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Monday, September 23, 2013

Brewery Ommegang's XV Anniversay Ale

  • Style: Belgian-Style Dark Ale (Quad)
  • ABV: 9.60%
  • Season: One & done
  • Ease to locate: Large liquor stores that carry Ommegang.  I received this as a Christmas present and sat on it for a while, but I still see it on shelves at places like Binny's or Fischman Liquors  (who actually had at least 2 on their shelf as of 9/19/13.  Yes, I checked when making a beer run.  I'm always thinking of you guys.  Always.) It comes in a tin cylinder. 
  • Color: Dense, very dark brown, but not quite black.  Slight ruby tints in the light.
  • Head: Thick, light tan 1 & 1/2 finger head with lots of sticky lacing
  • Aroma: Lots of dark fruit (such as plums and raisins), candy sugar and a bit of sweet caramel malts.  Distinct Belgium yeast aroma that grows stronger as it opens up.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with a nice amount of fizzy carbonation.
  • Finish: Moderate.  The expected, yet sneaky, alcohol warms your throat as it goes down smoothly.  One of the nicer finishes I've experienced in a while.
  • Food friendly: Sort of.  I'd try pairing it with some roasted or braised red meat, like a nice prime rib.  Serve with buttery cheese, such as Swiss, or a selection with a bit of a bite, like an extra sharp cheddar.


It's easy to over look the obvious sometimes.  Last Christmas, one of my bosses bought me a selection of  beers that some guy at Binny's talked him into purchasing.  Now, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'll admit that the three beers that the boss bought were still squatting in my cellar over seven months later.  New, fresher, more exciting (by my obviously ignorant standards anyway) beers had come and gone, but this New Yorker along with some Canadian "Eh?" beers,  were still sitting like birds in the wilderness, waiting for the house to buy a drink. 

Side note: It's been brought to my attention that anyone viewing my blog on an Apple device can't see the YouTube videos that I post (I should probably start checking my blog on my phone more often, huh?)  For you guys, I'm going to start posting the link to the video posted.  For the full Down the Hatch experience extravaganza. 

Grandma sings Birds in the Wilderness

                                                                                           My dad would sing this song all the time.  The actual words are "Here we all sit like birds in the wilderness.  
                                                                                          The house won't buy a drink."  Watch the grandma as she realizes that she needed to change the lyrics to suit her audience. 

 I didn't forget about this beer.  How could I?  The boss questioned me about the bottle every so often.  I kindly responded lied through my teeth about waiting for the right night to share it.  And every time I went down to my basement cellar, fully outfitted with the latest in beer technology, it stared back at me accusingly.  Around June, I transferred it upstairs to my fridge, partly out of guilt, mainly out of the need for cellar shelf space.  And I insisted that I was just waiting for a special occasion to crack open the bottle.  But this summer was a difficult one for my family and the "right" special occasion just never presented itself.  Finally, on one random Friday night, I decided to throw caution to the wind and open the bottle (read, get it the hell out of my fridge .)   I wasn't excited by it, but both my brother and my father wanted a beer so it seemed like a good time to get rid of it give it a shot..  Ommegang packaged this Quad Ale in a special, ready to gift, cylindrical tin that reminded me of something I might have found in the Swiss Colony catalog.  So, of course, it couldn't be that good, right?  Here are two things that I have learned in my life, 1) never get involved in a land war in Asia and 2) don't bet against Ommegang when it comes to producing amazing American style Belgiums.  
Looks like a stout, drinks like a deliciously bitter sweet, dark fruity piece of heaven .

Ommegang's XV Anniversary Ale poured a dark, almost black, brown liquid.  Soft ruby highlights edged the outskirts of the glass when held to the light.  A very , one and a half finger light tan head rose from the bottom up.  Huge clumps of foam clung to the glass, creating a dense coating of Belgium lace.  The strong aroma of dark fruits, such as plums and raisins, whiffed up from the brew.  Mixed into the aroma were softer notes of the typical candy sugars and yeast esters that you might expect from a Belgium style ale.  A soft, malty, caramel sweetness supported the rest of the aroma perfectly.  It was a wonderful beer to just sit and sniff on a cool Friday evening (what?  You guys don't lounge around your backyard sniffing beers on the weekend?  Weirdos.)   The taste of this dark ale, however, was much more complex than it's pretty straight forward aroma.  I found the malt backbone to be more present and complex on the tongue than on the nose.  Mixed in with the flavor of the caramel malts were notes of toffee, molasses and a bit of chocolate.  The fruit profile expanded as well.  In addition to the plums and raisins, I could also taste some dried cherries.  The slight tartness from the cherries assisted greatly in keeping the overall sweetness (mostly from the candy sugar) in check.  This was the sort of ale that tastes best on a mid sixty degree night, maybe snuggled around a fire pit, in the company of people that make you laugh.  The mouthfeel was medium with a good amount of fizzy scrubbing bubbles clearing away the malty sweetness.  I really enjoyed the moderate finish.  It started off a bit sweet, but between the very slight tartness of the cherries and the just right carbonation, it became dryer as the mouthful progressed.  A very low hit of alcohol warmth emerged on the tail end, trailing its way down my throat ever so pleasantly.
You know that I love Belgiums.
You know that I love lacing.
    You do the math.
 I would serve Brewery Ommegang's XV Anniversary Ale with a slightly filling, but still early Autumn friendly, meal.  Possibly a Prime Rib with Thyme Au Jus served with a side of French style Haricot Verde (green beans) for an early Fall weekend dinner.   I could also see this Quad working well along side a simple, but satisfying, ever so savory/sweet bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.  I'm not sorry that I took so long to break open this bottle to enjoy.  I'm also not sorry that because of my poor planning, my family and I imbibed it with Subway sandwiches (OK, maybe I'm slightly sorry for that.  There's a reason that you don't see Jerrod hoisting a few with his turkey on whole wheat.)  Instead I choose to be glad that I learned a valuable lesson from the experience: Don't judge a beer by it's hokey holiday packaging.  Yes, the tin might have been some marketing genius' idea to get people to grab their bottle instead of a typical bottle of wine for a holiday party.  But think how incredibly lucky that host would be to receive this delicious strong ale instead of an umpteenth  bottle of comically  named holiday wine ("Santa's Candy Cane Zinfandel" anyone? No?  Bueller?)  I also learned that my boss, who hadn't typically bought me a present in the past, really enjoyed being able to do his Christmas shopping at a liquor store.  I'm thinking of sending his with a list this year.  Anything to make my his life a little easier, you know.