Living in Upstate New York has its advantages, namely great beer. Ommegang is a leader in craft brewing that is delivering some of the finest state-side Belgian beers. Located in beautiful Cooperstown New York, this is a destination worth making planning a trip around. But one of the unfortunate realities of living east of the Mississippi is no New Belgium beer! I was fortunate enough to make a trip out there this past year and did a tour. This is another of the great breweries in America and they are brewing some fine Belgian brews. So now the question is, who makes a better Abbey, New Belgium or Ommegang? I was lucky enough to try these two head to head and here are my tasting notes:
- Ommegang, Abbey 8.5% ABV - The aroma was nutty, sweet melted caramel with chocolate hints. Reminiscent of that candy with liquor in it. It pours very aggressive with a huge head, the result of their bottle conditioning. The head color is french vanilla and holds for a long time. The taste is fruity with hints of raisins and dark dried fruits. There is an alcohol warming on the backside of the brew that does not hold for very long, but is very apparent. This is a big, bold aggressive Abbey that hits your sense hard. If you like Abbey flavors, this is right up your alley.
- New Belgium, Abbey 7% ABV - There is a hint of smokiness in the nose, it stands out in the aroma, but it doesn't overwhelm the experience. There are sweet pleasant fruity aromas that tuck behind the smokey earthy flavor. This brew pours much less aggressively, more like a brew you would expect at this high of an alcohol level. The head is off white, a little lighter than the Ommegang, but not much. The head falls fast and leaves some nice lacing. The flavor has a strong smokey hit upfront, but again, its not overwhelming. It works with the intense bouquet of other flavors. The beer is smooth and very pleasant. All of the flavors are toned down to give this an almost session beer experience for a big style and ABV. There are earthy tones that stick with you as a result of the smokey front end.
Overall, I would have to say I personally am a fan of the Ommegang over the New Belgium. It's a personal preference though. The two are VERY similar and both outstanding examples of the style. The New Belgium's balance of the smokey hints gives the experience depth without overwhelming the pallet. However, Ommegang is more of what I expect out of an Abbey; sweet, warmth, heavy brew that's like fine candy in a bottle.