Brussels' last lambic brewery reimagines historical citrus blend

Brussels' last lambic brewery reimagines historical citrus blend
Credit: Canva

It's fair to say that if you have an interest in Belgian beer, you might recognise the name Cantillon.

If you do (or even if you don't) here's what you need to know before we start talking Cantillon, shooting corks, citrus beer, and how it all fits into the Zwanze Day event held by the last operating lambic brewery in Brussels.

So What's Lambic?

It's a type of beer that belongs to Brussels and the valley of the Senne river, where the yeast used for brewing is not added, and instead comes from the natural yeasts and organisms in the air. Because of its special nature, lambic can only be brewed in the cool season, while the natural yeasts and bacteria have time to do their work.

The production of Cantillon and other lambic brewers is therefore not year-round, which makes their products even more desirable on world markets.

Lambic is known as a sour beer but people probably know it better as the basis for gueuze and kriek. In itself, it's sour as far as beers go, but is no more acidic than a glass of white wine.

Got it, What's a Zwanze?

The name Zwanze comes from the Brussels dialect and refers to a tongue in cheek form of humour. This same attitude is reflected in the beers created for Cantillon's annual Zwanze day, which started in 2008 with the bottling of a special lambic with rhubarb.

Since then, Cantillon's Zwanze series of beers and events (held since 2011) try to bring lambic fans of the world together, with the brewery making sure the experimental beer of the year can be tried worldwide.

So What's This About Citrus & Popping Bottles?

The 2021 version of the Zwanze beer - which has varied from beetroot to blueberry in recent years - will focus on citrus, in an ode to the brewery's history.

"In the early 50's, Paul Cantillon tried blending Lambic and oranges. The result wasn't exactly spectacular," the brewery explained in a Facebook post.

"The refermentation in the bottles was so strong that the brewery workers at the time were forced to sprint past the bottles through the cellar in order to avoid being hit by popping corks and drenched in beer. Our grandfather Marcel Cantillon loved this story, and often loved to tell it to us as children."

Seventy years on, and the brewery has decided the time has come to try again, with a special blend of Lambic and citrus, which will heavily feature oranges.

"The acidity of the beer and the fruit and the freshness of the citrus in contrast to the bitterness of their zests makes for a particularly thirst-quenching Zwanze," the brewery added.

The beer - named Parasol in reference to an orange flavoured soft drink of the same name - will be available as part of the 2021 celebrations on September 25th.

A list of participating locations will be published in August.

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