Improving on Tradition
A Review of Three Philosophers by Ommegang Brewery
Posted on 7/8/2011 by Chops
                   
Exquisite
To be honest, I have been putting this review off for quite some time now, mostly because I've been at a complete loss as to how to properly describe this beer. Three Philosophers is a brew that defies logic and convention. Belgian purists will look down upon this beer as a bastard step child. It's a quad mixed with cherry lambic. In the Belgian world, that's the equivalent of saying ''Bud Light with Lime.'' But here's the catch that makes this beer so special: it can compete with the best Belgians on the planet. Ommegang has actually managed to improve on what is perhaps one of the most guarded traditional beer styles in the world. And that, my brew loving friends, is something very special.

In the glass, this beer has a beautiful mahogany coloration with a deep ruby shade. Hold this one up to a light source and try not to drool. It's a stunning brew. If the coloration doesn't peak your interest, the aroma certainly will. Big sweet malts and caramels swirl around the glass, encompassed by savory black cherries. This is one of those beers where you take a whiff, then slowly close your eyes to fall deeper into ecstasy. Yes, it's that damn good.

Going into that first sip, you can't possibly expect this brew to live up to those lofty expectations. But it does, in a very big way. To say this beer is delicious would a gross understatement. This beer is superb, a triumph, a Belgian home run. The beer is so unbelievably smooth for a quad that it's easy to forget about the 9.8% ABV. On the flip side, you can really take your time and chew on this beer, which is exactly what you want to do. There are so many beautifully balanced flavors swimming around. All the standard dark Belgian flavors rear their heads like caramel, breads, yeasts, savory fruits and Belgian spices. But then that cherry lambic wraps everything up in a delicious black cherry taste, like the beer equivalent of frosting on a cake. It's absolutely delectable.

On a more specific note, I have to devote an entire paragraph to the finish. Three Philosophers has the most impressive finish in the entire beer world, no contest. Belgian quads tend to have a very malty finish, which is fine, but they can get a bit syrupy and oppressive. This beer has that sweet malty finish, but it's really thin and quickly dissipates, leaving that cherry lambic to kick in at the last minute and drop a delicate savory cherry note. It's like a parting gift sent directly from the beer gods. If the beer wasn't so amazingly delicious, I'd say the finish was the best part of the beer.

Overall, Three Philosophers is an exquisite Belgian quad. In my opinion, it's one of the best quads you can find. Some might find the lambic infusion as blasphemous, but I view it as an improvement on tradition. I see it as a brave interpretation, especially considering that the core quad is world class by itself. And seeing as how this beer has such a remarkably smooth mouthfeel, I can recommend Three Philosophers to any level of beer drinker. Novices might find it on the heavy side, but it's a great insight into world class beer. And for any brew fan looking to break into the wonderful world of Belgians, Three Philosophers is both a great starting and ending point.

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Three Philosophers by Ommegang Brewery
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