With Belgian-style beers on almost every bottle shop shelf and tap row these days, let’s take a moment to recognize one company that truly helped make it all happen: Brewery Ommegang.
Here’s the backstory: In the late 1970s newly-married, beer-loving Americans Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield began organizing to import the world classic Duvel Golden Ale to the United States. The über-influential importation firm Vanberg & Dewulf, which would introduce Americans to iconic sour and saison-style brews like Boon Lambic, Rodenbach, Saison Dupont, and others, was born.
But that was just the beginning. In 1997, the couple collaborated with Affligem, Scaldis, and Moortgat (the brewers of Duvel, now known as Duvel-Moortgat) to launch Ommegang, an homage to eighteenth-century Wallonian farmstead brewing and architecture. The resulting ensemble of creamy white buildings situated on a former hops farm along the banks of the Susquehanna River is one of America’s best beer destinations, and the excellent beers they created helped usher in a new age of Belgian beer appreciation in the U.S. (Feinberg and Littlefield are now devoted exclusively to Vanberg & Dewulf.)
We tend to drink a lot of their grassy, refreshing Hennepin saison in the summertime. What’s your favorite Ommegang brew? Tell us here.
And read on for details on Ommegang’s Game of Thrones-inspired beer, a new hop research project, a much-anticipated wild ale release, and a concert by a legendary rock group on September 5th.
Ommegang has five year-round beers, five seasonals, and the occasional one-off or experimental brew, such as their newest, Take the Black Stout, inspired by HBO’s Game of Thrones, to be released this week on-site and available nationwide in October. Their second brew inspired by the hit show, it’s a 7% stout spiced with abundant Northern Brewer hops, star anise, and licorice root.
“We started a hop variety trial this summer,” reports Allison Capozza, Ommegang’s Publicity Manager. “Mike McManus, our innovation manager, is working with Steven Miller from Cornell University on this project. We have a ¼ acre plot on the hill behind the brewery and we’re currently growing 13 varieties with plans to add 6-8 more next year. We won’t have any appreciable hops this year. This is primarily for research purposes – we could conceivably use some hops for small batch and one-off beers. The project is part of our commitment to the NYS hop industry.”
Rock legends The Black Crowes follow in the footsteps of Wilco and Old Crow Medicine Show to play a much-anticipated set on the verdant grounds of the brewery on September 5th. Tickets and info here.
INTO THE WILD
The third beer in Ommegang’s Brewmaster’s Obsession Series is Wild at Heart, an American wild ale of 8%abv, to be released in November in 750 ml bottles. “Wild at Heart pours a rich amber hue with a full white head. Aromas include mango, pineapple, and passion fruit,” Capozza says. “Complex flavors present a touch of tartness carefully balanced with gentle malt sweetness and subtle hop bitterness. We used only wild brettanomyces yeast in the primary fermentation of this beer.” Sounds like our kind of crazy.