The Beer: BPA, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
The Pub: Iron Horse Taproom, in Northwest DC
What you need to know: Belgian Pale Ale is the “lawnmower beer” of the most complex beer culture in the Western world. According to Beer Advocate’s writeup of the style, it was originally developed after World War II for Belgian brewers to compete with the widely spreading Czech pilsner. That said, it’s not too far off of an English or American Pale Ale in flavor or color. However, the fruity characteristics typical of a Belgian yeast combined with the relative simplicity of grain bill give it just that twinge of distinction.
Brewery Ommegang is a farmhouse brewery situated on 136 rolling acres in the old hop belt of America, Central New York. The brewery was founded in 1997, and was purpose-built for brewing Belgian-style ales. This is one of the few breweries reviewed here that I’ve actually visited, and I can honestly say that it’s one of the happiest places on Earth. The Brewery sold controlling interest to Duvel in 2003, but their Belgian overlords allow them free reign to brew as they like, and so they still brew their lineup of 6 year-round Belgian-style ales with about a dozen seasonal special ales. The BPA, in fact, began as a seasonal ale before going full-time last year.
So, About this beer: Pours a pale amber with a thin white head. Straw and bitter hop aromas on the initial raise. A heavily carbonated mouthfeel carries fruity malt sweetness, subsumed quickly by a bitter hop snap. Heavy mineral flavors in the aftertaste. A really nice beer that mixes Belgian fruitiness with the flavors you’ve come to expect from an American-brewed pale ale.
The Verdict: Now, while this isn’t my favorite offering from this brewery (that would be either their eponymous Abbey Ale or their Hennepin saison, depending on which day you ask me), it’s quite tasty, and the fruity characteristics provided by the yeast make it different enough to stand out in a quite frankly crowded style. I’d recommend it as a very good alternative to the typical pale ale, and it’s definitely a cut above other Belgian pales.