Wow. This is an incredible beer – rich, complex, strong, sophisticated. It is a blend of cherry lambic and a dark belgian ale, and they complement each other wonderfully.
There’s a recent commercial in which a group of men purport to issue a “man law” against fruit in beer. Three Philosophers is a demonstration in just how little the South African makers of Miller Light know about great beer. The presence of cherries in beer has a long history in Belgium. and they add a tart counterpoint to the rich malty sweetness of this very big (9.8% ABV) ale.
Unlike some beer with fruit, this beer is incredibly balanced – the cherry is only one element of its flavor. It has a rich, chocolatey taste as well, with a touch of sourness and just enough hop bitterness to keep the sweetness in check.
Belgian-style ales are my favorite beers in the world, and this one is produced by one of the best Belgian-style breweries outside of Belgium. The Ommegang Brewery of Cooperstown, NY has been brewing great beers for years, and it refuses to rest on its laurels. Their Ommegang Abbey ale is one of the best beers in the world, in my opinion, and definitely the best beer for the dollar I’ve ever found. One of their bottles, retailing under $5, is a worthy match for any import you can find at twice (or more) the price.
According to one website, “Three Philosophers is a remarkable limited edition strong ale brewed by Brewery Ommegang in response to a home brewer’s description of his dream beer. Realbeer.com, the internet’s largest beer website, hosted a contest called ‘Create a Great Beer.’ Brewery Ommegang was chosen by Realbeer.com to brew the Belgian-style ale for the winning essayist. Noel Blake, a home brewer from Portland wrote the winning description for what his ‘dream beer’ would be like.”
That’s a cool story, and I’m not surprised that this unique and wonderful beer has roots in the world of homebrewing. Put your prejudices against fruit in beer aside, and give Three Philosophers a try.