Yesterday, Saturday, December 1, 2012, was Cantillon Zwanze Day, and beer nerds across the world simultaneously celebrated by toasting this year’s Zwanze lambic at 3 PM ET. (Zwanze 2012 continued to be poured until it ran out, but the official toast was at 3PM.)
I attended the Zwanze Day festivities at Lord Hobo, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a medium-size, dimly lit bar just outside the city’s Kendall Square neighborhood, home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—and the Cambridge Brewing Co., my favorite Boston-area brewpub.
The 2012 Zwanze lambic, a recreation of the original 2008 Zwanze lambic made with rhubarb, was poured at 3PM, but wise beer nerds arrived at Lord Hobo hours before the pour. I walked through the doors of Lord Hobo and pushed back the thick curtain that covers the bar just after noon, and it was already packed; my girlfriend and I were able to nab two seats at a communal table, but the bar and most of the other tables were full three hours before Zwanze was poured. The staff stopped letting people in around 1:30, and by 3 o’clock a line of 20 or so drinkers were lined up outside—in the snow—along the front of the bar.
Lord Hobo is known for its extensive bottle and draft list, and the staff took it a step further for Zwanze Day, with 9 different Cantillon lambics available in bottles and an extremely-rare, unblended two-year old Cantillon lambic on tap, in addition to countless other rare beers, including the 2003 Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale, a 2005 Dogfish Head Pangea and multiple Hill Farmstead brews in bottle and on draft. I can honestly say that Lord Hobo’s Zwanze Day 2012 beer list was the most impressive list I’ve ever seen.
To kill time until the Zwanze 2012 pour, my girl and I sidled up to a few Cantillon bottles (Cantillon’s 2012 Fou’ Foune and 2012 Kriek 100% Lambic), a couple of glasses of the two-year-old unblended lambic and some grub; I got fried chicken and waffles and the chef made a special vegan-friendly dish for the lady. Lord Hobo’s menu is not at all vegan or even vegetarian friendly, but we were pleased to see that both our waiter and the chef were more than willing to whip up a vegan offering. They came up with a fruit/granola dish along with hash and a fried-rice patty thing that was much more than either of us expected. And the service at Lord Hobo, even during the crazy period just before and just after the Zwanze toast, was impeccable.
Just before 3PM, the owner of the bar stood up on a chair to address all of the anxious beer nerds awaiting the Zwanze. He spoke about how important the Cantillon brewery and its head brewer Jean Van Roy are to him personally and why it was an honor to host Zwanze Day at Lord Hobo. You could feel real passion in the man’s words, and everyone else in the bar fed off of his energy; the noise level in Lord Hobo immediately increased. When the Zwanze was poured and distributed—six ounces each for about 100 people in the bar—and three o’clock came around, everyone raised their glasses in a salute to Lord Hobo and the Van Roy family and yelled out in unison, “Cheers!” It was a special moment, and I am glad to have been a part of it.
I visit Lord Hobo relatively frequently, but I’d never been to a Zwanze Day celebration there. The next time I stop by for a brew, which will likely be sooner than later, I’ll picture the barroom filled with excited Cantillon drinkers, all of the tables covered with spent bottles, and I’ll remember that Lord Hobo is not just another beer bar. Lord Hobo is run by people who love beer and brewing as much as I do, and the bar and its staff deserve to be recognized for that.
If you’re ever in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I strongly suggest you make some time for a beer or six at Lord Hobo.