Nov. 23, 2011 - Issue #840: Battle the world
Bringing Belgium to New York State
Brewery Ommegang Cooperstown, NY
$13.25 for 750 ml bottle
Most of the time, Canadians rightfully feel superior to Americans. We have universal health care, don't bomb other countries for oil (at least until recently), and find a way to be generally nicer. However there are times when we need to nod our heads in acknowledgement that they have achieved something important.
This happens more often in the beer world than in politics, but it remains true. Let us take a case in point: the recent arrival of Brewery Ommegang into Alberta. I realize most of you will have no idea who this brewery is and why we should care. Let me quickly say that Ommegang may be the best recreation of a Belgian brewery on the continent. As good as our Unibroue is (makers of La Fin Du Monde and others), Ommegang demonstrates that classic Belgian ales can be made across the ocean.
Until a few weeks ago, the only way to procure Ommegang was through a friend travelling to the US. However, a provincial sales rep picked up the rights and now we can get our hands on a sublime series of beer. Feel free to consider picking up Ommegang's various beer, including Witte, Abbey Ale, Three Philosophers, Hennepin and Rare Vos. All are ranked as some of the best examples of their style possible.
For now, I chose one beer to review. I chose it because it is a rarer, more challenging style to brew well. It is the brewery's take on a Belgian Pale Ale. In Alberta we have not really had a great example of the style. Ommegang may very well be the first.
Upon first impression, Ommegang BPA comes across as a hybrid. A spicy, earthy front is challenged by a citrusy hop aroma and flavour. Some light fruit, like pear, teases but can't match the power of the barnyard spiciness. The interplay between spice and hop is what makes this beer special. Belgian Pale Ales are supposed to offer a moderately hoppy base with a medium degree of Belgian yeast character. The Ommegang version brings the hop level higher, making it a prominent aspect of the finish, but the peppery spice does not get lost. In the end, each supports the other to create a rather drinkable ale, but one that is more challenging than many I have tried.
There is no question this is a brewery that deserves its Belgian praise, despite its location deep in the US. You can take the Belgian brewer out of Belgium, but you can't take Belgian beer out of the Belgian. V
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