It’s that time of year again, time for Cooperstown, New York’s Brewery Ommegang to throw what very well could be the best beer festival in the nation. This weekend, tons of the best breweries in the nation will offer their Belgian styles up for sampling, and as an Intrepid Beer Journalist, I feel it’s only fair that I undertake the harrowing journey down and cover it for you.
My thoughts before I leave: Belgian beer has lost the national part of its identity, becoming instead just a style categorization that grows looser with each iteration of “So n’ so’s Black Belgian Amber.” No longer does the word ‘Belgian’ evoke romantic baroque town squares and footfalls echoing through a monestary cloister. It no longer speaks to the pride and bloody-mindedness of a tiny nation that not only rejected the prevailing beer styles of its neighbors, but also came up with hundreds more individual styles than a nation of such diminutive proportions ought to dream up. Today, the term ‘Belgian’ mostly means ‘brewed with Belgian yeast, and probably coriander.’
So, as I sup my way through more high-gravity beer than should be physically possible to consume, I’ll be paying attention to who’s offering homage and who’s pumping out a gimmick. Fortunately, given the overall high quality of Belgium Comes to Cooperstown, I can expect a pleasant surprise.