• On Saturday [9.19], What Cheer Tavern is throwing a third anniversary party. Before we get to the details, let’s dig into the B&C archives for the piece we did in the 9.20.12 edition of the late, lamented Providence Phoenix:
A few days ago, we checked Nikki’s Facebook to see if anything was new. We saw they had friended What Cheer Tavern on Facebook. Which reminded us that we had been told of a sighting of a new sign at what-used-to-be the Acores Café (aka Café 228) at the corner of New York Avenue and Narragansett Boulevard, across from Sollitto’s Liquor Store — yeah, the one with the giant chicken out front. Facebook led us to their dotcom, where we saw that What Cheer is a new craft-centric beer bar, dedicated to local brews.
Our Kia led us to What Cheer on Monday, where we met Dave Crockenberg and Zöe Brown, the couple who opened the doors to the cozy space last Saturday (Dave’s door to the craft world was opened by Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale). Draft options on its six (soon to be eight) taps included Grey Sail’s great Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale, Revival’s Double Black IPA, Trinity’s Tommy’s Red, Newport Storm’s Oktoberfest, and Narragansett Lager (plus Wachusett Green Monsta); bottles and cans in a cooler represent New England, with plans for “guest” beers from the rest of the US to join the rotation (there’s an array of macros for non-craft converts). Dave hopes to add beers from Ravenous, High Jinx, and the Bucket Brewery down the road, and host local brewers and their wares. They also boast of serving “totally decent food” (half-price wings were being very happily devoured at the bar), and there’s a patio that will become a beer garden. It’s a great spot with lots of potential — and another small step in the spread of better beer.
That potential has been realized — and then some — in the last three years. There are now 10 taps [and a nitro option] and a Mexican-themed menu debuted last week. We asked Dave to reflect on the What Cheer experience: “As far as owning the place for three years, it feels like a giant game of Providence bingo…we never know what to expect! Our customers come from all over the world and every walk of life. It’s pretty much impossible to sit at the bar and not end up in an interesting conversation with somebody. Which is exactly what we hoped to achieve!”
The big bash kicks off at 5 pm and features a “Puerto Rican-style pig roast,” with “tostones, beans and rice, chimichuri, and hot sauce galore.” Oh yeah, and some beer will be on tap. Here’s the tentative draft list: Weihenstephaner Pilsner, Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, Einbecker Schwarzbier, Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner, Harviestoun Engine Oil Porter, Victory Weizenbock, Southern Tier Pumking, Firestone Walker Union Jack. Proclamation’s The Stalk, Downeast Cider, and Left Hand Milk Stout [nitro]. Plus “a limited number of bottles of Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien and bombers of Victory Sour Monkey.” Cheers!
• In 2008, Brasserie Cantillon, the exalted lambic brewery in Brussels, released its first beer named Zwanze [made with rhubarb]. In Flemish, zwanzen means to joke or kid, so brewer Jean Van Roy chose the word to define his series of unique, one-off concoctions. In 2011, after three years of limited releases, he launched Zwanze Day, with special events held at superb beer bars and breweries worldwide.
Zwanze Day 2015 is this Saturday [9.19]. At the Cantillon website, van Roy wrote about this year’s offering: “Belgium: the land of surrealism…This artistic movement, which began at the end of the 19th century, continues to define in part the Belgian spirit and for quite a few people here has even become a sort of life philosophy…With its Zwanze 2015, in its own way Cantillon wanted to perpetuate this typically Belgian surrealist mindset. In doing so, a few changes were made to the recipe for a traditional stout. Specifically, I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation. The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a ‘surreal’ stout.”
There are 56 Zwanze Day sites [chosen by van Roy]; 26 are in the US, including Lord Hobo in Cambridge and Armsby Abbey in Worcester. The folks at the Abbey call it “arguably the most anticipated release in the world of beer.” To make the grand day even grander, all of the Zwanze Day hosts surround the guest of honor with a world-class list of beers. Armsby Abbey’s includes five other Cantillon specialties, plus rarities from Hill Farmstead, Allagash, Fiddlehead, Oxbow, Firestone Walker, Founders, Lost Abbey, Trillium, Tree House — and Proclamation Ale Company! On Tuesday, brewmaster Dave Witham said, “Pretty blown away right now. Confirmed that Harper 2: Electric Boogaloo will make its debut at #zwanzeday 2015 at @armsbyabbey In MA. To be poured alongside all these top-notch beers for #cantillon annual celebration is mind-blowing. Thanks to @armsbyalec and @crftcollective for making this happen!” Harper 2 is a “sour blend containing our blonde, red and dark sours with sweet and tart cherries.” Congrats, Dave — that’s a very big feather in your cap!
Armsby Abbey will begin pouring its Zwanze Day lineup at noon; Zwanze 2015 will be “simul-tapped” all over the world at 3 pm EST. Check their website for details on when to get there and what to expect when you do.
• Are you headed to Munich on Saturday to celebrate Okotoberfest? Probably not. So get a head start on the 182nd annual bacchanal on Friday [9.18] — in Pawtucket! Foolproof Brewing Co. is hosting its second annual Beer Hall Night from 5-8 pm. A $15 ticket gets you a commemorative half-liter and three beer pours, and the Noble Knots food truck will tempt you with “Beer Hall Bites.”
• The first-ever Tapped Craft Beer Festival HAS BEEN CANCELLED [updated 9.16 @ 1:59 pm]
is at the Shannon View Inn [1901 Post Rd, Warwick] on Friday [9.18] from 6-10 pm and Saturday [9.19] from 12:30-4:30 and 6-10 pm, with 50ish breweries sharing more than 150 beers [check their Facebook page for a few specifics], plus chats with three beermakers. It’s not an unlimited sampling event; there will be “multiple packages” for beer sampling, plus food vouchers for sale. Admission is $10.