Beer Profile: Ommegang’s Fire and Blood

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Profiled for PGA by Maria Devan and Ken Carman

Maria…

I just tried Ommegang Fire and Blood and I sure don’t like it.

This poured a murky and darker brown with a stream of effervescence and a fat tan head of foam that fell slowly and left lace.

Nose is a bit confused. There is a brief hint of banana, some lasting cherry, fig and some faint raisin. The yeast is there and it’s light and a bit woody. There is also a nice light caramel.

This drinks a bit flatly as the spelt seems to have muted the rye in the drink. The caramel is light, the yeast is belgian, the beer is dry. The cherry is the most forward fruit with the raisin and fig in the background. The ancho chile pepper tastes dry and seedy and very tame. It does impart a warmth to the throat as you swallow. This leaves a bit bitter and that lingers a little sharply as it really had nothing to contrast or offset it. The flavors were all weak and a bit jumbled.

Ken

I was immediately annoyed because the brewery doesn’t really mention style, while Beer Advocate gave it an 83, and called it an American Amber/Red Ale. Really? From what I’ve read is in this? From an American-Belgian brewery? And a Belgium Red is also quite different. So, not knowing what style to judge it under, but also knowing it has spicy hops, ancho chile peppers, dark fruit, rye and spelt in it according to their very beautifully labelled bottle, I ask…

Really? “American Amber?”

After I judged it I looked at at Rate Beer. Overall 90, 94 for the style. RB did offer the following…

Fire & Blood is a 6.8% ABV Red ale, brewed with pilsner, Cara-60, Midnight Wheat, flaked rye and spelt. Assertive hopping includes CTZ, Styrian Golding and German Tettnang hops. Spiced with de-seeded Ancho chilies. Fire & Blood has a deep, dark red hue with a persistent, creamy, off-white head. Aromas of ripe fruit, raisins, malt & slight spice, followed by a slightly floral and spicy hop character. A fruity, sweetish malt taste gives way to faint drying provided by the hops & rye.

Hmm… “midnight wheat?” That could explain the full mouthfeel (proteins) and the haze.

So, not having read the RB comment yet, I ventured forth, still a bit blind.

A hazy red with a serious head: almost tan, giant pillow. Filled almost the whole glass. I find Ommegang tends to take plenty of head seriously, and that’s not some comment about kinky things happening in a south of Cooperstown parking lot, behind the half moon shaped brewery.

Yes, I’ve been there, even did an article on them years ago.

The legs are incredible as bubbles cling to the side of the glass.

First whiff, I must type again, “American Amber?” Really? If there’s no Belgian yeast in here I’d be surprised. There’s a hint of a White Labs Abbey-like yeast. There’s also the spice of rye. Some carmelized malt behind that, but not malt-sweet as some Scottish brews can be. No hops noticed in the nose: but there’s a lot going on here.

The nose on this screams Belgian to me.

First sense on mouthfeel: this is a heavy brew with a hell of a lot of malt in it. Maybe that’s the spelt? There’s a brassy sense that clings eagerly to the roof of the mouth like it wants to pitch a tent and camp there for a while: also very much like White Labs Abbey. My guess: their in house yeast, or belonging to one of the many breweries owned by the concern that owns Ommegang, and a relative to that White Labs yeast. A bit sugary sweet softly follows the brass like a soft brush used on tympani.

Taste: my main critique, where the hell did the chilies go? I think they got lost. Ommegang, too often in my opinion, tends to play it a lttle too safe with such things: let it ALL hang out!

Otherwise this smacks me as a red Belgian brew minus the often lambic character some of them have. No horse saddle, no barnyard, no sour, just a clean Belgian-yeast driven red ale with a heavy body. Well… as clean as the very distinctive WL Abbey yeast gets. And I have brewed with that White Labs yeast many times: it’s hard to miss. My guess it’s at least close cousin, if not that yeast.

Note: after the sample warmed for a while the yeast sense grew more Trappist-like, so it’s more likely a cousin or hybrid than that actual WL yeast.

The hops, despite the effort, it was missed via the nose, but did offer a solid, background bitter. Nice, but worth all that effort? Maybe not. Later additions might have helped if aroma or taste was necessary, otherwise such a bitter can be attained without having that much of a hop bill.

Fruity: these samples were served cold, but as the samples warmed there was a plum and slight tangerine sense, like a hybrid of the two.

Hate to disagree with my fellow reviewer here at PGA, but I really enjoyed Fire and Blood. I’m getting a second bottle to torment my fellow tasters in Beaver River at the annual Beaver River Beer Tasting Labor Day weekend. But that’s what makes craft beer world spin: what you don’t like I may. Saranac brews a Caramel Porter that to me tastes like a Worthington drop, but they continue to brew it because a lot of folks love that.

I give it a 4.4.

Viva la’ different palates.

(Maria)

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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meMaria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is frequent reviewer of beer and a beer lover deluxe. She reviews beer for many online sites, including PGA and also does joint reviews with other beer fans across the country
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(Ken)

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_________________________________________Beer HERE


ken02Ken Carman is chief bottle washer, toilet cleaner and complaint taker at PGA. He is also a musical storyteller and educational service provider who has been in business since 84, toured the east coast and savored brews, interviewed brewers, while on tour since 88. He’s a BJCP judge, a columnist and a royal pain in the… according to his wife Millie.
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