On May 22, 2012 my older brother and I met up with Brewery Ommegang‘s brewmaster Phil Leinhart on his home turf aka his recently expanded Belgian style brewery in Cooperstown, NY. Upon our arrival Phil was there to greet us and began sharing information about current projects that are in the works, the first of which was a new water treatment system. While Brewery Ommegang already filters and treats its waste water on premises, due to new state regulations a more advanced water treatment system will be built across the road from the brewery and attached to the brewery using underground pipes. From the way he explained it, this new system will involve a complex installation process, but in the end it’ll be better for the environment. I asked him if there were plans to reuse any of the treated water and Phil remarked that he had spoken to a staff member at Stone Brewing Co. while at the 2012 and Craft Brewers Conference / World Beer Cup (he was a beer judge there) and was told that Stone reuses some of its water to water plants and wash floors. So Ommegang may reuse its water for similar purposes if possible.
After putting on some protective eyewear we entered the brewery, first stopping to take a peek at a new state of the art quality control lab. The next area of the brewery that we checked out can be called “the main hub” being that it houses bright tanks which hold beer before it’s put in bottles or kegs. In addition, a new yeast propagation system and tiled floor have been put in as part of improvements (i.e. additions) that have been made to the brewery over the past two years). Another important piece of equipment that caught my eye was their pilot brew system…More in the video about the conception of new beers.
We then entered the brew house where we got to see the brewers at work and were shown additions such as a new boiler, glycol system (used to cool water and regulate fermentation temperatures), new outdoor fermenters, and the truck being filled with spent brewing grains (clip included in video). We then back tracked to the hallways containing the outlets to the outdoor fermentors and got to try a new beer called Biere de Hougoumont, a biere de garde being bottled this week and released sometime this summer (more info. in the video).
Before heading to the new Ommegang visitors center and cafe Phil brought us to the expanded bottling facility, which has pretty much tripled in size since my 2010 visit to the brewery. With the help of Duvel, Brewery Ommegang’s potential production capacity has increased almost five fold (more info. in the video).
Upon arriving at the visitors center we went straight to the cafe to sample one of Brewery Ommegang’s latest limited release beers called Art of Darkness, a 8.9% Belgian strong dark ale. Initial impressions included aromas of dark fruits, caramel, and yeast esters that followed through into the taste and were joined with hints of wheat malt and distinct plum and dark cherry notes. Due to the use of various types of malted wheat the mouthfeel of this beer was a tad more full than other beers of its style. I remarked that it would be a great dessert beer. Afterwards my brother and I asked Phil a few more questions (included in the video) and said our goodbyes as he had another meeting to get to.
Before leaving the brewery my brother an I each had two beers (Me: Art of Darkness and BPA, my brother Hennepin and Maredsous Blonde) and got to chat with one of the brewers who was enjoying a beer in the cafe. He informed us about the five round the clock days of brewing done each week at Brewery Ommegang and clarified that beers are brewed as needed. Except of course when new beers and seasonal brews are on deck for subsequent release. From our chat I got a good picture of the passion that goes into brewing consistently great belgian style beers at Brewery Ommegang.