Beer Trading: Cantillon is not currency
27 February 2017, By Jonny Garret
As one of the country's oldest and biggest Belgian importers we get our hands on all sorts of exciting things that no one else can – usually in the form of Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen. Such an occurance leads to triannual Chocolate Teapot Server Day, when our tech room melts under intense pressure as 2,000 people try to buy around 20 bottles of rare lambic.
We’ve been importing and selling these beautiful brewerys' beers for decades and as always we have very, very limited stock – often no more than 18 of any of bottle. This means over 1,000 people are left disappointed every time, and it kills us to see it. We want everyone to try them and we can’t think of a fairer way to put them out there than to use the good-old "first come, first serve" tactic.
However, after the Cantillon release in September 2016 we became aware of a few people trading these rare UK-only imports from Beer Merchants for hoppy American #whalez. While we totally understand people's obsession with those beers (indeed we share it), you need to understand that we have worked very hard to secure this limited amount for the country. It is a special UK allocation granted to us very kindly by Jean Van Roy (and Armand Debelder), and we don't want to see it all immediately shipped to the US. Our friends over there get a LOT more Cantillon than us, and trading deprives UK people who have every right to try some. Our aim is to help as many of our customers get some as possible. As a result, if we suspect you are trading Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen, we may reserve the right to not sell it to you again.
It’s an increasing problem in the craft beer world, as the internet spreads hype much faster and further than the beers themselves can travel. At any one time these days, some East Coast IPA is over the Atlantic, with something equally rare going the other way. But none of the breweries want to see this, they want it enjoyed by the people who care enough to come, or those that can drink it freshest, or those that have waited longest.
So please, if you buy some Cantillon or 3 Fonteinen, drink it yourself. Even better, get some friends over and marvel in the incredible, historic beer together. Take in the way the fruits rush up your nose, the sherbet tingles on the tongue and the vinegar puckers your cheek. Revel in the soft, fleshy fruit finish and smacking sourness. Talk about it with your friends, try it with cheeses and meats, completely geek out at this miracle of brewing. Don't just wind it in bubble wrap, wait a week, then high five over another IPA.
Cantillon is not currency, it is culture. Take joy in the fact you got some, because 1,000 others didn’t.