A few weeks ago, Z and I attended Brewery Ommegang’s beer dinner at Cambridge Common – America’s contemporary pageant held in East Cambridge celebrating heady beers, scrumptious food, and good people (in Z's words). In this post, I will be providing the reviews of the food, while Z is providing the reviews of the beer (plus the intro and conclusion of this post). Enjoy!
Don Feinberg first opened Brewery Ommegang in 1997 and built his brew house on a re-cultivated hop farm in a building based on a traditional Belgian farmhouse close to Cooperstown, New York. Ommegang prides itself on using solely European ingredients, most notably their hops selection. The only ingredient not from Europe is water! Ommegang – which specializes in Belgian-style ales – has thrived in the States since its inception. And even after being acquired by Duvel in 2003, Ommegang extended its success to Europe by brewing in Belgium, too.
For those of you who are not familiar with Cambridge Common’s brewer’s dinners – there are between 25 to 50 patrons and press members in attendance to indulge in fine craft beers and delectable foods. The events always start with a pre-meal beer and then are followed by a starter, a soup/salad, a choice of an entrée, and then a dessert. Each course is designed to pair well with one of the brewer’s beers, and even a pre-meal beer is included to get the dinner started. On this particular evening, Cambridge Common even made vegetarian-friendly dishes for the meatless diners in the room. The beer dinners normally cost $50.
Pre-meal brew: Rare Vos, 6.5% ABV (no photo):
Our night started with Rare Vos, which Ommegang labels as Amber Ale. Rare Vos – named after a famous Brussels' bar – is a honey-colored ale and pours with a frothy and creamy head. The nose is orangey with a spicy floral aroma. The body is distinctly malty and mellow, despite the combined mouth feel of orange notes and light hops. Rare Vos finishes dry and smooth and leaves lace on the edges of the glass as you imbibe. This is definitely not a beer I would drink frequently, but it is surprisingly flavorful and has a richness that is ideal for these autumn months.
Starter - Grilled Shrimp with Gruyere Cheese and Bacon with a side of Hennepin Mustard:
The shrimp was perfectly plump, and the Gruyere added a wonderful creaminess and saltiness to the dish. The side of Hennepin mustard was almost unnecessary, and the bacon? I'd eat a shoe wrapped in bacon.
Veggie - Homemade Black Bean Cakes with Hennepin Mustard:
I actually liked these black bean cakes better than the shrimp. They were well-seasoned and hearty, without being overly filling for a starter. They definitely had more flavor and texture than the shrimp.
Both paired with Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, 7.7% ABV:
Ommegang’s farmhouse pours a golden color with the usual massive white head. Green apples and lemon overwhelm the nose. With a slight spice and a bit of bananas, the body is crisp and works well with the dry hops. Hennepin is quite carbonated and very flavorful, thus the alcohol is imperceptible. It finishes with a slight tanginess with the bubbles dissipating quickly. I love how light this is, yet it maintains a complex tanginess and is quite aromatic. This is a beer that I could drink year-round but would be optimal on a very hot day.
Soup - Cheddar, Asiago and Country Ham:
Creamy, cheesy, and silky smooth. This was definitely a rich, comforting soup - almost a little too rich to start off a heavy meal with, but delicious nonetheless.
Veggie - Apple Squash Cranberry:
This was like eating a bowl of fall flavors. I fell in love with the taste of it instantly. Lighter than the cheese soup, this vegetarian creation was warm and comforting, while also being refreshing on the palate.
Both paired with Witte Ale, 5.1% ABV (no photo):
Witte is a Belgian-white (or witbier) and is a fairly simple adaptation of a classic beer. Witte pours a golden straw color with a big head that quickly dissipates. The nose is wheat all-over and as a result, the body is thin, light, and characterized by lemony wheat. Witte finishes clean and crisp. Witte is a very light beer that is definitely brewed with summer in mind, yet there is no need for any additions. Imagine that – a delightful white ale that doesn’t require a slice of fruit!
Entree - Roasted Pork Medallions with Zuur au Jus, a side of Smashed Potatoes and Green Beans (other entree option was Waterzooi, a Flemish Stew with Chicken, Leeks, Fennel, Carrot and Potato, paired with Belgian Pale Ale, 5.7% abv):
This was one ginormous portion of pork. Thankfully, the meat was cooked to a decent temperature, the au jus was luxurious and well-seasoned, and although the sides of potatoes and green beans were nothing special, they definitely helped to round out this traditional meat-and-potatoes dish.
Veggie - Tortellini with Mushrooms, Spinach and Tomatoes:
The vegetarian pasta was a little too heavy for me after so many brews and previous dishes (thanks to the cream sauce), but it was still delicious and possessed a great balance of fresh flavors.
Both paired with Zuur (Flanders Oud Bruin), 6.0% abv:
Zuur is, simply put, a sour brown ale. Zuur pours a reddish-brown color with a small head. The aroma is overwhelmingly sour cherries and is complemented by woody malts and a slight vinegar flavor. The body fades too quickly, not giving you enough time to enjoy the tartness. Nevertheless, this is a phenomenal beer that epitomizes sour ales!
Dessert - Cheesecake:
I'm lactose-intolerant, so cheesecake has never really been "my thing." However, CC's version on this night was surprisingly light, yet still creamy and rich like a true cheesecake.
Paired with Three Philosophers Quadrupel, 9.8% abv:
The last beer of the evening – Three Philosophers – combines an excellent blend of a Belgian strong ale and a cherry Lambic. The beer pours a dark, rich brown color with a tiny head. The aroma is a cherry sweetness and is complemented by vanilla and dark malts. A taste of cherries in the body, but mostly comprised of rich malts, cocoa, and even a touch of raisins. The beer improves as it warms, enabling you to savor every sip. An exceptional beer and a great choice for pairing with chocolate or even by itself!
Ultimately, Ommegang presented us with several amazing beers, which truly represents their claim that their beers aren’t “overhopped or overhyped” – they are “functional art, crafted to make your dining and drinking experience something to behold.”
Disclaimer: The generous former managers of Cambridge Common (who now run the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont) were nice enough to allow Z and I to enjoy this beer dinner free of charge. Despite their generosity, all opinions expressed in this blog are 100% our own.