Ebenezer’s Pub Night of the Great Thirst 2021

Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine, is a must-visit spot for any lambic beer lover. Ebenezer’s, owned and run by husband and wife team Jen and Chris Lively, opened in 2004, adjacent to a golf course near Kezar Lake, a popular resort area in southwest Maine. Ebenezer’s has been holding a Belgian beer festival ever since that first year, which is typically held the last full weekend of August.

The entrance to Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine.

The weekend is kicked off by a multi-course beer dinner the Thursday night before the festival begins. See here for a separate article about the 2021 beer dinner.

Lively has what is likely the largest collection of aged Belgian lambic brews in the U.S. These include many from such hallowed makers as Brasserie Cantillon, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, Bokke, and all of the other lambic makers in Belgium. A cellar visit at Ebenezer’s is an amazing experience.

As if the world-class beer dinner was not enough, there is more: every Saturday night during the fest weekend, on odd-numbered years, Ebenezer’s holds one of the lambic world’s legendary events: The Night of the Great Thirst.

Left, Yves Panneels, and right, Kurt Panneels, the brothers that run In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst in Eizeringen.
In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst, Eizeringen, Belgium.

This event was first organized by Yves and Kurt Panneels in 2004. It is held on even numbered years at the famous In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst cafe (meaning “In the Insurance Against the Great Thirst”) in Eizeringen, Belgium, about ten miles from Brussels, in the heart of Belgium’s lambic country. I attended the first “Nacht van de Grote Dorst” as it is called in Flemish, and have been back several times since then.

So, on odd numbered years, Yves Panneels and son Jan Panneels travel to Lovell, Maine, to collaborate with Chris and Jen, to organize a U.S. version of The Night of Great Thirst. The reason for the every other year timing is because Belgium’s Toer de Geuze is held in either late April or early May on odd-numbered years, and brothers Yves and Kurt are very busy helping organize Toer de Geuze, and also running their cafe, which is a popular spot, to say the least, during that weekend. So, they don’t have time to organize The Night of the Great Thirst during the Toer de Geuze years.

For 2021, Yves and Jan were not able to attend, due to the pandemic travel rules. So, Chris Lively organized the event, and said beforehand: “The Night of the Great Thirst 2021 will be based about 80 to 90% on cellar-aged brews, both in bottles and in kegs. But don’t worry, I have a big cellar!”

The Friday taplist at Ebenezer’s Belgian Beer fest on August 27, 2021.
Close up of the top half of the tap menu at Ebenezer’s Belgian Beer Fest on August 27, 2021.

The Friday between the beer dinner and Night of the Great Thirst typically features a great tap list and general chilling out, and enjoying the Maine summer weather prior to the big event the Saturday. 2006 Iris from Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels was a highlight, as were a plethora of brews from the beloved De Struise Brouwers in Oostvleteren, Belgium. These included the mighty Black Albert Imperial Stout; Black Damnation, which is a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout; Pannepot; and Pannepeut, the Danish version of the dark, strong Pannepot.

Urbain Cotteau (left) and Carlo Grootaert of De Struise Brouwers, between copper fermenters at Brouwerij Deca in Woesten, West Flanders.

Friday August 27th brought much relief to Maine: the temps fell off to the mid 80’s, and humidity to a very reasonable level, after a very sweaty Thursday in the low 90’s, with tropical humidity levels.

The amazing tap list and wonderful food were the attraction for that day, as attendees warmed up for Saturday’s pinnacle event. I especially liked the Ebenezer’s poutine dish: frites, slathered with poutine. A great low calorie dish! (wink, wink…)

The Night of the Great Thirst 2021.

Ebenezer’s uses a token system for purchasing items at the Night of the Great Thirst. It’s easiest to bring cash to pay for them, but you can use a credit card to pay for tokens.

The extra special vintages offered during the Night of the Great Thirst 2021.

Saturday, August 28th, was much cooler, with cloudy weather and highs in the mid 70’s. Perfect beer drinking weather. A line formed for the 5 pm start of the Night of the Great Thirst. The reason: the limited number of vintage bottles from the highly acclaimed Bokke lambic blendery, as well as cellar treasures, such as 2006 Brasserie Cantillon Fou’ Foune, which was very, very good; and also from Cantillon, 2010 Mamouche (batch one!) an elderberry lambic. A 1997 vintage of Cantillon Kriek was also holding up very well.

