Joshua M. Bernstein
"Want one?" Stillwater Artisanal's Brian Strumke asked me last Saturday, extending a cold can of bright-yellow Classique.
Normally, this question would've been a no-brainer. His earthy, fruity, and slightly funky session beer is one of my favorites, perfect for quaffing from morning to night. Problem is, it was still morning. The clock had yet to tick 9 a.m. As a professional beer journalist, most days I try to not drink until 5 p.m. Then again, this was not most days.
It was the second day of Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), Brewery Ommegang's annual beer festival that features more than 70 breweries and hundreds of different Belgian beers. Every August, Ommegang opens up its hilly, bucolic grounds in upstate New York, not far from Cooperstown, to 3,000 attendees, many of which opt to camp for the weekend. This means afternoons spent drinking boatloads of unique Belgian beers, which for many means simply the best beers in the world. Late nights drinking more beer around a bonfire and campsites, where kegs flow as freely as water faucets. And early mornings, the sun shining too dang bright, battling a hangover boring into your brain. BCTC is a trip down a hop-scented rabbit hole filled with 3,000 of the country's friendliest, most generous enablers.
"You can't drink all day unless you start in the morning," I said, grabbing a Classique and chasing away the previous night's bad ideas with another one. I had a handful of dizzying hours awaiting me, ones that required me to sample my way through endless beers. Beers, mind you, that made this year's festival theme all the more surreal: Vegas, complete with Elvis skydivers, a wedding chapel, and a seven-foot sad clown singing covers of Lorde songs.
SEE MORE: How (Good) American Beers Are (Finally) Conquering Europe
After decoding my dew-soaked notes (reminder: never leave your notebook in the grass overnight), here are some of my favorite Belgian beers and sour ales--some new, some worth a serious revisit--that I uncovered last weekend. You don't have to drink them at 9 a.m. If you do, I promise I won't judge.
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This is Foaming at the Mouth, Joshua M. Bernstein's hopped-up adventures in the ever-expanding universe of beer. And yes, he would like another round, please.