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Good Beer Hunting

Oct 31, 2020

Today’s episode is the kind of conversation I’d typically have in a bar over a few pints with a friend—one in which we’d talk shop and inevitably start prognosticating about a brewery or a beer in a way that would bend each of our opinions into oblivion before we’d finally run out of stamina and order one last round.

Brewery Ommegang—what the hell is up with Brewery Ommegang? Over the past couple months we learned that the brewery’s CEO, Doug Campbell, was leaving. Next to depart was Brewmaster Phil Leinhart. Now, the foreseeable future for this history-making, Belgian-inspired brewery—which once brought us iconic beers like Hennepin—will now be devoted to a juicy, Hazy IPA called Neon Rainbows.

The Brewery Ommegang story has been one of total whiplash over the last few years, as it has adjusted to tumultuous U.S. market trends; its increasing physical isolation, compared to the taprooms now populating every corner of U.S. towns; and its sale to Duvel, alongside breweries like Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Boulevard Brewing Company.

A lot of gravity for that network of breweries is currently coming out of Kansas City. Now the question remains: Will it inevitably suck Ommegang out of its unique, idiosyncratic orbit? And if it does, what will be left of this once-legendary U.S. craft brewer?

To get to that, I wanted to talk to beer writer Jeff Alworth. He and I were both at the last—and seemingly final—edition of the annual festival called Belgium Comes to Cooperstown. And we spent most of that time together talking about the odd arc of the Ommegang story, and where it might go next. Organizers put the festival on hiatus after that most recent celebration, seemingly to take a moment and figure out how to evolve it in 2019. Well, it never quite got back on track—and with all the news, I found myself wishing I had a pub, a pint, and Jeff Alworth to talk to about it.

This is Jeff Alworth, one of the country’s best beer writers. Listen in.