Hennepin is one of the oldest American-brewed saisons in production today. Its signature mix of Belgian yeast character and added spices make it a great first saison especially for those that like orange and citrus character in their beers.
Brewing manager at Brewery Ommegang, Joe Poliseno, says that Hennepin has a cleaner profile than other saisons on the market (and I absolutely agree with him!).
“Farmhouse ales can fall under a broad spectrum of flavors. Typically, you’ll taste a funk caused by Brettanomyces fermentation,” he says.
Ommegang opened in 1997 as “the first farmhouse brewery in American in more than 100 years” but the beers produced there have mostly stuck toward the clean end of the farmhouse spectrum.
Hennepin was the second beer released by the brewery just months after it opened in 1998. In initial articles about it, there is no mention of the word “saison” just that Hennepin is a lighter “Belgian-style” beer compared to the brewery’s first release which was a dark abbey ale called “Ommegang.”
In a 2000 write up in the Cincinnati Enquirer does refer to Hennepin as a saison as well as calling it “a most unusual beer.” (Which gave me a good giggle!) The Hennepin Ommegang puts out today is still much the same beer with a beautiful frothy head and clear golden color, and a delicate flavor profile more reminiscent of a sparkling wine than the hopped up craft beers that were dominating the market in the 1990s.
What does this Saison taste like?
“Hennepin is a dry, almost champagne-like Saison, spiced with traditional Belgian spices. You get a lot of ginger, coriander, and citrus notes from the orange peel. There’s a hint of spiciness from the grains of paradise. A complex ester profile from the yeast produces a fruit-like character that resembles apples with a hint of banana,” says Poliseno of the saison that’s been produced at Ommegang for more than two decades.
Ommegang was founded by Belgian breweries (Duvel Moortgat, Affligem, and Scaldis) coming together with beer importers (Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield) to make Belgian-style beers stateside, and they’ve done just that.
“Hennepin is a classic and has been around for a long time. I think what makes Hennepin so special is the balance between all the flavors. It’s very complex, yet subtle. All the flavors blend together in harmony, making it a very interesting beer that is fun to drink.”
If you like Hennepin, Poliseno has some other Ommegang-brewed beers he suggests you try.
“I think the Abbey Ale would be a good one to try. Abbey Ale has similar Belgian roots to Hennepin, as they are both spiced Belgian style ales. Abbey Ale pours a deeper burgundy color, a slightly roasted profile with rich flavors and hints of caramel.”
He adds, “Witte is another good one to try, as it’s a Belgian-style white ale also brewed with orange peel and coriander.”
If you’re coming to Hennepin as an IPA drinker
Hennepin (and saisons generally) will be more yeast forward than hop forward in it’s balance. The only flavor impact from hops in Hennepin is a subtle earthy, herbal note and enough bitterness to balance the mouthfeel from malt and perceived sweetness from added orange peel, coriander, and ginger.
If you enjoy fruit juice notes in IPA you’ll also find plenty of fruity-ness in Hennepin though it will be more similar to fresh cut apples and pears and orange peel than the rounded tropical notes found in many hazy IPAs.
If you’re coming to Hennepin as a Stout drinker
You’ll find Hennepin to be less malt-forward and more fruity and spicy overall than most stouts. Hennepin has a clean dry finish that can sort of mimic the finish a roast-forward stout has. If you enjoy stouts that contain lactose you may find Hennepin to be more bitter in it’s balance than the beers you’re used to but you will also enjoy Hennepin’s full mouthfeel.
Ommegang has this handy tool to locate Hennepin near you. If you do find it and try it, don’t forget to tag #trythisfarmhouse so I can share!