Part of eating local means eating seasonal foods. Spring doesn’t bring a whole lot to the market, so it’s a time to clean out the pantry and the freezer of all the goods you preserved last the winter. After all, summer is just around the corner. And with it, will come new bounty.
But what about drinking seasonally?
Most local beers, wines and spirits don’t necessarily have a season per se. However, you may prefer to have a spicy baco noir in the fall, warm up to some Rare Pear by the fire in winter, crush a bit of fresh mint for juleps in the spring, or have a light and refreshing seyval blanc in the summer.
But there is one beer made just outside of Cooperstown, from the nationally renowned Brewery Ommegang, whose heritage is of a distinctly seasonal nature. And farmhouse season is fast approaching.
Say what you will about the cold of winter, but I can always put on a sweater or buy a heavier coat. The heat of summer is brutal. Honestly I can’t even imagine how people get through the peak of it without central air conditioning.
But I grew up as a kid in Miami, Florida. I have central air conditioning running through my veins.
Plus to make matters worse, summer is when there’s physically demanding work to do. Gardens need to be tended, farms need to be worked, and lawns need to be mowed. And after a hard afternoon of physical labor it’s nice to have a cold and refreshing beer.
These days regional lawnmower beers could be something like Genesee or Utica Club. What they lack in flavor they make up for in refreshment. The venerable Mr. Dave has written extensively about New York’s blue collar brews.
Weighing in at 7.7% alcohol by volume, Ommegang’s Hennepin may make you a little lightheaded after a bit of yard work, but the origins of this style date back to when it was intended for seasonal farm hands. Granted, back then this belgian farmhouse ale packed less of a kick.
You also might look a little funny drinking beer out of tulip shaped glass, when you are sweating and covered in grass clippings.
With beers this aromatic, it makes sense to pay attention to the glass you use. It is really difficult to bury your nose into a pint glass. But if you fail to appreciate the aroma of Ommegang’s Hennepin, you are missing out. It’s yeasty and earthy, with a little bit of spice, citrus, and fruit.
Don’t you even think about drinking this beer from the bottle. Then you would miss out its pale golden color and pillowy white head. But more importantly, you can’t put your nose in the bottle neck either.
If you can’t smell your beer, you’re going to have an awfully difficult time tasting your beer.
And this beer tastes great. The aromas are echoed on the palate. There’s a core of malty sweetness, but just enough to know its there and serve as a foil for the bitterness of the hops. At the finish, Hennepin is dry and totally refreshing.
The brewery suggests because its made with ginger that it’s an obvious pairing for Asian foods. I’m less convinced. To me this beer screams summer and summer screams grilled burgers. Hennepin has the guts to stand up to the flavor of meat and smoke, yet still come through with fruitiness and spice, while refreshing the palate to prepare you for another bite.
Plus it’s a Belgian style and that means it will pair fantastically with fries. But since it’s American, you should feel free to drink it with tater tots.
Hennepin is also simply a great choice for sitting on the deck on a hot summer night, when you can unwind, relax, and really take the time to enjoy this well made beer. While it may seem like spring has barely just begun, those summer nights are right around the corner.
About Daniel B.
A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany