Friday, June 20, 2014

Sidetrip: New York

We've  taken the opportunity to combine two trips and so, on our way to Lima, we have made a 3-day stopover in New York, to visit Liz's dad and stepmom.

Darrell and Jean have a very nice house in the hamlet of East Durham, in the Catskill, which sits next to the forest and a small lake, which at night rings with the calls of frogs while the forest edge flashes with fireflies.  It's really quite something.

Yesterday we went about 60 miles north-east of here to Cooperstown.  Now, Cooperstown is famous as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame museum, but we were there to indulge my wish to visit Brewery Ommegang.

Ommegang is one of the premier brewers of Belgian-style ales in the US.  It was started in the late 1990s by a local couple with 40% funding from the Duvel brewing group in Belgium.  Today, Duvel owns all of the brewery -the founders having decided to step out of brewing- but the operation continues to be run as a local craft brewery, producing just 50,000 barrels per year.

Although I knew, from visiting other breweries that not a lot of space is needed, for the output that they have and the level of distribution (45 states, and several countries) that their beers enjoy, I was bit surprised how small their facilities are.

The tour was brief, and not very involved - partly due to the size of the place, which did not require much walking from one spot to the other- but also due to rules which limited where visitors could stand and how close we could get to the equipment (not close at all, atually).  This was very different from brewery tours we had gone on in California, where one could even actually touch the fermenters and peek into the kettles.  I expect that that was probably due to NY state regulations for visitors to industrial facilities, as we were, for example, also required to have close-toed shoes and to wear safety goggles!

Ommegang draws it water from an on-site well, and we were told that it comes out of the ground pretty much brew-ready.    The hops they use come from Europe, and from Washington and Oregon.

The area used to be the major hop-producig region for the Northeast, but a blight swept through the area and decimated the crops in the early 20th century.  Hop producers who managed to survive were then done in by Prohibition.

Today, Brewery Ommgang has a small experimental hopyard at the back end of their property, were they grow hops in conjunction with Syracuse University, in order to find hops varieties that are suited to the climate and soil, but that are also blight-resistant.

The best part of the tour -as with any brewery or winery tour- was the tasting that came afterward, at which we got to sample five of Ommegangs signature brews: Witte, Hop House Ale, Rare Vos, Hennepin, Abbey Ale, and Three Philosophers.

We then decided to stay and have lunch at their recently innugurated tap house and pub.

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