for more than a year (because I’m a lazy, drunk, busy asshole), and I’ve been waiting for the appropriate post to make my triumphant return to the blogosphere o’ beer. As soon as I received the latest update from Allagash regarding its May 9, 2015, Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon and Russian River, I knew the time to bless you all with a post had come. OK, nobody reads this blog anymore — again I haven’t posted for a fucking year — but still, this information is worth a post.

Here’s what Allagash, Cantillon and Russian River will be pouring, and yours truly will be excitedly drinking (from the commemorative Wild Friendship chalice), this coming Saturday in Portland, ME:

BANG. BONG. BOOM. That there, ladies and gentlemales, is one hell of a beer-lover’s lineup. I plan to post lots of images and details from the event, so stay tuned.


Image via BeerStreetJournal

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Release Dates for Russian River Pliny the Younger 2014, Beatification

Russian River Pliny the Younger and Beatification

I just got the latest Russian River newsletter in my inbox, and it brings tidings of good beer. The brewery announced the releases dates for two of its most sought-after brews: this year’s version of Pliny the Younger, its double IPA, and Beatification, a spontaneously-fermented ale that’s produced in small batches and is inspired by one of my favorite Belgium lambic makers, Cantillon.

Pliny the Younger 2014 will be released on Friday, February 14. Here are some more details from Russian River:

“Pliny the Younger’s 10th Annual Return to our pub in Santa Rosa will occur on Friday, February 7th, 2014! It will be available everyday (until we run out each day) for 14 days. Distribution begins the following week for local and no-so-local bar and restaurant accounts.   Younger has not even been brewed yet so allocations will not be set until the final yield is determined in LATE JANUARY. If you are planning a trip to Santa Rosa for the release, I will have a Younger page up on the website SOON with more information regarding hotels, what to expect, etc. So far one local hotel has expressed interest in extending a special rate to our Younger fans! Hopefully more will follow their lead. Horizon Airlines flies directly into Santa Rosa from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego if you want to book your air travel now! Stay tuned…”

And here’s some new information on Beatification:

“We are finally releasing the next batch of Beatification on draft and in 375ml bottles on Saturday, December 14th, 2013!  This is a brewpub ONLY release.  Beatification is our spontaneously fermented beer, meaning that we add no yeast and allow the beer to naturally collect any wild yeast and bacteria in the air and barrels.  We call this style of beer “Sonambic”- a nod to the traditionally spontaneous beers brewed in the Lambic region of Belgium.  The pub will open at 9AM on the 14th for bottle sales as well as draft beer at the bar.  Customers wishing to purchase just bottles (and be on their way) will have a separate “queue”, while anyone wanting to enjoy a morning beer will be seated on a first come, first served basis.  The kitchen will open at 11AM as usual.  Bottles are $18/each, limit one case per person (subject to change). “

I’ve never tried either of these beers, and while I’m sure the Pliny the Younger is fantastic, I’d trade 12 growlers o’ Younger for a bottle of that Beatification. So, if anyone reading this is able to grab some bottles and wants to trade, please drop a comment. You know I have something else you’ll be interested in.


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Intellectuals and Beer

Ray Bradbury with Maine Beer Company Lunch bottle

“Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.”

– Ray Bradbury, The October Country

Every time I go to a professional sporting event, this quote from Mr. Bradbury comes to mind. So true. But lots of really interesting (and handsome) intellectuals drink beer, too. Like me.


Image (sans Lunch bottle) via

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Beer, Calories and Your Fat Ass

Fat Man with Beer

During the past year or so, I’ve made a concerted effort to eat better, exercise more, drink less beer and basically get my shit together. I’ve never really been a health-conscious person, so all of these things were a challenge at first. Hell, they still are. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, and when I set my mind to something, I do it.

I set my mind to losing a bunch of weight, and so far I’ve dropped more than 60 pounds. My success can largely be attributed to a drastic reduction in the amount of beer I consume and a shift in the types of beer I drink. Like it or not, beer is not healthy, and frankly, drinking lots of beer over time will make you a fat fuck. Trust me, I know.

But I love beer. A lot. And there was no way I was cutting beer out completely. That meant I had to come up with some strategy for drinking beer that would not counteract all of my other efforts to get in shape.

The obvious answer: Drink only light beer. But therein lay a problem. Light beer, in general, sucks. It’s flavorless and uninteresting.

All of this got me thinking about the amount of calories in the beer I drink. After some cursory research, it became very clear that the amount of calories in beer is directly related to the alcohol content or alcohol by volume (ABV). The higher the ABV, the more calories. That 12-ounce Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, with an ABV of somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent, has many, many more calories than that Anchor Brewing California Lager, which has an ABV of 4.9 percent.

