The Cannibal has a special place in my heart. It was the first beer I ever named as a professional brewer. It was also my first medal at the Great American Beer Festival and one of the first recipes I formulated for Iron Hill. When I named it, I wanted to pay tribute to two of the world’s greats; both of whom set the standard for what they were. One was a pro cyclist and one was a beer!
I’m a bike nut and I’ve always wanted to name a beer after “The Cannibal,”; partly because I think it’s a cool name for a beer and partly because he’s one of my heroes. The Cannibal, by the way, is Eddy Merckx, a Belgian who raced in the 60s and 70s and whom most bike nerds consider the greatest cyclist of all time. Without question, Merckx has won more Grand Tours than any racer in history, he’s kind of the Pelé or Babe Ruth of cycling. He was called The Cannibal because he was said to devour his opponents. Basically if you were in a race and Eddy Merckx showed up, you were now racing for second place. So, we made this strong Belgian beer in tribute to a strong Belgian rider.
The other icon this beer pays tribute to is a beer named Duvel. Duvel (“Devil” in Flemish) is the Belgian Strong Golden Ale. It’s so widely-considered the benchmark for the style that other breweries who brew Belgian Strong Ales often name them after the Devil. There’s a Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles etc. All the cool Devil names seemed to be taken, but I figured The Cannibal was at least something scary and menacing!
The first few years I brewed The Cannibal, I’d always release it on the first day of the Tour De France and made it a point to keep it on tap until the winner stood on the podium on the Champs-Élysées. Now we just brew it whenever we feel like it! But we still always save a keg for the bike race we sponsor in West Chester. That’s not champagne in the Jereboams the winners celebrate with on the podium. It’s The Cannibal!
Check out the date code on the bottom of your can of The Cannibal and you’ll see one more shout out to Merckx. Just make sure you’ve emptied the can first!
Learn more about The Cannibal here.
With 16 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and South Carolina, there's an Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant near you. Each brewery/restaurant has their own craft kitchen and scratch brewery, allowing individual chefs and brewers the creativity to pair the freshest ingredients with the highest quality grains and hops. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout our beers on tap and visit us soon.
This article was contributed by Chris LaPierre. Chris is a Senior Head Brewer at Iron Hill.