Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ommegang Three Philosophers (2009 vintage)

Look who's back! After about 10 months, Henry finally returns as a guest reviewer on the show and to a pretty special beer, too. "Three Phils" is one of Ommegang's best and most famous beers and often lauded as one of the best Belgian-style beers brewed in America. I've been cellaring this beer for well over a year now and thought this was as good an occasion as any to break it out.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (605) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 24, 2012
I split a 750ml corked and caged bottle dated 17 November 2009 with a friend. We each poured it into tulip glasses.

Appearance: Beautiful dark cherry/maroon body with light brick red highlights. Completely opaque, but some fine carbonation bubbles are visible at the edges of the glass. Forms a thick, dark khaki frothy head which retains and laces very well for a beer of the style.

Smell: Plenty of dark fruit, massive maltiness, vanilla, and a slight woody character too. A prominent sour cherry aroma provides the backbone for these fragrances. It’s almost like having a fruit basket under your nose.

Taste: To describe Ommegang Three Philosophers as having a complex palate is something of an understatement. This is a beer whose palate not only is diverse in flavor, it’s constantly changing (an example of inconsistency being an attribute for sure). It begins with a strong sweetness of confectionery flavors, most notably caramel and butterscotch. There’s a slightly bitter, earthy rustic flavor or two as well - akin to Cracker Jack Popcorn if it were toasted (or even burnt). The beer finishes with a kiss of tart cherry. There’s definitely some sourness to it, but in that tasty candy kind of way. It lingers on the tongue, too.

Initially, the alcohol is completely separate from the palate and is a little distracting. It’s slightly dry, but also somewhat sweet and woody like a bourbon. As the beer warms the genuine palate of fruity maltiness and the alcohol blend together for a more homogenized palate. It’s very delectable to be sure, and perhaps if it had been as consistent throughout this would be a perfect beer. A "flawed masterpiece" might be a great way to sum it all up, actually.

Drinkability: "Smooth" is not usually a word I would use to describe a Belgian quadruple, but it’s definitely apropos for Ommegang Three Philosophers. While it is certainly robust and does have some spiciness to the palate, it drinks much easier than any other beer of the style I’ve ever had. In fact, while it’s in the mouth there’s a refreshing quality to it - amazing! It goes down very smooth and the aftertaste is a pleasant tartness that isn’t cloying at all. The body is quite big at 9.8% ABV, but it just doesn’t feel that heavy on the system. There’s no alcohol burn, just a gentle dry warmth that quickly melds with the genuine palate. A great beer to have for dessert.
Grade: 9/10

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