Brewery Ommegang holds a special place in the Kaedrin Tradition. It was my introduction to good beer circa the turn of the century timeframe, and it kicked off an exploration of Belgian beer that has, sadly, waned in recent years. These days, Belgian styles aren’t quite the gateway they once were, so Ommegang has been experimenting with ways to make ends meet. Notably, they made a deal to provide Game of Thrones branded beers, and more recently, even started brewing some straight up IPAs and pilsners.
I guess there aren’t a ton of options for breweries that originally marketed themselves as Belgian-inspired. Allagash has moved towards sour beers, spontaneous fermentation, and wild ales, but Ommegang has only dipped their toes in that water. Instead, they seem to be doing more barrel aging, which is actually a welcome shift in this household.
Today, we’ll cover two such offerings from Ommegang. These aren’t especially hip beers, but that’s kinda why I enjoy them. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to hazies and pastry stouts, y’know? The barrel treatments here aren’t exactly back to basics, but I’ve found that it takes skill to make Belgian styles and spirits barrels play nice together. A skill that Ommegang has clearly developed:
Ommegang Double Barrel Dubbel – This is Ommegang’s Abbey Ale aged for six months in bourbon and brandy barrels, then blended together. They started this a couple years ago, and my initial take back then was that there wasn’t a ton of barrel to it, but it was good. If I remember correctly, it aged pretty well too. This new vintage is definitely an improvement over that initial batch though, and both the barrels make themselves known while also blending harmoniously with the base. I know the homonymmical name of this beer is kinda cute, but it genuinely feels like both barrels are important here.
Pours a dark amber hued brown color, garnet tonez, with half a finger of fizzy off-white head. Smells fantastic, sweet, vinous fruit, raisins, phenolic spice, cloves, and a little boozy oak and vanilla. Taste starts off rich and sweet, a little caramel leading into dark fruit, raisins, spice, cloves, oak, vanilla, more caramel. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, rich, but relatively well attenuated and plenty of carbonation, just a hint of warming alcohol. Overall, I love this beer. Seems better than b1 from a few years ago, and damn, I wish I bought more of this. I will seek it out again for sure. A- or A
Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a goblet on 11/8/20. Vintage 2020. Best by: 072323. Lot: 072220 (I assume that’s the bottling date).
Ommegang Bourbon Barrel Three Philosophers – Already a blend of quadrupel and Belgian Kriek (and also holding a special place in Kaedrin history), this beer was then aged in bourbon barrels for 6 months. They’ve actually done several different treatments of the base, including Wine Barrel (not bad at all, but not as good as this bourbon version), Blueberry Coffee (barf (I should note that I have not actually had this one, but that it doesn’t really appeal to me)), and Philosophy & Velocity (a collab with Alesmith and their Speedway Stout, which I have not tried but am open to). Not sure why this base is their preferred platform (the Cherry Kriek complicates matters a bit, I think), but I suspect this bourbon barrel version would be my favorite.
Pours a deep brown color with a solid two fingers of light tan head that sticks around for a while. Smells great, lots of those fruity esters, raisins, cherries, and the like, with a sprinkling of spice lurking in the background and just a bit of barrel character, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste starts off with a rich caramel that is quickly subsumed by more Belgian characteristics like dark fruit and spice, a bit of cherry, with the boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla pitching in more towards the finish. Mouthfeel is maybe a hint fuller bodied than the dubbel, but not quite as big a difference as you’d expect, a little bit off warming booze, plenty of carbonation. Overall, pretty damn good! I think I like the double dubbel more, but this is great. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a goblet on 11/13/20 (Friday the 13th for those in the #MutantFam). Best by: 071023. Lot: 071020 (I assume that’s the canned on date).
I always have fun revisiting classic Belgian styles, even if they’ve been given a bit of a twist with the barrel aging (a treatment that is right in line with my tastes). I’m going to have to make more time for this sort of thing in the new year…