Blue Collar Brew Review – Ommegang Hennepin Belgian-Style Saison

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A number of things mentally coalesced in my mental quarters in my mentality during Friday’s second leg of the beer run. I was at the Four Seasons Beer Store looking for a special bomber I spotted there last week. It was the first time that I saw this beer here in Morris. The beer was a style brewed by Ommegang and I remembered it as one of three different beers in a gift pack my son gave me last year.

The beer I was looking at was Ommegang Hennepin Belgian-Style Saison. There it was, still displayed on the top shelf. The bottles looked bigger than the neighboring bombers. The label said that the capacity was 1 pint, 9.4 ounces. Hmm. That makes for a total of 25.4 ounces. Just a skosh more than two glassfuls per bomber (extra fractions probably allowed by the brewer for user spillage.)

I was staring at the bottle trying to justify the $8 price tag. Hmm. It was, I hoped, a Belgian, it was the best of the three bombers from the Ommegang gift pack, it packed a nice punch at 7.7% ABV, I have the Ommegang glass that came in the gift pack (12-ounce, pfft!) and I just got paid with some overtime hours on the check. Screw it. I grabbed two Hennepin bombers and paid the sixteen bucks at the register. But the purchase of this product will help further my education in the art of beer tasting and be a worthwhile essay contribution as a post on SixPackTech.com. Bingo! Justified.

A number of interesting facts came out of my research into this beer. First, it’s a Belgian-style beer brewed in Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The name of the brewery, Ommegang, was lifted from a 16th century momentous occasion in Brussels, Belgium celebrating Emperor Charles V’s visitation to the center of his empire. Festivities commemorating this event are held annually. The beer itself was named after Father Louis Hennepin the guy pictured at the upper-right, a 17th century missionary and explorer credited with discovering Niagara Falls.

The beer is classified as a Belgian Saison, a style of winter-brewed beer that was served to farm workers right at the end of summer as part of payment or a gesture of good will. Life back then must have been very hard in order for a worker to accept payment in beer. But that could be an incentive as well, dontcha think? Hmm… Migrant beer farm workers. I wonder how much work actually got done.

All Saturday, I found my thoughts occasionally directed towards the beer at hand. All three beers in the sample gift pack were imbibed at during last vacay to St. Louis with one of those beers standing out among my remembories. I was sure that this Hennepin was the one that etched the deepest notch.

When the time came, I grabbed the first bomber of Hennepin and went through the ritual of removing the champagne-style wire cork-keeper. The cork was one of those mixed plastic-and-other-materials composites and I removed it without much fanfare. A gentle pop, some gases escaped. and a fizz developed in the neck of the large-lipped bottle.

The beer poured with a bright yellow color, looking cloudy in the glass almost like a wheat beer. The head came up as if it was on steroids, zooming to about three inches in the glass. Nice and bright white looking like some ideal lemon meringue pie ingredient. Bazillions of tiny micro-bubbles slowly worked their way to the top taking their sweet time. The aroma was that of nice Belgian malt/yeast but very slight.

The first sip was absolutely delicious. Nicely sweet at the beginning, that distinctive Belgian taste in the middle and nice clean and crisp finish. I’d go so far as to say this this beer was remarkably refreshing. The taste had a little citrus flavor to it but I couldn’t pin down as to what fruit it was. Maybe a little lemon. Whatever it was, it made for some nice Ommegang-ade; I relished each sip.

Once again, the malts were very bold but very light as well. That familiar Belgian flavor was front and center in every sip and there was no noticeable hop flavor at the finish although the carbonation took care of the crispness job.

As the sips continued, my mouth got used to the new visitor and some of the beer’s warts started to show. As I tipped the glass up to my mouth, I got a very, very slight side aroma of something that I couldn’t identify. It wasn’t skunk but it had a bit of an off scent albeit barely noticeable. Some side tastes of a little bit of sour came out as well. However, if didn’t think about dissecting the tastes in each sip, the beer is pretty damn good.

I was torn between the sweetness and the Belgian flavors of this beer. One plays nice on the tongue, the other plays tricks on the nose. This beer is definitely 100% Belgian minus the waffles. The light malts were very full while still being light. The Belgian yeasts pinned the badge of genuinity on the style. Or was it the other way around?

As the beer warmed up, more of the flavors came out. However, the Ommegang branded glass that I was using only held 12 ounces, and this beer puts out a lot of foam with each pour. Hell, waiting for the head to go down caused the beer to warm a couple of degrees. But hot or cold this beer was consistently drinkable. No alcohol taste, no discernible spiciness, no bizarre hoppiness, just those very identifiable Belgian flavors with the subtle tartness on the sides. And the intensity of the light malt middle.

I really don’t have the palate nor the experience to opine on how true to the Saison style this beer is, but I do know that unique, distinctive Belgian flavor when I taste it and this beer is another variation on that Belgian theme. Extremely drinkable, full of taste with a surprise at the end, this beer will not disappoint even the snootiest beer snob. Try this beer when you’re in the mood for a Belgian, a saison, a lawnmower-type refresher, or liquid mystery fruit. Only the price might put you off.

The SixPackTech ratings for Ommegang Hennepin Belgian-Style Saison are:

Taste: A > Light malty Belgian goodness in yer yap, sip after sip.
Smoothness: A- > As smooth as freshly planed cedar plank.
Drinkability: A- > Nicely repeatable until fulfilled.
Bang for the buck: B- > About 3 bucks a glass but cheaper than admission to DisneyWorld.
ABV: 7.7%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sorry. She’s out in Melrose Park visiting her mother. She’d have liked this beer, but would probably say “it’s drying.” I miss her too.)

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