Posted by Martin:
This week I’ll be reviewing a beer that holds kind of a special place in my heart. In everybody’s personal development, no matter the skill, there’s always a moment where you graduate from your infancy and realize there’s a great big world out there for you to explore. For my life of beer, this was a major player – one of the first beers my college roomate and I tried that showed us that there was something out there that couldn’t be described by the words “macrobrewed liquid with the consistency of water that tasted oddly like stale urine.”
Hennepin, crafted by Brewery Ommegang, is a spiritual successor to the products of many Trappist Belgian Breweries. Known as a “Saison,” it is intended to be a lighter, crisper beer, while still maintaining a sense of aggressiveness through some spices and a bit of hops on the palatte. And the thing that makes it even better? The price. While true, imported, Belgians can cost upwards of $10 for the bottle, Hennepin comes in at half that for a corked 750ml bottle. Now, while you probably won’t be able to find it in a convenience store, it is available through most beer distributors. There is absolutely no excuse not to try this beer.
So how does it taste? Good. Damned Good.
Following the pour, you will be rewarded with a very light amber colored beer with a soft, almost pillow-like, two or three finger head. This will eventually settle down to a half inch fluff over the top if you let the beer sit. And of course, with head comes carbonation, and it is quite effervescent, with white bubbles rising quickly to the top.
This is a beer that requires you to pour it into something that isn’t a pint glass. If you’re lacking the proper Ommegang labeled beer glass, but you’ve got oversized wine glasses, use them. By having a much wider opening than the typical glass, you will take much greater enjoyment from the citrus aroma with just a hint of spice behind it than you would from a narrower mouthed container. Not a whole lot of hops aroma, but seeing as this style of beer is shooting for a less bitter taste than one’s typical hoppy ale, this is not surprising.
Drinking the beer is also a thing of beauty. The beer is extremely light (I say this as someone who favors Heavier Stouts and IPAs), with a very clean taste. A delicious balance of tart fruit and spice dances across your tongue, finishing very quickly with just a bit of dryness and a touch of hops. The carbonation once again comes into play, but it’s not overwhelming. You are left with a clean sensation in your mouth, with just a hint of pleasant bitterness. The main thing you will want immediately after swallowing is to repeat the entire experience.
The nice thing about this beer is that it comes in a 750 ml bottle (For reference, since this style is fermented again after being bottled, a typical metal cap is unable to contain the pressure and as such, requires the beer to be corked). This, combined with the fact it’s somewhere around 8-9% ABV, one bottle can last quite for most of a relaxed evening.
So, the short story is: Drink this beer. As a perfect homage to its Belgian heratige, Hennepin provides a moderately complex taste while still remaining extremely refreshing to drink. And the fact that it’s inexpensive only adds to the experience. The next time someone tells you that Americans can’t make beer, remember this one and kick them in the crotch. Or, tell them that they’re wrong. Either way, you’d be in the right.
Consider my eyes opened. This beer exceeded all my expectations, and honestly, I can’t wait to have some more. It was light enough to have alot of, but satisfying enough that a single glass could be savored and enjoyed on it’s own. I was very impressed with what $8 bought me this weekend in that bottle of Hennepin.