Monday, July 28, 2008
Ommegang's "Belgium Comes to Cooperstown" beer fest
(Photo: Brewer's Art brewer Rob Perry and wife Deb Shapiro)
One of the best Belgian beer events in the USA is held every summer on the grounds of Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY.
I attended the fest in 2006, 2007, and 2008, had a great time.
The following article, based on the 2007 Ommegang weekend, was to be published in Celebrator Beer News last year. Unfortunately, due to the passing of the late, great Michael Jackson, there was not room for the article. There was very extensive coverage of the life and times of the Bard of Beer, and rightly so.
The fully sold-out event is this coming weekend, August 1-2, 2008. I hope to see Belgian beer lovers there!
Ommegang’s VIP Beer Dinner and Belgian beer fest
On July 20-21, one of America’s most impressive Belgian beer events was once again held in a 200 acre field in Upstate New York. On the grounds of Brewery Ommegang, near Cooperstown, over a thousand eager patrons gathered for a weekend of excellent food, camaraderie, and a couple of hundred different Belgian and Belgian-style brews.
As last year, hundreds of people camped in the fields surrounding the brewery, and informal tastings broke out early Friday afternoon. I had a fine start, sharing bottles of ‘99 Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze and Kriek, as well as a De Cam Oude Geuze, with Steve, Tom and Rob from the Brewer’s Art in Baltimore. Always keep brewers happy!
After shocking my tastebuds into action, it was time to head to the VIP Beer Dinner. Marketing Director Larry Bennett and crew really amped things up this year, presenting a six-course extravaganza of food and beer. With appetizers of pates, breads, meats, and cheeses, everyone was suitably warmed up for beer brats and red cabbage; then a salad; next came Mussels and fries, a Belgian favorite; the fourth course was very filling, with roasted stuffed pork, oven-roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts; next came a fruit platter with assorted cheeses; and the sixth course, puff pastries with ice cream.
Of course, there was a more than ample supply of brews: Duvel, Maredsous 10, McChouffe, Rodenbach and Rodenbach Grand Cru were on hand from Belgium. All the Ommegang beers-produced about 50 yards away-were also offered. Abbey Dubbel, Hennepin, Rare Vos, Three Philosophers, and Witte were being savored by thirsty attendees.
An even bigger treat was the “official” release of Ommegang’s new Ommegeddon ale, which brewmaster Randy Thiel describes as “A Funkhouse Saison: It’s dry-hopped with Czech Saaz to balance the dry, well-attenuated palate of the brew. The Brettanomyces character is just starting to show itself, and should come to funky fruition within six months.”
Ommegeddon (8% abv) will be a seasonal release each year.
The beer dinner also featured a sneak preview of the new Chocolate Indulgence Stout (7%) which is brewed with chocolate malts.....and real Belgian chocolate! “It’s 40 ibu, and is created with a fruity Belgian yeast strain....so enjoy and indulge!” Thiel told me.
While Friday was cool and rainy, Saturday turned out to be a fantastic day, with low humidity and temps of about 80 degrees. Perfect! Even better was the dizzying selection of 240 different brews on offer at the beer festival, from countries like Belgium, Canada, and the U.S.A.
Once again, there were plenty of excellent Belgian-style breweries in attendance at “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown.” Baltimore’s The Brewer’s Art was a popular booth, with Saison and Tripel being my favorites.
Tomme Arthur was out from the West Coast, with his Lost Abbey lineup of brews, which were very much in demand. I happily sampled...savored really....all the beers on offer, while Tomme described each brew in detail. Scott Lawrence of Captain Lawrence brewing in Pleasantville, NY continued to impress with brews like St. Vincent’s Dubbel. Cambridge Brewing of Massachusetts once again had a stellar range of beers, like L’Amour de Jour and Saison du CBC. There were many more superb Belgian-style brews at this event; I wish I had the space to list them all!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper fest without plenty of authentic Belgian brews to choose from. Many Belgian importers were on hand, serving up world classics like Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, Malheur Dark Brut, and Urthel Samaranth, among many others.
Next year’s event should be held the first weekend of August.....get tickets on-line beginning in mid-March. They will sell out fast! See ommegang.com.