Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bed & Brews at the Inn at Cooperstown - Saturday night

After the bottle share event Friday night comes a great dinner at Brewery Ommegang Saturday night.  The trolley (yes, trolley) doesn't show up until 5pm so you have all day Saturday in which to do whatever around Cooperstown.  We figured we should visit the Baseball Hall of Fame (because really if you drive all the way to Cooperstown, NY, you really should) and so we did.  Spent about two hours wandering around the museum and really enjoyed our time.  There is just so much history in baseball, it's just crazy.  After that we went to Doubleday Cafe for lunch based on a suggestion from someone on BeerAdvocate.  I got a glass of Ommegang Rare Vos because they only had Pepsi and Pepsi stinks.
Decent enough but I'll talk about it a bit more later when I talk about the dinner.

Following that we made our way back to the inn to rest up for the evening.  Around 5 we went downstairs and milled around a bit waiting, chatting with everyone.  As I said earlier, a real trolley pulled up and then took us over to Ommegang and a short trip later we arrived.  Brewery Ommegang itself was a couple of large white buildings on a huge plot of land.  There were some silos for grain, a building off to the side for storing bottles and two large buildings right in front, one which is the brewery and the other the bottling area.  Unfortunately the bottling area was being re-tiled so we didn't get to see it, but we did get to be the first tour group allowed into the newly tiled brew house.  They were re-tiling during a large renovation project in order to expand capacity due to enormous growth.  The brewery was actually shut down for a few weeks so they had their parent company, Duvel, brew a little for them over the past few weeks in order to keep up with demand.  I believe they started brewing locally again this week but don't know for sure.

Once there we made our way into the brew house.  There are enormous fermentation tanks right near the entrance along with a large tank used to fill kegs.  In the background of this picture of the group you can see the fermentation tanks (or at least that's what I think they are.)
Our tour guide, Mike, is one of the head brewers at Ommegang.  He led us on a very thorough tour where he talked about the whole brewing process in tons of depth.  Considering the tour was nearly an hour long it may have been nice to have a beer in hand but really they gave us a ton after that so it seems sort of unnecessary to complain about being beer less for an hour.  So, uh, ignore what I just said.  Here's a picture of Mike chatting with us about the brewing process.
That's a beer, not water in his hands.  Definitely a common theme on brewery tours, using beer to soothe your throat.  On his right is the tank they use to heat the grains and create the wort, I think.  It gets sent from there to a tank to filter it and then to the tank behind him for boiling.  There were tons of pipes throughout the room to send the beer to different tanks which was pretty cool.

Once the tour was over, Marc took us over to their brand new cafe.  We were only the second group to have the tasting and dinner in there so that was pretty neat.  They just finished construction of it near the middle of February and, man, was it nice.  Mike pointed out where the store used to be and they made a smart decision to move it and did a great job with the new space.  Plus the move opened up some more room in the brew house which was probably the original reason.
We went through samples of the five beers we were having with dinner plus a 2008 Ommegeddon that Marc was kind enough to bring and a bottle of Liefman's Kriek which is the kriek mixed with the Three Philosophers during brewing.  I believe Mike is pouring the Ommegeddon in the above picture.  Also in there is Betsy, another Ommegang employee.

Then, finally, the dinner.  It was a five course meal with beer pairings.  The first course was a Spicy Vietnamese Lettuce Roll served with the Rare Vos.
Very tasty start.  The Rare Vos smelled bready and sort of tangy.  Had some faint fruit notes and mostly ended up tasting malty sweet.  Very good beer to start with as it wasn't overly strong in ABV or flavor.  Nice coloring to it.
The second course was an Emerald Corn Chowder with Roasted Tomatillos and Poblanos served with the Abbey Ale, a dubbel.
I really enjoyed this soup.  The poblanos gave it a nice smoky base and the soup itself was delicious.  I thought the caramel sweetness from the Abbey went really well with it.
It smelled of caramel and toffee.  The flavor was a mix of spices, caramel and toffee with a really clean finish.  The flavors from this sort of cleaned up the palate after each bit of soup which was quite enjoyable.

