Tasting the Ommegang Abbey Ale

Belgian beers from Cooperstown New York? Just cause they have the baseball hall of fame doesn’t mean that they know how to brew Belgian beer… Well, actually, it might. The two may not be related, and most likely aren’t, but the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown does know how to brew Belgian style beers, in fact, thats all they do. And they do it very well!

The Abbey Ale is Ommegang’s inaugural brew, and pays homage to the dark, sweet and spicy Belgian Dubbels that have captured the hearts and palates of so many beer lovers world wide. The style is just so luscious and delicious if done properly. This is the type of beer than you can use to convince wine or spirit lovers of beer’s prominence and that it is well deserving of their respect and efforts. Anyone who loves a deep red wine, or rich cognacs or brandy wont be able to hold back from the seductive qualities of the Ommegang Abbey Ale. Not to mention its ability to pair with food, cheeses, deserts and cigar as well, and often better than its grape-based counterparts.

The Abbey ale is 8.5% abv and comes in both a 355ml capped bottle, and a 750ml corked. It is brewed as a Belgian Dubbel, and in exactly that manner is reflects deep and rich fruity flavors with intricate spices and building warmth. Try to find the larger corked bottles if you can and enjoy one with dinner or with friends; this is a beer with love to spread.

I opened the Abbey Ale up at the low end of cellar temperature around 12F (54F) and poured it into an Ommegang chalice – perfectly replicating the style and tradition in Belgium. The pour was very lively and I had to slow my angle to allow for a proper head to build without erupting over the glass. The beer rumbled gentle as it crashed into itself in the glass, but eventually a very soothing and calm beer was build with amber browns, deep ruby reds, and glimmers of golden orange and copper rays. It showed a deep mahogany center and seemed to emanate rich purple and brick browns outwards. The head was a sturdy and pillowy cream colored foam with light tan and soft brown hidden within it.

The nose explodes at your right away with dark fruits, spice and rich caramelized malts. There is a rich and complex bouquet of aromas here ranging from clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper to mashed bananas, prunes, figs, dates and dried cherries. Another lean in brings out even more in the way of bittersweet chocolate, caramel, toffee, licorice and brown sugar. Even a touch of sweet leather and molasses lingers in the back showing a hint of yeast and age. MMMmmm, this is remarkably tantalizing already.

Go in for a long smooth sip (gulp) and let the Abbey Ale wash big lush flavors all across your palate. Smooth and round caramelized malts bring in melty caramel, soft toffee, figs, plums, warm banana and hints of dark chocolate. Right in the center of your tongue, then breaking outwards the beer shows a huge range of spices and earthy flavors. Clove, cinnamon and light pepper seem to be most pronounced here, and softly hints of molasses, sweet leather (almost tobacco), and sweet and round malt stick to your cheeks and the edges of your mouth.

As you continue to enjoy the Abbey Ale, it becomes more and more apparent that he flavors never stop coming. Slowly you can begin to pull out candied apples, the sweet caramel flavors of coca-cola, hints of sweet earth and lightly bitter yeast. There is little hop to be distinguished, but there is slightly dry, and softly bitter back end to the beer added a sense of balance. But balance is really not the name of the game here – big, deep, round malt flavors and fruity spice is what this Belgian-style Dubbel will recommend.

The mouthfeel is gentle with hints of bottle conditioned effervescence making a play at your tongue, but a smooth and wide texture seems to glide like silk over your mouth. It has a medium full body erupting with flavors, but finishes clean with a spicy sweetness.

Enjoy the Abbey Ale on its own, or with so many varieties of food. Try soft and melty cheeses, tomato based pastas, meat pastas like lasagna, grilled red meat, roast turkey or chicken, Mexican or Indian foods, anything with chocolate in it, strawberry cheesecake, and on, and on..


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