This may seem obvious, but I didn’t really think of it that way. So the calorie-conscious beer drinker wants to limit the amount of high-ABV brews he consumes or at least balance them out with some low-calorie beers. And, thankfully, low calorie doesn’t always mean “light beer,” or at least not the way the average beer drinker thinks of light beer. (Think: Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light, etc.)

Allagash House Beer

“Session beers,” or beers with an ABV of less than 5 percent, are a good place to start. Session beer is quite popular today, and lots of great breweries are experimenting with the concept.  Though they’re generally less flavorful than “bigger” beers, I’ve found some session options that I really enjoy. The one that comes to mind is Allagash Brewing Co.’s House Beer, which unfortunately is only sold at Allagash’s brewery in Portland, ME. (I travel to Portland fairly often, and I always pick up a case of House Beer when I do.) Notch Brewing Co. and Full Sail Brewing Co. also make some quality session brews.

I still drink my fair share of big double IPAs and imperial stouts, but I’m much more conscious of the ABV of the beers I consume these days. And I’m always on the lookout for great, low-ABV session beers.


Image via

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Beer Nerd PSA: Cantillion Zwanze Day 2013 is This Saturday

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2013

Just an (un)friendly reminder: Cantillon’s 2013 Zwanze Day is this Saturday, September 14. I wrote about the event last year, and believe you me, it was a blast.

Details on this year’s event and a full list of locations can be found on Cantillon’s website. Or read more about it here.

I’ll be at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA, on Saturday. If you spot me—I’ll be the guy with the Red Sox hat and the beer—leave me the fuck alone, huh? I’ll be busy drinking Cantillon.


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Dogfish’s Coolest Tap Handle Ever

Dogfish Head Uber Shark tap handle

Is this new Dogfish Uber Shark Tap handle the coolest tap handle ever? No, probably not. But I think it’s Dogfish’s coolest tap handle, at least of the ones I’ve seen. During the past couple of years, Dogfish has really upped its tap-handle game, releasing new tap handles every year, at least, and getting more and more colorful and creative.

Dogfish Head Uber Shark Tap handle

Some of the most interesting tap handles aren’t cheap—this one costs a cool $79, plus shipping—but any of the bars I drink at regularly should easily be able to afford it with the profits they make from my overblown drinking habit. (Give me more free beer, ya cheap bastards!)

Learn more about this tap handle, and other handles, at Dogfish’s online store.


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‘Gansett’s Jaws Can Enough to Make Me Buy Beer in a Can — but Not Drink from One

Narragansett retro 1975 Jaws cans

“It’s only a canned beer if you look at it before it’s poured into a glass.” – Urban Beer Nerd, 2013

I dislike canned beer. Not because it tastes bad, or even different. Most of the time, canned beer tastes as good as bottled beer, despite the now-long-in-the-tooth belief that beer tastes better from glass than aluminum. (Kegs are metal, too, right? You never hear people bitch about draft beer—unless it’s old or poured through a dirty tap line.)

It’s more of a mental thing for me. I drink quality beer, and cans feel cheap. So I pour just about all of my beer into a glass, if I can. One of my favorite canned beers, The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, specifically instructs you to drink it from the can. But fuck that. That’s what I have a Heady glass for.

After pouring a canned brew into a glass, I always recite the quote at the top of this post. (Okay, I’ve never said that before. I just came up with it when I saw Naragansett’s retro 1975 beer can this afternoon. But I’ll say it going forward. Maybe.)

One of my favorite films ever is “Jaws,” and one of my favorite quotes from the movie comes from a conversation between Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) and Brody (Roy Scheider), which goes a little something like this:

Brody: It doesn’t make any sense when you pay a guy like you to watch sharks.

Hooper: Well, uh, it doesn’t make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.

Brody: It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.

Hooper: That makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, to the point of this post: Rhode Island-based Narragansett Beer Co. has released the third of three 2013 retro beer cans, and this one’s a doozy, at least if you’re a Jaws buff like I am. The can was released in 1975, and it was “made famous in the ‘Jaws’ movie during the scene in which Captain Sam Quint, played by Robert Shaw, famously crushes a can of Narragansett Lager to intimidate Richard Dreyfuss’ [sic] character, Hooper,” according to ‘Gansett.

Jaws Quint Narragansett Crush It Like Quint

I honestly haven’t had a Narragansett beer for at least a few years, and the last time I did, I only drank it because I was in Providence, Rhode Island, and I wanted to drink local brew. It’s a decent lager, and I have nothing against the brewery or the beer—except the annoying “Hi Neighbor!” slogan. I try not to be influenced by gimmicky advertising, but I admit, I’m going to run out and pick up a 12-pack of these cans and then get drunk while watching Jaws. If you’re smart, you’ll do the same



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