Deciding to create a Belgian-Style brewery in the US is like opening a classic French-Style restaurant. The degree of difficulty is greatly increased because you’re constantly being compared to the “real thing”.

In 1997, Don Feinberg opened the renowned Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY. Set on an old hops farm, the brewery is housed in a building that mimics a traditional Belgian farmhouse which adds to the verisimilitude when you visit. The brewery gives a lovely tour, complete with free samples of their five, year-round, award-winning brews: the classic Ommegang (a dubbel), Hennepin (a farmhouse Saison ale), Rare Vos (amber ale), the Witte (a light, wheat ale), and the Three Philosophers (a Quad). A couple seasonals, including the surprisingly good Chocolate Indulgence in the winter, round out their offerings.

Ommegang took some heat in the beer community in 2003 when the company was sold to Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, a large, Belgian brewing outfit. However, as far as “selling out” goes, this was hardly the worst crime in the beer world. Unlike when Coors bought out Blue Moon, Ommegang was being purchased by a highly-respected brewer that makes a legendary Belgian, golden ale (Duvel). Furthermore, Duvel didn’t mess with Ommegang’s beers and everything is still brewed in Cooperstown (except for a brief period in 2006 when the Belgian parent company had to lend a hand to meet demand). If you’re going to sell out, you might as well sell out to a company that you at least respect.

Ommegang’s beers haven’t suffered since the buy-out. In fact, the bonus to the Duvel take-over is that with the parent company’s marketing and distibution clout, Ommegang’s beers are now readily available everywhere. On a quiet night at a local Italian restaurant, I was very surprised when the waiter listed the only two beers on tap: North Coast’s Old Rasputin, and Ommegang’s Hennepin. I’ve been entirely too consumed with dark beers of late, so I went with the Hennepin…

The Hennepin was served in a nonic pint glass. It pours the color of straw, with a hazy, golden sheen. A small, but long-lasting head leaves very strong lacing on the sides of the glass.

The nose is fruity, sharp, and sour. There’s a strong citrus odor and a very pervasive earthy, musty smell underneath. It’s a Farmhouse ale and it smells like it was brewed in a barn (I mean that in a good way). The yeast is present in the nose, but only in hints. The sharp, sour tang dominates until the beer warms.

The Hennepin’s taste is uniquely Belgian (you know…for an American beer). The citrus notes and fruit hit you first…it’s tart, but not as sour as you expect, and that initial flavor dissipates quickly. The pungent, sweet, earthy taste lingers and you get a much bigger yeast flavor than you would have thought from the nose. Not much of a hop profile, but there is a spicy bitterness throughout and you get a bit of an alcohol-burn at the end. It’s a medium-to-light bodied beer with a drying mouthfeel.

It’s a drinkable brew, no doubt. Equally at home as a refreshing summer quaff or a warming, spicy, winter ale, the Hennepin is versatile and interesting. The multi-layered flavor keeps you coming back for more and like many Belgians, it improves as it warms. This is a 3 Hop beer for me…I prefer some of the other Ommegang offerings more, but it’s still an excellent and highly enjoyable ale from one of the best Belgian-Style breweries in the US.

14 thoughts on “OMMEGANG HENNEPIN

  1. I was actually thinking about planning a trip up to Cooperstown this summer to visit the Ommegang brewery and Hall of Fame. Perhaps for the “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown” festival in late July.

  2. I love that the Ommegang brewery comes first on your itinerary before the Hall of Fame.

    As a devout Alehead, I loved the Ommegang tour, but even I have to admit that the the Hall trumps pretty much any brewery. However, since you’re a Mets fan…you probably want to hit the brewery first.

  3. Aren’t you the same Mr. Sixpack who was a devout Red Sox fan during your tenure in Boston? How’s the weather where you are? Fair?

    Perhaps you were unaware that the Hall of Fame only has one (1) player inducted as a Met. Hence my suggestion that Sir Skullsplitter imbibe a bit at Ommegang before wandering over to the Hall. There’s only so long you can stand in front of Tom Seaver’s plaque, after all.

    But yes, please feel free to trot out that tired cliche every time a Red Sox fan dares to disparage the fans of another team. God forbid a sports fan mock another sports fan! Heavens! In that vein, how are your Pirates shaping up this year? Looking forward to adding to that “longest streak of consecutive losing seasons by any professional team ever” record?

  4. McHops- agree. Also, a Sox fan calling out the Mets is independantly OK for anyone who was alive in 1986. Managing to stick it to the Yankee’s in 2004 does nothing to take away the fact that the Mets suffered a magical world-series windfall in 1986, at the Sox’s expense. “Free Undeserved World Series Ring” = “Sox fans can give the Mets as much shit as they want without reference to being insufferable for winning in 04 and 07” At least until the Mets give the Sox a free ring.

  5. As Alcophilic pointed out, Sox and Mets fans bear no ill-will towards each other. They’re both overshadowed (one in-division…one in-city) by the Team Who Shall Not Be Named. And Sox fans can’t hate the Mets for ’86…that was completely and utterly self-inflicted.

    Mr. Sixpack seems to take issue with fans who are loyal to their teams. That’s to be expected from someone who changes his rooting interests as often as his underwear (which, granted, isn’t as often as you would expect).

    But seriously, Slouch is a loyal Tigers, Red Sox, Phillies, and Pirates supporter. He’s the Bill Henrickson of baseball fans.

  6. As a sage and Academy Award winning dude once noted, you’re not wrong Walter, you’re just an asshole.

  7. Just trying to give Wanker the mean-spirited vibe he feels the site is lacking.

    What is an alcophilic? Someone who likes to have sex with alcholics? Or is that an alcophiliac?

  8. Thanks for the hateful hectoring, Slouch. Now we’re getting somewhere. Makes me feel alive (except for my soul, of course, which died tragically in college).

    Impressive how quickly this thread devolved from an awesome Belgian brew to Slouch’s underwear. Good to see we haven’t lost our touch in turning something great into complete shit.

  9. is that restaurant in bham? i can’t think of a place that might have those two beers on tap besides the j clyde.

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