With the “ever catch another dude checking out your package” post, I felt it timely and relevant for a follow-up. I’ve always been a little intimidated by Brewery Ommegang products. No specific reason why, maybe the name, maybe that I’m not a huge fan of saisons, maybe it’s the packaging.
Until last fall, I had only seen large Ommegang bottles sold. I’m pretty much a lightweight, and rarely buy beers I can’t consume in one sitting. Even with resealable bottles, my preference is twelve ounces. If it’s a good beer I don’t want it to lose any flavor or character the second time; if it’s not to my liking, I don’t want to feel like I’ve invested too much in something I don’t enjoy.
So when I saw Ommegang in twelve ounce bottles, I snapped up five to give them a try! When I got home, I looked at the receipt: the other singles were in the $2.50-$3.75 range. The five Ommegang bottles totaled over $30.00! Huh? That’s the same price, if not more, than a case of a macro or even a 12 pack of a decent craft or micro!
Was Ommegang going to be fantastic and make me want to buy more (or even the larger bottles), or would I feel like it was a nice experiment but not one worth repeating?
Ommegang products have been featured on TheBrewClub before, but it’s been over two years since a review was last posted. Chocolate Indulgence received four stars; the Witte, three; and the Rare VOS 2.75 stars.
Witte – not my favorite style of beers, so I started with this one. This straw colored brew pours a nice pinky-width head with lots of carbonation. The carbonation actually lasted the entire glass. I could smell the banana clove spiciness but couldn’t detect those flavors in the opaque beverage.
This has a substantial mouthfeel and the aftertaste remains much longer than I expected. This is a refreshing beer and, for those who like wheat beers, and, at 5.1% ABV, a good session drink for hot summer nights. My problem is that it tastes like a wheat beer. This isn’t a bad thing, but since I prefer other genres, it’s not a style, or a beer, I’d seek out.
According to the label, Hennepin is “a rare farmhouse saison ale – pale, hoppy, crisp, and rustic.” This light amber colored beer pours as much head as beer, though the foam dissipates pretty quickly leaving a nice lace ring inside the glass.
There is a mild citrus aroma. Hennepin has a bready, slightly sour taste, though I couldn’t pick up any significant flavor. There is a fairly heavy mouthfeel and my tongue felt coated long after the last sip. The best word to describe Hennepin is “pleasant.” I wouldn’t rush out to buy another bottle, and may not turn one down if one were offered. May not. Perhaps I should have consumed it after raking the leaves rather than with hot wings while watching Monday Night Football…
So Ommegang is batting zero for two. Again, to be fair, not my favorite styles of beer. How would the other three fare?
Ommegang Abbey Ale Dubbel is inspired by the centuries-old brewing tradition of Belgian Trappist Monks. Named after Belgium’s oldest medieval fest, every bottle of Ommegang is cause for “celebration.” Celebrate indeed! Poured into a brandy snifter, this opaque, dark amber brew produced a thick beige head that took a few minutes to fully dissipate.
Abbey Ale has a nice, fruity aroma: raisins, plums, black currants. The initial swallow yields a fruit flavor that gives way to a very complex beverage with spice, caramel, and licorice notes. This has a nice mouthfeel and no bitterness. While I haven’t bought any fall beers this year, I still haven’t gotten to some of the spring and summer beers, it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say that Abbey Ale tastes like autumn in a glass.
This is a wonderful warmer and at 8.5% ABV, is one to sip and enjoy. I plan on buying a few bottles to cellar and see how the flavors develop over a few months in storage.
The Abbey Ale, in fact, being true to its heritage, reminds me of the beers produced by Belgian Trappist monks that I discovered in Belgium while backpacking across Europe in 1984. This trip really expanded my beer education and exposed me to beers and styles not sold in the U.S. In other words, there’s more to life than Old Style and Heineken!
I was a little afraid to try Three Philosophers. One of my biggest allergies is cherries. Had I read the label in the store and saw that this is “98% Ale, 2% Ale with Cherries,” I may have passed.
Fortunately, either the alcohol content or something in the process negates the acid to which I’m allergic. Whew! Three Philosophers is “created by blending a rich, malty Belgian-style ale with authentic Kriek, a classic cherry ale from Belgium” “our Quadruppel is cultured yet wild, curious yet wise.” That sounds very philosophical!
Also poured in a brandy snifter, Three Philosophers pours a dark brown color with a minimal head that re-appears with each subsequent pour. The aroma is very fruity and the taste complex, though not as rich as the Abbey Ale. There is an edge after the sweetness, probably the higher alcohol content. The label indicates “serve at 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” and this is advise to heed; as Three Philosophers warms, the taste isn’t as smooth and the cherry flavor approaches cough syrup. But at 9.8% ABV, this beer isn’t one to chug. My suggestion: pour a bottle into two glasses and enjoy with a friend.
The last beer is BPA, Belgian Style pale Ale. According to the label, “This fine pub ale offers citrus and tropical fruit aromatics coming from a well balanced yet ample hop character. It is brewed with our own Belgian yeast, five malts, two hops, and plenty of patience. Finishing touches include dry-hopping with Cascade hops and warm cellaring.”
BPA pours a light bronze color with a big frothy head the glass could barely contain. A white film was retained by the glass and the head never completely dissipated. The aroma is an indistinguishable fruit scent, citrus or pear, with a significant hop fragrance as well.
The first sips are very hop filled with fruit notes and a mild aftertaste that lingers long after the beer is consumed. There is a noticeable tongue coating and lots of carbonation. With each sip, I sensed less of the hop taste and more of the citrus. I had never tried a Belgian Pale Ale – this example is more akin to an IPA. Probably because the BPA contains more hops than Ommegang has ever put in a beer. Very complex and enjoyable. I’d love to compare this to another brewery’s BPA.
Bottom line – two of the five, Witte and Hennepin, are pleasant and worth trying at least once. The other three, Abbey Ale, Three Philosophers, and BPA are much more interesting and are worth sampling at the earliest opportunity!