Around the world there is a constant buzz fluttering the hearts of beer enthusiasts searching for gold in a glass, a quest for the discernible outlier that is as satiable an experience as witnessing a work of art or participating in a social movement. Brewing companies host worldwide release parties hoping to tap into our collective consciousness to make a moment last a lifetime in the stories we tell; windows into a world that is home to the few and foreign to the many.
Gathering at our favorite establishments for a pint or a snifter is a timeless tradition that has grown from an objective experience to a selective experience. In this era of craft beer and all its glory, our community stretches to the furthest edges of the Earth and a shared, global endeavor is our crowning, communal achievement.
The Worldwide Event
And there are no more prominent, worldwide release parties than Belgium brewing company Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon’s Zwanze Day.
Beginning in 2008 with a much less coordinated release of a rhubarb lambic beer, Cantillon has been creating unique crafts once a year from a variety of categories, reaching beer lovers all over the world with one-off inventions that might never be brewed again.
Each year, the list of breweries and bars participating in the event grows, and Zwanze Day becomes more and more of a day of collective adventure and less and less of a story of legend. In its first three years, Zwanze Day didn't even have an official release party. The one-of-a-kind beer was distributed somewhat randomly throughout Europe and North America at no particular time or location and if you were lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, you probably didn’t even take the time to appreciate the gravity of your good fortune because the company hadn’t given you a chance to know what you were tasting.
Making it Right
But in the years following, head brewer Jean-Pierre van Roy refined the idea of the global release and decided to announce a specific date and an official list of places carrying the special release, as well as foregoing the old distribution model of releasing mostly bottles and instead distributing mostly kegs (although bottles are still available) to reduce the risk of beer drinkers being taken advantage of by those willing to resell the product for 1500% profit. Van Roy was adamant about giving his admirers a fair chance to sample one of his proudest creations and today Zwanze Day is bigger than ever, reaching 72 participating locations all the way from Australia to Canada and everything in between, not to mention two locations in the great state of Florida.
Florida Has a Hand in Zwanze Day
Over the years, several breweries and bars from the Sunshine State have participated in the event, and none have been more involved than 2019’s only Floridian participants: Redlight Redlight of Orlando and Green Bench Brewing Company of St. Petersburg.
It is certainly not just by chance that these two brewing companies should be at the forefront of such an event. Both have proven to be innovative brands, venturing into the great unknown with creativity and ingenuity and always with a positive vibe and an earnest engagement with the craft community.
Redlight Redlight was first opened in 2005 by Brent Hernandez on the conviction that Orlando needed to join the revival movement that was sweeping across the nation. And he was right. At that point in Orlando’s history, craft beer wasn’t on the map and Redlight Redlight brought the flavors of Germany and Belgium as well as some of the early comers in the American craft beer world to taps in Central Florida.
Not brewing their first beers until 2014, they formulated their name from the seedy neighborhood that they originally called home, and although the company has moved their location since then, they kept the name and added “Brewery” to their full title as they are known today as Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour and Brewery.
A New Way Forward
Brent has since begun to create some of the most inventive batches around such as their Cimarrones Berliner-Weisse. He is on a quest during this modern day revolution and as honorable as is his goal to present the community with some of the best beer out their, his business model has proven very successful.
Education is paramount at Redlight Redlight, as they encourage their patrons to join their passport program in which they will grow knowledgeable about craft beer whilst trying 100 beers available at the beer parlour. They have always been leaders in the craft beer community in Central Florida and are widely acclaimed as one of the best of their kind in the country. They have the ambiance, the product, and the team of Cicerone Certified beer servers who have proven time and again that they are a premier craft beer destination, and as such are the perfect location to experience Zwanze Day year after year.
Green Bench Brewing
Green Bench Brewing Company are pioneers in their own regard and have become a huge part of St. Petersburg’s craft beer industry in just a few short years much in part to their “challenge the status quo” mentality that has set them apart as innovators. Although they might not have been here at the beginning like Redlight Redlight, they’ve seized every opportunity to showcase their inventiveness and their drive to enlighten the community. It is with a drive to create quality products and a knack for garnering organic conversation in a comfortable setting that Green Bench be an ideal candidate to co-host Zwanze Day 2019.
And if it’s this rare release that you’re looking for, or just searching for a place to let your hair down and enjoy some good company, Green Bench has the right atmosphere to enjoy a quality brew. Along with their rustic-designed interior, they have a substantial outdoor beer garden, endless events, and a wide ranging menu with everything from meads to cidres and of course, beers with great personality.
The Summer Ends, and Zwanze Day Begins
Zwanze Day is everything that the craft beer industry stands for in one lively, much-anticipated release party that members of a global community can enjoy together. September 28th is right around the corner, and I am thankful to Redlight Redlight and Green Bench Brewing for giving me the opportunity to see what Cantillon has designed for us this year. Thanks to these two trailblazers of Florida craft beer, events like Zwanze Day are no longer experiences that we need to wish for, but instead are part of our story as we are a part of theirs.
For a complete list of participating 2019 locations throughout the world, click here.