Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer of the Week: Ommegang Ommegeddon ’08

I TASTE A  LOT OF BEER. Sometimes, I find about what I expected. Sometimes, I’m disappointed. And occasionally — very occasionally — I’m totally blown away. It was like that this week when I popped the cork on a big 750 ml. bottle of Ommegeddon 2008 **** from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y. Wow! It’s our Beer of the Week and easily one of the best I’ve sampled this year.

The style is saison, a kind of farmhouse ale popular in Belgium a century or so ago. It’s a cloudy, unfiltered, dusty gold, with a big creamy head that lasts and lasts. There’s a bit of “horse collar” or barnyard in the nose. But from the first sip, it’s a pure delight; there is an intriguing balance between the faint malt sweetness and a mild sourness.

At the end, there’s a hit of ginger and warming alcohol, ripe fruit, maybe pears and lord knows what else. The finish strongly reminds me of Orval, the Belgian Trappist ale bottled with both a regular beer yeast and a strain of brettanomyces, a wild yeast.

Ommegang is a Belgian-style brewery founded by two longtime fans of Belgian beer. It is now owned by Duvel Moortgat, the famous Belgian brewery.

They’ve outdone themselves with this baby. It’s 8 percent alcohol by volume (quick reference: Red Tail Ale is 5 percent), made with Belgian pale and pilsner malts. Hops are Styrian Goldings and spicy, earthy Saaz. A dose of a wild yeast, brettanomyces, is added to each bottle for a slow, secondary fermentation. My guess is if this beer ever has a
chance to age, the funky horse collar note will intensify.

Ommegeddon 2008 is making its way to better beer stores now.

Speaking of beers that may make a brief appearance in the Bay Area and go away, by all means check out Flying Dog Kerberos ***1/2, a Belgian-style, 8.5 percent triple: orange-ish color, nose of malt and spicy hops with a tart, spicy finish. That’s a detail from the label, right. If you find a bottle on a back shelf somewhere, my advice: Buy it.