Brewery Ommegang is arguably the best brewer of Belgian style beers in America. It's partially a cheat, of course, since Ommegang is owned by Duvel, who also provides them with their house yeast strain, practically making Ommegang a Belgian brewery located in America, but when confronted with such awesomeness that's little more than pedantic nitpicking. These folks make awesome beers. That's all you need to know.
Ommegang's flagship is probably Abbey Ale, a top-rated, super delicious beer roughly in the style of the dark Trappist beer made in Belgium. This fantastic 8.5% dark Belgian-style ale only costs about $7.99 for a corked 750ml bottle, so it's a bargain for a beer so good. In addition to price, it meets all the other key criteria for beer that is good to stash away. That's why I decided to grab one and stash it away. So after roughly a year and a half to two years in storage, how does it taste?
Pretty damn good.
The nose offers subdued notes of dark fruits (figs, etc) and a very bready sweetness, like black buns fresh from the oven. It smells distinctly like a Trappist ale such as Rochefort 6.
Carbonation has mellowed after 18 months or so -- sorry, can't pin down time; if the bottle is dated, I can't find the date -- making the beer a bit stickier than it is fresh, though it's nowhere close to flat. The taste reveals hints of caramel and barely noticeable fruit. The Belgian yeast character so noticeable when fresh is subdued here, while the alcohol is better hidden in the murk.
Overall I'm pleased with how nicely this beer matured, but feel like this experiment points to it being better fresh. That might change if a bottle was set down for, say, five years instead of two -- 18 to 24 months really isn't that long for a beer worth aging -- but I'm guessing this is a beer that wants to be consumed fresh.
BEER: Ommegang Abbey Ale
TIME AGED: Roughly 18-24 months
NOTES: Easily available and affordable, so it's a cheap experiment. Try it yourself.
VERDICT: Okay to cellar this, as it lays down fairly well, but don't for for too long. It's better fresh.