foodie 1

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bed and Brew: A visit to the Inn at Cooperstown and Brewery Ommegang

For my 30th birthday Amy presented me with a trip up to Cooperstown, NY to visit my favorite brewery, Brewery Ommegang. As many of our friends know, we base our travels basically around fine dining options and local beers. This combined the best of both worlds.

Bed and breakfast room are always fun!
The Inn at Cooperstown offers a bed and brew package for visitors to the area once a month from October to May. The package includes a two night stay, a jeroboam of Ommegang Abbey Ale (a rich dubbel), two chalices, a sweatshirt or two t-shirts from Ommegang, a brewer-led tour of the brewery, a full tasting of Ommegang's beers, and a five-course dinner paired with the Ommegang beers. Your liver gets a good workout from the weekend. In case you were wondering, what is a jeroboam?, it's a 3 liter bottle (one step up from a magnum or 1.5 L bottle). Here's the jeroboam so you can get an idea of how enormous a bottle of beer is provided.

Jeroboam of Abbey ale and chalices

After checking in on Friday, we walked through downtown Cooperstown and grabbed some dinner at Alex and Ika's on the recommendation of one of Amy's Facebook friends who happens to work for Duvel, Ommegang's parent company. We had a nice dinner and got our bellies full for what came next: craft/homebrew beer night. Starting at 8, we went to town. All the guests brought some kind of beer, and it was all excellent. The owner of the Inn, Marc, brought over two growlers of his own beer, and a bunch of Ommegang employees came over along with special brews. We got to sample a bourbon barrel aged Three Philosophers that made me insanely jealous it's no longer available. We also tried out a brand new Ommegang beer, Seduction, a cherry stout brewed with cocoa. Other memorable beers included a cherry beer from New Glarus, the 2010 Christmas Ale I brought from Anchor Brewing, and several good Belgian beers from La Chouffe.
Part of the homebrew/craft beer night extravaganza
The next day we went around to continue our beerstravaganza. We joined up with a great couple we met from Philadelphia, Beth and Andy, and visited a few places. Our first stop was Fly Creek Cider Mill. They had just about anything you could think of there. Regular cider, hard cider, cider barbeque sauce, cheese, apples, candy, coffee, etc. We left with a regular cider and a bottle of raspberry apple cider. Next stop was Butternuts Beer and Ale. There we found one of the Ommegang staff from the previous night on hand to serve us all kinds of samples. They had some nice canned beer, and we got a cool tour of their production facility within an old barn. We ended up buying a six pack of their wheat beer, as it was delicious. Their pumpkin ale was also fantastic, but not in cans sadly. From there we pressed on to our final stop, Cooperstown Brewing. At the brewery, we went through another tour and sampled all of their beers. The styles were more English in nature, and we enjoyed several. My personal favorite was the Pride of Milford, a reddish fruity ale.

Saturday night was the big one: the trip up to Ommegang. We all gathered and were taken up to the brewery in a trolley. Upon our arrival we were taken into the brewery for our tour. We've been to a lot of breweries, but I've never seen a facility that was so bright and clean. The brewhouse smelled amazing, and from the looks of things Ommegang is thankfully expanding significantly in terms of space and production capability. From what we were told, production right now is around 400,000 barrels a year, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 million gallons of beer. All right!
The cleanest brewery I've ever seen
The brew kettle and mash tun
The bottling line
Awesome keg washer/filler

After the tour we headed back to the visitors center and cafe and proceeded to sample all of what Ommegang had on hand that night. We started with BPA, or Belgian Pale Ale, a spicy, hoppy and effervescent ale. From there we move to Witte (we learned pronounced Wit-ah), a refreshing, light and estery Belgian style wheat beer. The next beer was Hennepin, a traditional Saison-style beer that is slightly hoppy but full of spiciness from both the hops and the yeasts used for fermentation. Next was Rare Vos, a amber ale that is malty and a little sweet. The next to last beer was Abbey Ale, a Belgian-style dubbel that is dark, sweet, fruity and delicious. The final beer served to us was Three Philosophers, a super-strong quadrupel blended during the brewing with a cherry kriek, or sour cherry ale.
Sampling glass rack, with the regular beers on top (pictured with their corresponding glasses)

The various ingredients that go into the Ommegang beers. Besides grains and hops, there was also bitter orange peel, licorice root, grains of paradise, star anise, ginger, and candi sugar.
Following all that beer, it was time to eat! As I said before, each course was paired with a specific Ommegang beer. We started with a potato pancake served on cooked apples and some pulled pork, which was paired with Witte.
Witte- a traditional wheat beer with tons of clove and banana flavors
The potato pancake and pork goodness

The second course was a cheese-bacon soup paired with Hennepin.

Hennepin, a traditional farmhouse ale-spicy, a little hoppy and delicious
Bacon, cheese and beer in soup form? Yes please!
The salad was a frisee salad with goat cheese and roasted beets in a Rare Vos dressing.
Rare Vos- a very flavorful amber ale. 

For our entree, we were served a giant sausage plate, featuring three types of sausage (I believe a fresh kielbasa, a bratwurst, and a weisswurst), served over beer-infused sauerkraut and spaetzel. The rich food in this course was paired with Abbey Ale.
Abbey Ale- a traditional dubbel, full of dried fruit and tons of malt flavors
Can't go wrong with delicious sausages
Our dessert was a dark fruit-cake style cake paired with Three Philosophers
Three Philosophers- dark, somewhat sweet, with a great cherry flavor from the kriek blended in during brewing. Awesome with chocolate, most desserts, or by itself. Just be careful at 9% ABV.
I loved the cake, Amy wasn't as big of a fan
Overall the food was great. We had plenty of beer at each course, and ended up taking about six leftover bottles back with us to the Inn. Plus we bought plenty of great stuff in the giftshop and added to our glass collection with four Duvel tulip glasses. We shared the rest of our opened bottles with Beth and Andy back in their fabulous suite and went to bed full and satisfied.
Each table had four sets of these beers!
Our trip back was subdued compared to all the drinking that went on the previous few days. We did stop by Iron Hill Brewery in Lancaster, PA to meet up with my brother. They had some great beers on tap, including a dubbel, a great English brown ale, and a harvest Belgian ale. We walked out with another four bottles to add to my growing collection, but life's tough sometimes.

Overall it was a great weekend! I'd highly recommend it to any beer afficionados, especially if you like Beglian-style ales.

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