Total Score: 86.5, B Reviewed 11/25/2011
If the Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t enough to get you to Cooperstown, NY, then we can’t be friends here’s another reason: Brewery Ommegang, one of the more unique craft breweries in America. Ommegang has been exclusively brewing Belgian-style ales since it was opened in 1997 by Belgian beer expert Don Feinberg, and is now owned by famed Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat. Producing six year-round beers and a host of seasonal and specialty beers that are all in high demand, Ommegang brews beer in both Cooperstown and Belgium.
Today’s beer is Hennepin, a farmhouse saison that is one of Ommegang’s year-round offerings. Saisons are typically refreshing and effervescent, featuring citrusy fruit aromas and flavors, with spicy, hoppy, and yeasty tones in secondary roles. They pair well with just about any food, and Ommegang recommends pairing Hennepin with an array of dishes from bread and cheeses to fish and shellfish, and even Thai and Indian dishes. Hennepin is ranked by BeerAdvocate users as the #8 Saison in the world, but also has garnered widespread praise from beyond the craft beer world. As the bottle points out, Hennepin is named after the Belgian missionary Louis Hennepin, who is credited with discovering Niagara Falls as well as exploring other parts of the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions. Of course, he’s also been accused of falsifying many of his accounts, most notably by the Catholic Encyclopedia.
In a much appreciated email to Behind The Brews, Brewmaster Phil Leinhart explained that Hennepin is brewed with pilsner malt, pale malt, and like many saisons, corn and dextrose as adjuncts. It also features subtle spices including ginger, as well as Styrian Golding and Spalter Select hops. Phil was also kind enough to share his own personal tasting notes on Hennepin with me, describing it as slightly estery and hoppy, very slight vanilla-y, and well-balanced with a fast finish.
Let’s have a taste.
Poured from 12 oz. bottle into Duvel Collection tulip. Cloudy dull gold in color, huge white head that fizzles away unevenly leaving elegant lacing. Visible effervescence. A beer couldn’t look much better than this. Smell is very crisp, mostly fruity and yeasty with moderate spiciness. I am picking up a bit of something plastic-y, kind of like a cheap plastic raft you buy to float around the pool. I know that’s a weird analogy, but that’s the first thing that popped into my head. Sadly, it’s now become a significant distraction from the otherwise good smells. A bit of oranges and green apples in the taste, but the balance actually swings more in the direction of clove-like spiciness. The alcohol was a little too apparent in the beginning but fades out of the way as you sip it. Definitely a healthy dose sourness and dry bitterness that both cause some puckering. Complex and interesting, but not exactly what I’d call refreshing. Highly carbonated, very dry in the cheeks, dry/sour finish that lingers for a while.
In the end Hennepin is certainly above average, but it’s not blowing me away. Spicy and yeasty characteristics were too much for my tastes. Drinkable but not remarkable.
Looks: 10/10 Smell: 8.5/10 Taste: 8.5/10 All-Around: 8.5/10