630. 120. 10. 1. No, those are not some random codes from Lost. They mark the incredible growth of the beer scene in Hawaii over the past four years. Yesterday marked the 4th year in a row Honolulu has hosted one of the most unique beer events in the world. Zwanze Day officially began in 2008 as a celebration to bring lambic enthusiasts together and as a way for Cantillon to release some wonderful experimental beers. Eight years later, Zwanze Day is an unofficial beer holiday that is celebrated around the world.
Honolulu’s very own Real a Gastropub has hosted this prestigious (and full on beer geek) event for the past four years. In 2012, Real’s first Zwanze Day, very few people in Honolulu even knew what the event was about. There was no line waiting for the bar to open. Anyone who wanted a glass got one. 2013, it was a little busier, but still relatively calm. Last year the word had spread and there was a sizable line formed an hour before Real opened its doors.
After this year there is no turning back. The first people to line up arrived at 630 am, a full hour and a half early. By 730 there was a line stretching down the block at least 200 people deep. The first lucky (and early riser) 120 people got a golden ticket to ensure that they received a glass of 2015 Wild Brussels Stout. The rest either had to share with a friend or enjoy some of the other amazing Cantillon beers on draft or in bottles. At 9am, the special beer started pouring and within 10 minutes the 1 keg was completely empty. Real owner, Troy Terorotua, lead Honolulu in part of the world wide toast (9pm in Brussels, Belgium) and the consumption began!
This year’s beer fully embraced the experimental theme of the event. The Wild Brussels Stout was originally brewed to be released for the 2014 Zwanze Day, but head brewer and owner Jean Van Roy decided it wasn’t ready for it’s debut and held it back for another year of aging. I’m not sure what it tasted like 12 months ago, but what was served yesterday was beautiful. Soft, playful and a thought provoking complexity that challenged my preconceived notions on what a stout is and should be. The sourness was light, allowing hints of dark malts to play through with subtle hints of roast and touches of raisins and dark fruits.
Sure, Zwanze Day is about a unique and very rare one off beer, which is why everyone shows up. But it really is more than that. Sometimes the entire experience is greater than the individual parts and there was an energy yesterday that I haven’t felt very often in the beer scene in Hawaii. Excitement, enthusiasm and pure stoke from everyone who was there. A lot has changed in the past four years!
Mahalo to Robert Nakama for the amazing pictures!