The Reason Why People Stand in Line Outside a Gastropub at 6:30 a.m.

Real a Gastropub is the only Hawai‘i pub to serve a special Brussels-based sour beer on Zwanze Day on Saturday.


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The line outside Real a Gastropub last year on Zwanze Day, when the most sought-after brewer of sour beers releases a special keg to only 60 bars in the world. Real is one of them.
Photos: Courtesy of Real a Gastropub

 

Only true beer aficionados know the significance of Oct. 1.

 

It’s Zwanze Day, the day when the most sought-after sour beermaker in the world, Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon in Brussels, releases a special beer to only 60 bars around the world. And Real a Gastropub is the only Hawai‘i pub serving this rare, sour-style lambic brew.

 

Every participating bar, from North Carolina to New Zealand, will tap the keg at the same time—9 p.m. in Brussels, Belgium, which is 9 a.m. in Hawai‘i.

 

Doors will open at 8 a.m. with a line typically starting at 6:30 a.m. Since the keg only contains 120 glasses, the first 120 people will get a chance to sample the special brew. Cost is $15.

 

But Real will be offering other beers from Cantillon, too. And a full breakfast will be offered, as well, with dishes including Belgian waffles ($9), cornflake-breaded French toast ($10), biscuits and gravy ($10) and eggs Benedict with crispy beer-brined pork belly ($11).

 

The Belgian brewery, which has been producing traditional Belgian lambics for more than a century, started Zwanze Day in 2008. This is the fifth year Real has been participating in Zwanze Day.

 

“Our first year, no one was really aware of what sour beers were,” says Real co-owner and chef Troy Terorotua. “There were only 10 people waiting in line. Our keg lasted the entire day.”

 

Last year, though, with the rising popularity of rare craft beers, including sours, more than 200 people stood in line to sample Cantillon’s special lambic. The keg lasted 10 minutes.

 

“It went literally as fast as we could pour it,” Terorotua says.

 

This year’s Zwanze will be a throwback to the fruity framboise Cantillon was producing 35 years ago.

 

Scenes from last year’s Zwanze Day at Real a Gastropub.

 

Sour beer is a beer that has an intentionally acidic, tart or sour taste. The most common styles are Belgian, in particular the lambics, which is what Cantillon specializes in.

 

At one time, before refrigeration and the advances in science of fermentation, almost all beer was sour, to some degree. The naturally occurring bacteria—lactobacillus, pediococcus, brettanomyces yeasts—contributed to the tartness and, well, funky flavors. Today, despite modern brewing practices and sterile environments, there are breweries that actually want that strange and sour flavor, intentionally creating it with the addition of wild yeast strains or bacteria into the brew.

 

“I like sour beers. They’re unique,” Terorotua says. “It’s one of the older styles of beer. It’s just naturally fermented, and a lot of producers strive to get that exactness and balance of sour.”

 

Sour brews are making a comeback, with a growing number of U.S. breweries crafting these old-style beers. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Michigan is credited as brewing some of the first good, all-wood fermented American sours. Crooked Stave in Colorado offers the acclaimed Vieille Artisanal Saison, a barrel-aged Saison that’s lightly dry-hopped with lingering flavors of grapefruit and white tea. Russian River in California, a sort of mecca for beer geeks, brews a sour beer called Supplication, aged for a year in Pinot Noir barrels and soured with the addition of sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus yeasts.

 

Terorotua suggests first-timers try Petrus Aged Pale, an award-winning sour beer that he says is a good starter for somebody not into sour brews, or any of the barrel-aged sour ales from Cascade Brewing, which uses fresh fruits—cherries, apricots, grapes—grown in the Pacific Northwest.

 

“If [beermakers] do it right, it’s really something nice,” Terorotua says. “It’ll surprise people. But it’s an acquired taste.”

 

Zwanze Day, 9 a.m. Oct. 1, doors open at 8 a.m., Real a Gastropub, 1020 ‘Auahi St., 596-2526, realgastropub.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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