I found four types of 750-milliliter bottles of Ommegang beer while grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago, and I bought one of each. I have fond memories of Ommegang from a cool and rainy October weekend in 2005 when Nancy and I toured its brewery near Cooperstown, N.Y., and the nearby Cooperstown Brewery in between visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The four beers consisted of Three Philosophers, a Belgian-style blend; Hennepin, a saison; Ommegang Abbey Ale; and Witte, a wheat beer. The one beer in Ommegang’s year-round selection that we missed was Rare Vos, a Belgian-style amber ale. The brewery also has several interesting seasonals.

I didn’t read the labels until I got home, when I found out that the Hennepin and the Abbey Ale were actually brewed in Belgium. That sent me scurrying to the computer.

It turns out that Duvel, a well-respected Belgian brewer, bought Ommegang in 2003, about six years after the brewery was founded. I either didn’t learn about the sale during our tour or, because I wasn’t writing a beer column back then, promptly forgot. When demand exceeds what Ommegang can brew at Cooperstown, it shifts some production to Belgium.

We had occasionally had some Ommegangs since our trip to Cooperstown, but this tasting was a nice journey back in time.

The Witte ($7.63; brewed at Cooperstown) is a pretty standard wheat beer. It was very good with a lot of yeast, making it a cloudy brew. It has a little coriander and orange peel in the mix, but they are in the background and not at all overpowering. At 5.1 percent alcohol, it is an easy-drinking, flavorful beer.

The Hennepin ($7.99; brewed in Belgium) was crisp and surprisingly light for a beer with 7.7 percent alcohol, but there was a complexity to it that was pleasing. Like most bottle-conditioned Belgians, the yeast plays a big part in the flavor with the hops forward.

The Abbey Ale (also $7.99 and brewed in Belgium) was rich and fruity, although there is no actual fruit added to the mix. This beer tastes almost wine-like, and is deep reddish-brown with the chocolate flavors you often get in a stout. This is definitely the kind of beer – at 8.7 percent alcohol – that you want to take your time with when you are relaxing.

Three Philosophers ($8.99) is the Ommegang I absolutely fell in love with on our Cooperstown trip. It is a quadruple, which means it starts with about four times the malt as a regular ale, and has a 9.8 percent alcohol content.

While 98 percent of this beer was brewed in Cooperstown, it has 2 percent of a Belgian kriek added to the mix. Krieks are lambics – traditional Belgians brewed in the open using yeast naturally found in the air – with cherries added, and I usually find them cloying and sweet.

But this had just enough of the cherry to give it a bit of sweetness, letting the rich, malty flavors dominate. It is one very good beer. In fact, it is among my favorite beers of all time.


IN ANOTHER ROUND of supermarket shopping, we came across Virgin Islands Tropical Mango Ale, contract-brewed by Shipyard in Portland for St. John Brewers. We tested this on a wonderfully warm November day when Nancy was cutting back all of our hostas and other perennials, and I was cutting back and weeding the raspberry bed.

This beer was just right for the moment. The mango fruit was not overpowering, but there was a bit of sweetness. It was totally refreshing. And at 4.5 percent alcohol, you can have a couple. The price on sale at Shaw’s was $7.99 for a six-pack.

I don’t expect many more warm days, but I will use this beer for when I want to turn up the heat and pretend I am in the tropics.


I HAD ALREADY HAD this year’s Narragansett Porter when I got the press release about the winter seasonal being released. Son-in-law Christian picked up a six-pack, and we took it with us when we got the family camp near Bethel ready for winter. It was as good as I remembered it. Christian thinks it cost about $8.50 for a six-pack.


Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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