Next up was a Red Cabbage Salad with Pancetta and Warm Witte Ale Vinaigrette paired with the Witte.
I thought this was the weakest of the dishes but it was by no means bad.  I enjoyed the pancetta and almonds but the cabbage itself was, well, cabbage.  It did pair really well with the Witte especially as the dressing was made with the beer.
The Witte had a clean wheat aroma.  Tasted a bit tangy with a hint of banana from the yeast.  If you've been reading for a while then you know I'm not a huge fan of normal wheat beers, but this was a pretty good offering.  Pretty sure it's made with some spices like the Abbey so that covers some of the wheat notes that I don't enjoy that much.

The main course was a Moroccan Beef Rib Tangine with Lemon Cilantro Couscous paired with Hennepin, a saison.
This was my favorite dish of the night.  The meat and the couscous were both cooked and spiced really well.  Plus the serving size was really reasonable for a main entree which was nice to see.  The spicy edge to the Hennepin went really well with it and was probably the best pairing of the night for me as well.
For a while I didn't think I was a big fan of saisons, but either I'm coming around or I just really like Hennepin.  The aroma was mild with maybe a little bit of lemon in it.  Flavor was a little spicy and finished with some citrus notes.  As I said, it paired really well with the meat dish and this was just a great main dish.

Finishing off the meal was a delicious Chocolate Mocha Cake with Dark Chocolate Ice Cream paired with Three Philosophers.
I love chocolate so this was the dessert for me.  The chocolate paired well with the caramel and fig notes of the Three Philosophers and the alcohol from the beer cut through some of the richness in the chocolate.  Three Philosophers was pretty tasty with flavors that were similar to the Abbey but more pronounced.  There was more fig and plum notes with slightly fewer caramel notes but more alcohol presence.  Good quad.  While I can't find any of the 2% kriek added to it in the flavors, Mike (the brewer) said that he's had it without that 2% and it's a completely different beer.  Surprising to me considering the tiny amount, but hey he's the man with the job not me.

Totally great dinner with great pairings.  This is the first real beer dinner I've been at with proper pairings and it was awesome.  Really makes me want to go to more beer dinners here in Philly but it's hard to toss down $120-$140 for Jo and I to go to the good ones.  I'll probably try to convince her to do one during Philly Beer Week but we'll see.

Following that we loitered around the cafe for a while and chatted with some more people that weren't at our table for dinner.  I bought some bourbon barrel stuff (and boggled that a run of only 200 bottles has lasted over 2 months according to Betsy) and then we headed back to the Inn.  Since it was only like 10:30 when we got back, I grabbed the Bell's Expedition and Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter I saved from the night before and put them out with the bottles of Ommegang we brought back from dinner.  Jo and I had also gotten a growler of the Abbey at the brewery so we put it out for people to share.  Another few hours of drinking and talking and sitting around followed, very similar in theme to Friday but with a little less variety.  I talked to someone from Exton Beverage for quite a while about the beer industry in PA.  The way the industry works is just crazy to me so it's always fun to talk to someone on the inside.

This was just such a fantastic weekend.  Marc and Sherrie, the owners, were both super nice and really involved and Marc's interest in beer shows in every aspect.  The jeroboam and glasses are both high quality and having actual Ommegang brewers deeply involved is just great.  If you are a beer lover and live on the East Coast (or hell anywhere really, but it is easier to drive), you owe it to yourself to take a trip to the Inn at Cooperstown and participate in this awesome weekend.  Jo and I met a ton of really cool people all of whom were interested in beer in some fashion.  I really can't say enough about how fun it was for both of us.  Just remember to book early since they fill up fast.


  1. Hi Rich! Thanks for the terrific write-up on the bed & brew weekend. Marc and I really appreciate the detail you have provided here and all your nice comments. Hope to see you again in the future. Sincerely, Sherrie Kingsley

  2. Thanks Sherrie! My wife and I really enjoyed our weekend and had a great time. Just a lot of fun.