Beer Review 0005: Ommegang Hennepin

Hennepin, brewed by Ommegang Brewery, is a Belgian Saison ale. What’s Saison, you ask? Saison translates to “season” in French and is the name given to low-alcohol ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, which is a French speaking region of Belgium. The beer was made to refresh farm workers during harvest. The traditional Saison has an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of around 3.5-4%, but modern Saison beers are generally higher, with Hennepin coming in at 7.7%

More on Saison: This type of beer was normally brewed in the autumn and winter because it prevented spoilage. This style actually had a purposeful use for farmhands way back when most of what we ate came from the earth; since there was a lack of potable water, the alcohol in the beer would prevent illness and give farmers the hydration they needed.

Hennepin, like the majority of Saison ales, is bottle conditioned for long term storage. But hey, beer is beer and it must be drank, so to celebrate the arrival of 2011, I pulled the cork from a bottle of this New York made Belgian. (Should that be Belgian-styled New Yorker?)

This beer pours to a mighty, gigantic and huge head that doesn’t just hang around, it pulls up a chair and practically has a conversation with you. I swear, you’d think it were alive, and it took two pours to get my glass full or else risk vessel escape of this precious liquid. The color is a pale straw yellow with just enough hint of orange to not make it look like a glass of apple juice (er, okay, urine) and it’s slightly cloudy from yeast sediment.

I found the aromatics to be somewhat subdued. I was looking for a smell of funk or some type of twang from this Saison, but it’s not really there. What is there is pleasant albeit hidden — notes of lemon and bready yeast. I also faintly detected some ginger and clove with some spices.

The funk I was looking for is found when liquid touches lips. Hennepin is extremely earthy with that citrus kick along with green apple. There was an alcohol note that was quite medicinal, but in a good way, followed by clove and spice that just danced lively on the tongue, warmed the throat and continued through the chest and rest of body.

The only comparison I can think of to describe the “funky” feeling of this beer is a grape leaf pickle. The beer itself tastes nothing like a pickle, but the reactions to the flavors are similar in the fact that a grape leaf pickle dropkicks your palate with its sour and tangy notes. Hennepin does the same with an uppercut to your taste buds, a complex and crisp, spicy and earthy blast that warms you and leaves you begging for more.

To say I like this beer would be an understatement.

I gave Hennepin a perfect score in both appearance and flavor, knocking three points off for a subdued and disappointing aroma and one point off the overall experience.

This is an easy drinker and oh so fun. Fresh and zippy, I will take one of these anytime and I believe it would go with just about any food. Hennepin would be perfect on a hot summer day, perhaps kicked back on the deck whilst grilling hamburgers and enjoying an evening relaxing. You must try this beer.

Hennepin, 96 points, the first beer to be rated classic on my point scale. Price: $7.99 US for 750ml bottle.

Who would have ever guessed this beer came out of New York?


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