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Zwanze Day Is Coming to Charleston

Whale Watching

The Whale is coming to the Refinery on North Meeting Street
The Whale is coming to the Refinery on North Meeting Street (The Whale)

By Dispatch Staff

We caught wind this week of a much-hyped beer launch coming to the Holy City. “The Whale Charleston,” the press release read, has been “chosen as South Carolina host of Zwanze Day 2021.”

While we understood what each of these words means individually (except “Zwanze”), we had no idea what they meant put together in a sentence. So we reached out for context to two of the Southeastern Dispatch’s resident beer gurus, Eric Doksa and Brandon Plyler.

“Is this thing worth paying attention to?” we asked. “Or just marketing noise?”

“It’s an extremely big deal,” Plyer responded. “Not just marketing noise.”

That got our attention. Doksa went a step further, calling it “the loon of loons.” We had no idea what that meant either, so we pressed for details.

“Zwanze day is a special event,” Doksa replied, “because it's not too often you have an opportunity to sample—let alone get your hands on—Cantillon beers without breaking the bank. This is also the first time we've seen such an event take place in South Carolina.”

Plus, he added, “it would be kind of cool to say you've had a ‘whale’ at The Whale.” (He then proceeded to explain that “whale” is shorthand for “highly sought after beer,” but you probably guessed that already.)

Cantillon, it turns out, is a world-famous 120-year-old brewery in Anderlecht, Belgium, that produces only lambic beers. Zwanze is a sort of blanket term that it uses for its annual special release, which is different each year. (Zwanze, by the way, is pronounced “zwahnz” like “swans”, not “Zwan-zee” like Swansea.)

Zwanze Day is a celebration that has been hosted each of the past 13 years at select breweries and beer shops around the world. The festivities this year include tapping a keg of the latest experimental Cantillon Zwanze brew, code-named “Parasol.”

Zwanze Day is coming
Zwanze Day is coming (The Whale)

This isn’t something you can just walk into the corner Circle-K and pick up, and you won’t find it in your highbrow liquor depot or craft beer shop, either. Zwanze is available only at select host locations, and it’s not easy for a business to make that cut.

And that brings us to The Whale, a soon-to-open “beer collective” and tasting room inside the new Refinery Charleston complex on upper Meeting Street. Slated to open on September 24, it’s the Lowcountry outpost of an Asheville craft beer shop that features rare beers, ciders, meads, and sakes. Owners Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross have been popping up around town lately at beer dinners at restaurants like Chubby Fish, Daps Breakfast & Imbibe, and Kwei Fei, and now they are almost ready to open for regular business.

Co-owners Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross are bringing to the Lowcountry an outpost of the Asheville-based beer collective the Whale
Co-owners Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross are bringing to the Lowcountry an outpost of the Asheville-based beer collective the Whale (The Whale)

The Whale is not only the official South Carolina host of Zwanze Day 2021 this year but also the first ever South Carolina venue to be tapped for the event and one of only a handful of hosts in the entire country this year.

In addition to tapping the local official keg of Cantillon Parasol on Zwanze Day, The Whale will offer many more extremely rare “whales” for guests to sample along with munchies from local food trucks and music from DJ Flip.

Zwanze Day at the Whale takes place Saturday, September 25, from noon to 5 p.m. The $15 admission fee includes a commemorative Zwanze Day 2021 glass, and the official Cantillon keg tapping will occur at 3 p.m. sharp. So don’t flounder around and be late.

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Dispatch Staff

The hardworking team behind the Southeastern Dispatch