Brewery Ommegang and Cooperstown, N.Y.- baseball, brothers and beer
A week of bonding with three brothers on a beer and baseball trip couldn’t have turned out any better last week. Traveling to the small, cozy town of Cooperstown, NY, we avoided the fandom masses of baseball Hall of Fame inductions and were treated to hometown friendliness and hospitality.
Driving into New York state after meeting up in Ohio, we brothers were accompanied for miles and miles by beautiful, densely packed bouquets of treetops, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. When you think New York, you think New York City. Or at least I do. Or did…because I’ll think of this part of the state from now on.
I’m unable to think of another town in the country where two nationally known enterprises exists like in Cooperstown. Not only is it the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame but also the highly-regarded Brewery Ommegang, and if you love baseball and beer like we do, well, then you’re in heaven. Having two destination places in a small town like this is like uncovering a couple of rare art pieces at a neighborhood yard sale. One? Maybe. But two?
At the Hall of Fame, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour set up by a hometown neighbor who is the curator. We were allowed to see some hidden and historic documents, boxed up old uniforms, and I was even able to handle, er, fondle, a Babe Ruth bat!
After our tour concluded, we drove to Brewery Ommegang later that evening for a pre-arranged dinner. Ommegang has been adored and admired after opening in 1997 for their unique and awesome portrayal of Belgian-style beers, and their purchase a few years ago by Duval Moortgaat has enabled them to have a more national presence, as they now distribute to 46 states.
Developed on 136 picturesque acres suitable for a postcard, Brewery Ommegang sits on what originally was a hop farm until the curse of prohibition destroyed that too. Ommegang built their farmhouse-looking brewery while creating their Belgian-inspired beers, and each one of them is so different and delicious, I was thrilled to get them nice and fresh.
I was not always a fan of Belgian beers but thankfully my palate turned the corner and I’m now able to fully appreciate them. I particularly enjoyed Ommegang’s “Rare Vos”, an amber ale brewed with sweet orange peel, “Gnomegang”, a Belgian-style blonde ale, and “Three Philosophers” quadrupel ale.
Additionally, Ommegang flexed their creative muscles by delivering “Nirvana”, a wonderful American IPA representation, which I think is very cool because it deviates from their norm. The beer actually was brewed at sister-brewery Boulevard, because of their dry hopping and 6-pack production abilities. Sadly, “Nirvana” is only available in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Ommegang’s most recent home run is the “Game of Thrones” series, which has become immensely popular. None were available during my trip to the brewery but we were able to share some of “Third-Eyed Raven”, an incredible dark saison ale, at a pub along the way.
After playing 18 holes of what was supposed to be golf, we visited Ommegang again the next day for beer-to-go and store shopping, before moving on..
We continued on our journey to the “Finger Lakes” region of New York, which is named for the shape of the natural bodies of water. Looking kind of like the artwork on a Monster energy drink, or even better, think Edward Scissorhands scratching thin gouges down the central part of New York state. There you have the finger lakes.
Spirits were lifted after more bad golf when we found a quaint little brewery with the best beer deal I’ve ever seen! In Canandaigua (Can-non-DAY-gwa), we visited Naked Dove Brewing after we had been enjoying their IPA at our resort bar the evening before. How’s this for a deal: four measly dollars will provide you a full sample of Naked Dove’s six draft beers, a logo tasting glass and two dollars off of a purchase inside the store!
Strange that I happened to have an empty growler and spying their continuous shelf of empty growlers above-head, co-founder Don Cotter graciously accepted a trade of my local growler for one of theirs. We felt lucky to have found Naked Dove as we equally appreciated the beer and their graciousness.
The following morning we lumbered back into the van and headed back to our own realities.
I will fondly remember New York-this New York-and the awesome beer and baseball experiences. Reminiscing about playing catch with our dad, we weaved old tales with newly created ones, sewn together like the seams on a ball. The common thread on this trip might have been baseball and beer, but in the end, it was all about brotherhood.