Held at the Henderson, Nevada BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, the dinner featured the beers of the Cooperstown, New York-based Brewery Ommegang, the first farmstead brewery built in the US in over a hundred years and one of the first US breweries to specialize in Belgian styles. We were welcomed by BJ’s GM Jamie Uphoff, who talked us through each course and provided tidbits about the featured brewery and the beers and dishes we were treated to.
We were off and running with Ommegang’s most popular beer, Hennepin, a 7.7% ABV slightly sweet Saison with ginger, orange peel and a dry Champagne-like effervescent finish. Jamie pointed out that this beer was one of the first Saisons ever brewed in the US and the spice and sweetness of the beer complemented the spicy Chinese mustard and sweet sesame soy sauce served with the accompanying Lettuce Chicken Wraps.
A palate cleanser/intermission beer was next, the Ommegang Hop House, which Jamie informed us pays homage to the hop farm that 100 years ago was situated on the 136 acres where the brewery stands today, when Cooperstown was the epicenter of US hop production in the 19th century. As would be expected, this 54 IBU Belgian-style Pale Ale is liberally dry hopped, leading to citrusy, spicy and floral hop aromas and flavors.
BJ’s own multi-award-winning Nit Wit—an unfiltered Belgian-style Witbier brewed with wheat, coriander and orange peel, that has been awarded more GABF and World Beer Cup medals than any other BJ’s beer—was matched with Spicy Pig Tavern-Cut Pizza loaded with ham, bacon, pineapple and jalapeno. Jamie pointed out this was another complementary pairing, with the spices all merging harmoniously together and the acidity of the beer matched with that of the five-cheese blend.
Our next palate cleanser featured the 9.5% ABV Gnomegang, a collaboration first brewed in 2010 featuring the signature yeast from the Belgian brewery Brasserie d’Achouffe, with clove aroma, fruity esters and a smooth maltiness.
Baby Back Pork Ribs and White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes were paired with Ommegang Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis (means “all men must drink”), a Dubbel Ale the brewery brewed for the HBO TV show in December 2013, the 4th beer in the series of beers designed to tie into themes and nuances of the show; and this bold 8% ABV dark beer was able to stand up to the heartiness of the meaty ribs.
Ommegang Abbey, another 8% ABV Dubbel, was our next intermission beer. First brewed in 1997 and styled after ales brewed by Belgian Trappist monks, it is dark, rich and malty, thanks to its recipe utilizing several different malts.
The final pairing was BJ’s signature Salted Caramel Pizookie with white chocolate, pretzel bites and vanilla bean ice cream served with Ommegang Rare Vos, which is named after a Belgian café outside of Brussells. Jamie said it is the most food-friendly of all Ommegang beers, and complementary flavors of the caramel sauce atop the cookie blended with the rich, sweet, malty flavor of this 6.5% ABV Amber Ale.
But we weren’t quite done yet, for a liquid dessert of Ommegang Three Philosophers proved to be a grand finale worth saving some room for. This 9.7% ABV Quadruple brewed with roasted malt and sweet and sour cherries delivered notes of dark fruits, coffee, currants, raisins and chocolate—showing more complexity than any wine.
Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for Gayot.com. He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.