Tour of Brewery Ommegang
Cradled in the rolling Catskill Mountains is the little farmhouse brewery known as Ommegang. It's out of the way, it's quiet, and it's one of the most beautiful looking American breweries I have seen. This is a perfect location to recreate the beers of Belgium. When you arrive at the brewery you drive through an arch in the middle of the old farmhouse and find a growing, changing and very modern brewery is on the other side. What first catches my eye are several new fancy outdoor fermentation tanks that were recently installed and have that new car shine. There's also a new tap room, gift shop, and restaurant. Whoa, this is a fancy place. I am anxious to try some beers.
The crowd inside is modest, thankfully. Most of the bar seats are taken, but several banquet tables and smaller tables are wide open. "One flight of everything you got," I request. I am happy (and even happier when the bartender says it costs "$free.99"). You also have the option of buying glasses of beer if the flight isn't what your looking for. The flight is served in plastic cups with little paper labels identifying each of the beers. Not as fancy as I would have assumed, but you can't complain when the beer tastes this good. I casually drink my way through the six sample of beer. I'll just say this now, the amber ale Rare Vos is my favorite of the bunch. It's easy to get carried away with the big boys like Three Philosophers, and Ommegang Abbey Ale, but it the drink-ability and depth of Rare Vos that makes it the tastiest of the pack.
This tasting room is brand new and the brewery has had several major enhancements recently. Ommegang's staff looks like they're getting use to the changes. It's a casual and welcoming place. The tours just kind of happen when there's a group of people ready to go. I much prefer this to the signup-online-before-you-come-down-for-your-alloted-time type of tour. Once the tour starts you leave the gift shop and head over to the farmhouse. Because the gift shop/tasting room has moved to a separate building the brew-house has grown in size, but it's still a fairly modest sized room. The grains are stored in a loft were the can easily be feed into the mash-tun. Nothing too fancy. Because Ommegang is owned by the Belgium brewery Duvel Moortgat the same hops and malts are used at Ommegang as are used at Duvel. According to Duvel the hops used at their breweries are Saaz and Styrie.
Keeping with Belgian traditions, beneath the grain loft there is a open fermentation room. On the tour you can peek through a small rectangular window and see some yeast getting down and dirty in the open air.
Unfortunately, there was nothing going down while I was there. Also, just sitting around in the middle of the room, is a MoreBeer Tippy BeerScuplture. I just stood there in awe and drooled at this homebrewer's wet dream of a setup. I want one. I wish you could taste some of the experimental brews that come out of this little guy. But the tour continues.
The bottling room. Not the most exciting part of any tour--especially when the lines aren't running. But what sticks out here is all of the new equipment. It's clear the Duvel has dumped a bunch of money into their little American brewery. All of the new bottling gear looks fancy and very expensive. The one part I would have liked to see run is the corking station of the bottling line. That just looks sweet.
After the tour we return to the gift shop where the tour guide leads us through a tasting of the beers (basically the same set I tried with the flight). I was more than happy to indulge with a second round of their tasty brews. The tour guide gave a brief description of each beer while she poured. Even better there was a selection of beer cheeses and mustards to taste between sips.
Ommegang makes a horseradish mustard that I very much regret not buying. I really regret that. Again, the Rare Vos was my favorite of all the beers, and the specialty brew Gnomegang, made in collaboration with La Chouffe, is an outstanding ale that almost convinced me to change my mind. My mouth is watering just thinking about both of those beers. Of course, the entire selection of Brewery Ommegang demonstrates the epitome of great craft brewing. Maybe I am being a little taken in by the beautiful surroundings and the quaint old farmhouse brewery, but I love this place. Plus the alcohol levels of these beers has given me that all around warm feeling. I love everything. While Ommegang has some fancy equipment and brand new tanks, this places feels small and it's comfortable. Eventually, we left with a fancy growler of Abbey Ale to finish off at home.
If you end up in the middle of New York state, take the time to find your way to this great brewery.