Netherlands: Cantillon Zwanze Day 2021

Netherlands: Cantillon Zwanze Day 2021

A yearly celebration for Lambic and sour beer lovers in general


On September 25, 2021, the 10th edition of the famous Cantillon Zwanze Day was celebrated, bringing together sour beer and wild ale lovers all over the world. The fun tradition was started by Brasserie Cantillon in 2011 and joining this event for the first time was quite exciting!

Cantillon Zwanze Day in Amsterdam

In previous years the Dutch version of the festivities was organized by De Bierkoning and held at different locations in Amsterdam. This year they teamed up with Taverno Willi Becher, a large biergarten-style establishment and perfect for one of the most highly anticipated beer holidays of the year. For this edition Cantillon brewed a citrus blend with lots of oranges called Parasol, which they based on a 70-year recipe by Paul Cantillon – grandfather of Jean van Roy. This might be the first ever Zwanze beer to be brewed with citrus fruits. And it was indeed extremely citrus-forward, nothing like a 'regular' Lambic! 

Zwanze Day 2021 Parasol

Wild and sour beers

Of course one keg doesn’t make a party, so the organizers invited other Dutch breweries (and a Belgian one) to pour their wild beers: Naeckte Brouwers, Symbiose, Elixer, Bakkum Fermentation, Oedipus and ‘t Pomphuizeke. There were also some more lovely Cantillon beers available on tap and a selection of Antidoot, Nevel, Boerenerf Eylenbosch, Toon van de Broek and 3 Fonteinen on the menu. To top it off, there was great music, food and good weather.

Wild beers from 't Pomphuizeke at Zwanze Day

Reasons to visit a beerfestival

It felt great to be back at a real ‘live’ festival where you know you're always guaranteed to discover new breweries and beers. Like Symbiose Brewing and Blending from Groningen, who have been hobby brewing for a few years now, but just recently introduced their beers to the public. Symbiose uses mostly local fruit for their beers and experiments with blending beers, ciders and natural wines. Their superb Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Series 20/02 is a blend of different beers (that they keep a secret) to which they added fresh strawberries and rhubarb. Very well-made and flavorful.

Enjoying Cantillon Zwanze Day 2021 in Amsterdam

Elixer is another small brewery that was present at the festival. They are from Eelde, Drenthe, and make fun and tasty saisons and smoked beers, using all sorts of wonderful natural ingredients. Elixer served a tasty dandelion beer called Hondstong, which is brewed with yellow dandelion flowers (700 gr per 20 liters) giving it a flowery flavor and subtle honey-like sweetness. Cutting the flowers for the brew was supposedly a nightmare task though. A blood, sweat and tears story like that always makes you appreciate the beer even more! They have also cultivated their own yeast, which is an impressive achievement. Elixer should name it (like Alvinne has done with Morpheus) and it would be curious to see if that idea takes flight!

A very pleasant surprise were the wild beers of Naeckte Brouwers, well-known for their gorgeous brewery and taproom in the Annakerk in Amstelveen. In July 2021 they added several lovely wild beers to their core range. The wild range is brewed at a different location (their former brewery) to ensure there is no risk of contaminating the other beers that they make. I tasted the Haedi Brett Saison, which reminded me a bit of a soft cider, it has such a wonderful subtle apple flavor. 

If you are interested in discovering local and international wild ales and sour beers, the annual Wild Festival in Groningen is highly recommended. The next edition will be held on November 19 and 20, 2021.

Pouring Parasol, this years citrus blend Zwanze beer

What is Zwanze?

Zwanze is a Cantillon series of small batch experimental beers, which is released on one day in September simultaneously in several locations around the world. The word “zwanzen” means to joke in Flemish and matches the fun and experimental nature of the beers Cantillon has been making since 2008. At the time there was no specific release date for the beers, but after three years of trying to fight the reselling of these limited (and very coveted) beers for exorbitant prices, Cantillon decided to supply specific locations around the world with Zwanze kegs instead.

Enjoying Cantillon Zwanze Day in Amsterdam

In 2011 there were 22 release locations. In 2021 Taverno Willi Becher (in collaboration with De Bierkoning) was the only Dutch location to participate along with 84 other locations all over the world, of which 28 places in the US, such as The Veil, Crooked Stave, Russian River and Jester King breweries. The idea (though I don’t know if this is actually done everywhere) is to open the Zwanze keg and toast together at the same time around the globe. You like to believe it really happens, as it is such a lovely gesture toasting together. We'll all be looking forward to the next Zwanze Day!

Author and picture credits: Tina Rogers