Brewery Ommegang is a craft brewer from Cooperstown, New York—best known as the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame—producing traditional beers out of a bucolic upstate farm setting. I ran across a gift pack at Costco that contained three cork stoppered Belgian-style bottles of Rare Vos, Hennepin, and Three Philosophers. That is the order that I want to speak about the beers as well.
Rare Vos is described as a “Belgian-style café ale”:
For my palate, this is an outstanding beer. It’s been a while since I have purchased a beer that I was actually sad to see the last few drinks in a glass. Rare Vos was one of those beers.
It’s of medium alcohol (6.5%) and mild bitterness (21 IBU), but the body of the beer is really what shines here. It’s got a little note of sweetness to accompany a whole cornucopia—you can tell it’s close to Thanksgiving when I start using that kind of imagery—of spice notes like coriander and sweet orange. The brewer describes this particular beer as being very “food friendly” and I would whole heartedly agree that you could serve a glass of Rare Vos on your holiday table with almost any cuisine without broaching a single complaint.
Hennepin is supposed to be a “farmhouse saison”:
At 7.2% ABV this is on the high end for alcohol for this particular style of beer. The light, almost lager like body, of Hennepin has a hard time supporting such a hefty ABV. I love the spice notes, especially the ginger that lingers on the back of your tongue, but the alcohol level starts to overpower the subtlety of the beer.
Saisons are a style of beer that is starting to lose any definition of method. Traditionally, these were beers that were not as strong as other beers but modern versions have definitely amped up the alcohol level. I do not believe that this style requires any outsize hand with either alcohol or bitterness because it can reward a deft brewer’s hand by producing a complex beer. I would love to see a version of Hennepin with the alcohol cut in half because I think that it would be a perfect beer to drink with a bowl of pho.
Three Philosophers was a complete failure in my opinion:
This beer just smacked me in the teeth. At 9.7% ABV it came across way too strong, veering into wine territory. I know that there is a segment of the beer drinking population that cannot get enough of these strong beers, but restraint is to be admired in my opinion. Combined with the cherry flavors I felt like I was drinking a fruit wine from the Amana Colonies that someone had decided to bottle condition.
I was left disappointed after the strong showing of Rare Vos. However, none of this dampens my enthusiasm for trying other beers from Brewery Ommegang nor should it dissuade you from trying. My preferences range toward less alcohol in my beer and a restrained hand when it comes to the use of hops. You may be looking for a boozy hop bomb. This is one of the great unsung strengths of what is going on in craft beer in the United States. There are so many niches to occupy, so many brewers can exist in relative harmony serving the tastes of those niches. Otherwise we would all be choosing between Budweiser and Bud Light. What a joyous world that would be.
Maybe it’s appropriate that Brewery Ommegang was batting .333 (1-3) as such an average over the course of a career would probably be enough to have oneself enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.