2006 Fou’ Foune from Brasserie Cantillon.
2006 Cantillon Fou’ Foune, back label.
Bokke Baphomet.

The list from the small, yet highly acclaimed (and rightly so!) Bokke lambic blendery, was strong as well: nine different Bokke lambics, including the very hard to find 2014 Druiven and 2015 Dalton Jack, were on offer. Baphomet, which was aged in a former Weller bourbon barrel, and aged with a lambic/saison blend by Raf Souvereyns exclusively for Ebenezer’s, was equally as good as when I tasted it two years ago.

Jesse Leibowitz having a bit of a good time during the Night of the Great Thirst, August 28, 2021. Photo courtesy Jeff Goyette.

Lambic lover Jesse Leibowitz of New Jersey had this to say about the fest: “This event is a celebration of Belgian beer, and in particular, lambic. The selection is world class, and has no peer in the United States. Chef/owner Chris Lively has been involved in Belgian beer and lambic for decades now, and his cellar shows the proof is in the pudding. I have just a few standouts from this year to mention: the 1997 Cantillon Kriek; batch one Cantillon Mamouche; vintage geuzes; and also, of course, quite a few Bokke lambics, which were all fabulous. Like all amazing experiences, The Night of the Great Thirst came and went like a flash, and now I’m waiting for the next two years until it happens again.”

Bill Cavender of Black Heath Meadery in Richmond, Virginia had this to say about his first visit to Ebenezer’s Pub and first Night of the Great Thirst: “It was truly an incredible event, with so many world class lambics on offer that I have never tasted before. The amount of vintage lambics being passed around and shared, and variety of lambics avaialble, is something I have never experienced before. The Bokke lambics were fantastic, as were so many others. It was a lambic smorgasbord.”

Raf Souvereyns, aka Raf Soef, in his Bokke lambic blendery in Hasselt.
Six of the Bokke lambics on offer at NOTGT 2021. Several Bokke were so rare, that they were listed on the special vintage beer list for the fest.
Bokke Dalton Jack 2015.
Another special Bokke lambic: Framboos Muscat Bleu.
Bokke Framboos Muscat Bleu, back label. Another fabulous lambic from Raf Soef.
Eight different bag in box lambics from Oud Beersel were on offer during the fest.

There were eight different bag in box lambics from Oud Beersel on offer. Gert Christiaens has really ramped things up in Beersel, and has been pumping out a lot of interesting beers in the last few years. Oud Beersel does not get nearly the recognition is deserves from lambic lovers stateside, which hopefully will change as it becomes better known. Their bag in box lambics should eventually see more widespread distribution in the U.S.

The Oud Beersel lambics on offer at the Night of the Great Thirst.
An old Oud Beersel wooden crate.

There were about ten different Brasserie Cantillon brews on offer, and most were aged vintages. These included 2009 Grand Cru Bruoscella; 2014 St. Lamvinus; 2012 Lou Pepe Framboise; and more.

A menu of most of the Brasserie Cantillon lambics on offer during the fest.
A lineup of lambic bottles that were enjoyed during The Night of the Great Thirst.
The 3 Fonteinen lambics on offer at the festival.

There were plenty of lambics from Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen as well: over a dozen different brews, including some of the newer ones. These included Bio Aardbei 2018 (a strawberry lambic) as well as Schaarbeekse and Framboos on a Toast; and 2011 Framboos.

Some of the 3 Fonteinen bottles at the Night of the Great Thirst, August 28, 2021.
Bill Cavender of Black Heath Meadery in Richmond, Virginia in front of a great assortment of lambics.

There was also live music at the event: the band Catwolf rocked the crowd as darkness fell on Lovell.

The band Catwolf played during The Night of the Great Thirst, and were well received, to say the least. Photo courtesy Jeff Goyette.
Another photo of Catwolf playing at The Night of the Great Thirst. Photo courtesy Jeff Goyette.
The draft setup at the Night of the Great Thirst 2021.
The draft selection at the Night of the Great Thirst 2021. There were quite a few from the superb Gueuzerie Tilquin on offer.
De Oude Cam and Brouwerij Lindemans were represented at the Ebenezer’s Festival as well.
Hanssens Oude Gueuze and HORAL’s Oude Geuze Megablend 2015 were also available at the festival.
Brouwerij Girardin’s incredible Black Label Oude Gueuze, and several vintages from Gueuzerie Tilquin, such as their 2010-2011 Oude Gueuze, were available at the festival.

The Night of the Great Thirst 2021 was another deep dive into lambic excellence, and was well organized by the Ebenezer’s team, as always. This is certainly one of the premier Belgian lambic events in the U.S.

Ebenezer’s location, just an hour and half from beery Portland, Maine, and with its close proximity to Vermont and New Hampshire, make it an ideal summer destination for beer lovers. I highly recommend a visit!

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