Founded in 1997, Brewery Ommegang has been bringing Belgium to America with resounding applause. Designed with a traditional Belgian farmhouse in mind and built over a former hop farm in Cooperstown, New York, all of Ommegang's beers are brewed with traditional Belgian ales in mind, courtesy of Belgian beer exert Don Feinberg. The company has since been acquired by Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat (that's right, Duvel's founders), and has flourished over the past few years.Not sure what bona-fide Belgian ale tastes like? Head to Cooperstown this summer for Ommegang's annual "Belgium Comes to Cooperstown" event, a July blowout featuring hours of unlimited Belgian and Belgian-style beer sampling, food, music, a bonfire and more. Until then, however, pick up a few bottles of Ommegang and read up on our favorites.
With a rich, lasting head, this dark golden ale is quite clear for a saison. The smell is fruity and grassy at the same time, atypical of the usual yeasty saison scent; you can tell it's going to be a dry beer by the aroma alone. While it is indeed dry, the Hennepin Farmhouse is slightly sharp with great lacing, and is dangerously drinkable. Take it easy with this one, it goes down smooth and could get you into a lot of trouble!
Brewed with five specialty malts and three different hops, this pale ale stays true to its Belgian roots and has quite a distinct taste. Very effervescent, yet a bit cloudier and more coppery than the Farmhouse saison, this beer gives off a very noticeable floral hop aroma and has a toasty, malty taste with a lingering bitterness. Like most beers that have the dual task of being both malty and bitter at the same time, this beer is best at a barbecue, where grilled meats, bitter salads and spicy sides are abundant.
Of course Ommegang's first brew had to be as Belgian as they come. Inspired by ancient Belgian Trappist monk brewing practices, the Abbey Ale is a deep burgundy color, similar to that of birch beer, with a super dark, foamy head. The sweet caramel malts and red fruit notes the scent make it seem like a syrupy beer, but the taste is far more approachable than the scent: it's light in body, yet cloying, with an alcohol finish. It's pleasantly sweet with a nice alcoholic kick at the end, much like the day-to-night transition of a sorority house.
The Three Philosophers Quad blends malty ale with authentic Belgian Kriek, a cherry lambic with a scent that matches the name. Unlike the other ales it has a quickly dissipating veil of foam and a burnt sienna coloring, yet a nice effervescence in taste. Its wild yeasty notes and light, almost undetectable traces of alcohol give this quad a scent similar to a doughy, cherry-filled pastry. Its blend of sweet and sour make it a perfect dessert beer or accompaniment to a nice, non-fatty steak.