Tasting the Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale (BPA)

If you have been following this blog, it really should be no surprise by now that I love what Brewery Ommegang creates; I’ve posted very positive reviews earlier on both their Three Philosophers Quadrupel, and the magnificent Adoration. Both of these beers are very rich and hearty though, and with summer around the corner I jumped at the chance to try Ommegang’s newest beer, their Belgian Pale Ale (BPA).

The BPA is the first in a series of six new specialty beers to be released by Ommegang in 2010, as such it was brewed in limited quantities but has spread all across the U.S. Ommegang plans to test this range of beers to create a house beer; somewhat of an entry beer; an accessible beer for the general public. The goal is to create satisfying beers with ripe flavors, moderate ABV, and at a reasonable price to try to entice non-beer aficionados to get their hands wet.

Normally I would quaff at this idea, but it does make sense. Artisan distilleries, for example, will make several vintage whiskies aged 18, 21, or more years. But they will also produce a house whisky; a “reserve”, or “select” designed to meet the needs of the entry level consumer. And for a brewery like Ommegang, whose Belgian inspired beers are all extremely flavorful, a beer like the BPA will help people walk their way into great beer rather than forcing people to dive in head first.

Ommegang claims that they have worked hard for a very long time trying to crack the code for accessible beers with distinctive character, and that the BPA has done it.

It is available right now in 750ml corked bottles, and on draft wherever it is sold. As mentioned, it has a moderate alcohol level at 6.2% abv, and regardless of the beer’s purpose and destiny, it is a Belgian Style Pale Ale brewed by some of the best American-Belgian brewers in the world. It has been brewed with five specialty malts, and hopped with Columbus, Celeia and Cascade hops. It is of course bottle conditioned using Ommegang’s signature yeast.

It was a fitting afternoon when I opened this beer, probably about 17C outside, sunny, and I was by the beach grilling some chicken wings. I opened this bottlecool, around 10C (50F) and poured it into a few tuliped glasses to share with my friends. It formed a soft golden copper beer with orange and opaque amber yellow hues. It is hazy, with a hugely airy and pillowy off white head and raised itself about two inches above the beer.

The nose is very classic with light citrus zest, tropical fruity esters, pale malts and a hint of herbal hops. It does have a nice bouquet of floral spice and biscuit also, but overall is not very potent, not compared to most Ommegang beers, but it is very pleasant.

I went right into the BPA and was instantly refreshed by effervescent pale malt sweetness,  floral and lightly crisp hops, the citrus zest of grapefruit and orange, and a lightly earthy yeast character. It all came in softly with elegant presence rather than aggressive power. Hops are mellow and soft, but the Cascade hops definitely add the necessary bitter and quenching characteristics which are essential to balance out malt sweetness and floral aromas.

The mouthfeel was excellent, and perfectly Belgian. Spicy to the touch, crackling and delicate carbonation, and the sting of hops makes it a great beer for the summer. The finish is light, no alcohol is noticeable, and is very refreshing. It paired perfectly with my chicken wings and beach front weather.

I do have to try to be unbiased though, because I prefer the richer more flavorful Belgian Pale Ales, however this is a very good beer. If you are just getting into the world of real beer, this is a great introduction. However, if you have been around Ommegang’s lineup before and love the hugely aromatic and massively flavorful beers, this may be too weak for you.

The next in this series is called Tripel Perfection, and is undoubtedly a Belgian style tripel. I will also be looking for one of those for a summer afternoon.

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