Ommegang Sampler: Christmas Come Early

My my my.  Gaze up this Ommegang Sampler. I scored two of these yesterday at a distributor off the beaten path than sometimes has some great offerings on sale. It being somewhat secluded creates space for people like me in search of gems in them stacks of cases.

I purchased this Sampler for $ 25 apiece. I think they would be awesome Christmas gifts but I am fighting the desire to keep them as mine, mine, mine. And my wife’s (need to add that). This sampler at that price is like getting a Van Gogh at a garage sale as far as I am concerned. And, on top of three liters of beer, a glass. I faced a moral test of sorts as I was waiting in the store for 15 minutes alone when the owner on an early Saturday morning was back in the shop and could not hear my petitions for help because of a delivery truck rumbling. I could have walked out of the store unimpeded with these two packs and otherwise. 15 minutes is a long time for mischief.

Sometimes writing this blog can feel like homework. Even though I only compose one blog a week, I don’t want my writing to suck. Quality before quantity in writing and beer. Rather have one paragraph glass of tasty words than a keg of mediocre verbosity. Diminishing the homework vibe is the obvious fact that I love beer and love writing. But, again, I don’t want to suck.

Ommegang is a great brewery. I love every offering they make. I am particularly interested in the Gnomegang, a collaboration between Ommegang and Brasserie d ‘Achouffe (on the left in the photo). Seriously, a gnome love child from the marriage of two of the best brewers out there of Belgian ancestry.  Crazy.  I know Chimay is often seen as the literal gold standard but I think that rep is no longer to be taken as a given. There are rightful claims to the throne.

Two summers ago my wife and I went to the Belgian Beer Fest at the  Ommegang Brewery near Cooperstown. Man, forget baseball, it was all about the beer. I decided to sample as many of the hundred or so Belgian breweries present. In the nine innings of the event, my wife stayed in the home team’s dugout of Ommegang. I wanted to try the away teams stuff, but in the end of the game had to admit that Ommegang was the big bat at the event.

The price of admission per fan was something like $ 75 dollars so people wanted to get their fill and make the most of the event. A Belgian Beer Buffet of sorts, which then created casualties (due to high ABV) strewn in the fields like after the battle of Antwerp. Fortunately, it was a beautiful summer day and not one of those hot and humid beasts that the East Coast can throw at you like a beanball.  The misery index thus was tempered.  I had some good to great beers that day, and a few that were downright bad. I had a Belgian from a brewery in New York that tasted too fresh…like unpasteurized yogurt or cheesecake. The brewery did not time it right. Belgians, like wine, need to have some time to settle down, to mature, to develop as a complete player.

If you ever find beers past their sell date, don’t be too concerned if they are ales, and be downright happy if they are bottle conditioned Belgians. They will change and improve over time given the proper storage. Lagers, being more temperamental and diva-like, drop off quickly–even when stored in a cool environment, and particular at beer distributors rooms temps. Buyer beware. Some distributors try to sell cases past there due dates. Yet, the big breweries have little good in them that will go bad. Kind of like a BHT laden Twinkie. It doesn’t go bad. Instead, it exists in a chemically-frozen arc of time and space. Bad today, bad tomorrow. Bad a year from today. But, frightening and cryogenically the same.

Go, go, go for Ommegang. Just in time for Christmas.  No ho-hum. Pure Ho-H0-Ho!

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