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101 Beer Experiences: Seize the day

Some amazing beer days come but once a year; here are the ones you definitely don't want to miss.
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 Photo of Cantillon by Matt Furman


Photo of Cantillon by Matt Furman

You’d be pretty bummed if you missed these once-a-year beer events. Put them on your calendar now and avoid missing out:

Twice a year (once in November and once in March), Cantillon’s master brewer conducts a tour around the brewery on Public Brew Day; it’s the only formal tour offered by the venerable Brussels brewery. If you can’t make those dates, call the brewery and plan your self-guided tour on a regular brew day, when you can smell the wort and watch brew bubbling in the open fermenter. Go early or late on a weekday; you may get the brewery (mostly) to yourself.

Zwanze Day, a daylong tapping and celebration of a special beer release from Brasserie Cantillon, takes place Sept. 19 at select bars around the world, often at just a couple of dozen in the U.S. It’s madness. At some spots, tickets sell out well in advance. But Zwanze Day at Monk’s Café in Philadelphia is different. Publican Tom Peters offers the release on a first-come, first-served basis, with all proceeds ($5,000 last year) donated to Fair Food Double Dollars, a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program matching fund. It’s both memorable and democratic.

On the American Homebrewers Association’s Learn to Homebrew Day (held in early November each year), beer lovers can turn into beer makers. Events span the country, and rove to various homebrew spots and parking lots: Last year, at Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock Home Brewing Supply (down the street from Eagle Rock Brewery), the Yeastside Brewers homebrewing club demonstrated the brew-in-a-bag method (a good introduction to all-grain brewing). 

Time to get weird: Bell’s Eccentric Day is held each year in December at the brewery’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and though it’s been happening since the early ’90s, it’s always the 13th annual event (this year’s is on Dec. 9). There’s no cost to attend, but a costume and a desire to taste some seriously amazing Bell’s drafts are required.  Pro tip: Don’t just dust off your Halloween gear. The theme is “dress as you aren’t,” so to capture the spirit, be prepared to express the parts of yourself you usually hide away … which might be easier after you start to drink. Fear not, more than 60 Bell’s beers rotate through the taps throughout the day, including the year’s Eccentric Ale, a dark, malty beer brewed with caraway, coriander, molasses, honey and whatever else Bell’s decided to put in it (could be just about anything, from malted milk balls to popcorn). A guest brewer also brings ingredients from his or her region to toss in the kettle. You’ll also taste some deliciously strange eats, from caviar to antelope stir-fry and ostrich-stuffed peppers. Go early (it runs from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m) and enjoy the spectacle as it transitions from laid-back lunch to late-night dance party.

Every hardcore beer geek knows about Hunahpu’s Day when Tampa, Florida’s Cigar City Brewing stages a festival and releases its sought-after Hunahpu imperial stout; for the first time, this year’s festivities (March 12) will be held at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in downtown Tampa. Can’t get in? Believe it or not, some of the best times (and beers) can be had the day after the festival at the Hunahpu’s Hangover Day at 7venth Sun Brewery. Last year, seven breweries collaborated with the host to brew one-off beers for the event, which also features rare beers from many of the same breweries at Hunahpu’s Day.

 

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