Brewery Ommegang: Three Philosophers (Two Year Vertical) 11/3/2016

This week, I’ve decided to give myself a little treat!   One year ago, I bought a four pack of one of my favorite beers of all time, Three Philosophers by Brewery Ommegang.  I promptly drank one bottle and stored the other three in my cellar.  One year has passed, and it is time to open another one to compare it side by side with a fresh bottle.  So after a year of waiting very patiently, today is my own personal holiday, Three Philosophers Day (I suppose I should throw a hashtag in there?).  Beer tends to change as you age it (as one might expect), so I was excited to see how this beer would compare with a fresh bottle of it.   I’m eager to share my notes with you.  Check it out:

2016 Vintage    

three-philosophers-2016 three-phils-2016-glass

Beer Name: Three Philosophers (2016)

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang

Brewery Location: Cooperstown, NY

Beer Style: Belgian Quadrupel

ABV: 9.7%

IBU: 19

Appearance

Three Philosophers pours a hazy deep ruby color with an off-white (almost red!) creamy head.  The beer is highly carbonated and effervescent, and the head follows the glass all the way down as you drink it.

Aroma

This beer has a ton of dark fruit characteristics.  The main ones that I detected were black cherry, plums, raisins, and figs, along with some light alcohol notes that stung the nostrils, and some caramel/toffee.

Taste & Aftertaste

Up front, the beer had a very sweet toffee flavor that might be a bit cloying to some, but after a few sips, the beer dried up on the back of your palate.  The sweetness and thick consistency of the beer was vaguely reminiscent of molasses.  The main flavors that I detected were consistent with the aroma- I picked up plums, raisins, cherry, a hint of raspberry (though not tart).  But when you combine those notes with the toffee-like sweetness, it reminded me of a Fig Newton (which was really pleasant).  The caramel-like characters are present, but the dark fruit characters are the star of this beer.  Clocking in at a whopping 9.7% ABV, there is some definite alcohol warmth to this.  The beer has a thick, creamy mouthfeel- each sip completely coats your mouth, and the hop character is very minimal.  The beer does not change a ton as it warms up.

Overall Impressions

This beer is definitely a cold weather beer- that said it is (ironically) my desert island beer (because it’s that awesome).  When enjoyed fresh, this beer is thick and creamy with complex dark fruit esters that make it really enjoyable.  Personally, this is the type of beer I would enjoy with my Thanksgiving dinner or during a snow storm.  And considering the ABV, it can stand up to some aging (spoiler alert: it ages really well).  In the next section, I’ll compare notes with the fresh beer, but also point out how the beer has changed after being aged for one year.

2015 Vintage

three-philosophers-2015  three-phils-2015-glass

Beer Name: Three Philosophers (2015)

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang

Brewery Location: Cooperstown, NY

Beer Style: Belgian Quadrupel

ABV: 9.7%

IBU: 19

Appearance

After a year of aging, Three Philosophers still pours a deep ruby color, however the haze has cleared up a bit.  The head is still thick and creamy, and laces the glass all the way down.

Aroma

There is less alcohol perceived on the nose in the 2015 vintage of this beer (almost none was detected).  The beer also smells less assertively fruity, and the caramel/toffee notes are much more apparent.

Taste & Aftertaste

This beer tastes less sweet up front (unlike the fresh version) and finishes much drier, making it easy to drink a lot (which is scary considering the high alcohol).  Furthermore, the alcohol warmth that is very present in the fresh beer is also subdued greatly in the aged beer, adding to the beer’s increased drinkability.  The dark fruit esters are still present- I still taste the cherry, fig, plums, and raisins; however those notes are more subdued compared to the 2016 vintage.  Those fruity notes are much more in balance with the caramel/toffee notes from the malt.  There is also a red wine-like character in this beer (which is really nice!) that is noticeably absent in the 2016 vintage.  In terms of mouthfeel, the beer is less creamy, and there is less perceived sweetness.

Overall Impressions

Age did this beer a fantastic service.  I love the intense and complex fruity notes in the fresh 2016 vintage, but they’re still present in this beer despite being somewhat subdued.  If anything, those fruity characters are now more in balance with the malt character of this beer, and the beer is less sweet than its younger brother- making it much more crushable.  I have been waiting to try this vertical for a year now, and it was very much worth the wait- I can’t wait to do a three year vertical on this same beer next year!

ommegang-cap

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