Beer Profile: Ommegang’s Rare Vos

Profile by Ken Carman

I know this brewery well. I visited about ten years ago for one of my first reviews. Half moon shaped; built on the pattern of a Belgian farmhouse, you drive right through the middle of the building to get to the parking lot. Traditional open fermentation tanks and methods, this brewery was built and is owned by the largest importer of Belgian beers. Just south of Cooperstown sitting on the oldest and largest former hop field, back when New York was the largest producer of hops in America.

I suspect by now they have their own hops growing, in planning stage at the time.

Rare Vos; listed by the brewery’s web site as an amber, but considered a Belgian Pale Ale by the BJCP, is a bit untraditional at 6.5 abv. The aroma and taste seems a bit peppery, Millie my wife thought more clove-ish, but I thought pepper. A strong straw in color or pale gold and a tad sweet on the roof of the mouth.

Very deceptive. You would think it a lawnmower beer, but drink more than one of their pint and a half plus bottles and the next day you may feel like the lawnmower ran over you.

How do they get it this high with that low of a body, Belgian white candi sugar? That wouldn’t be that traditional, but it’s about the only way to raise it without kicking up the final gravity this much. Can be done, but other options would not make the quite pleasing quaffe’ that is Rare Vos.

Plenty of head that lasts a while and laces the glass.

A lot of reviews I have read for Rare Vos use what I consider phony fruit comparisons. They’re not even comparisons really: they come out and claim “grapefruit” or “orange.” But to claim such things distracts from those specialty beers that use such additions. There is a distinct difference in the taste, in my opinion, between actual citrus/fruit additions, and being somewhat fruit like. Rare Vos doesn’t even come close, in my opinion, but that’s a compliment. I wouldn’t even consider it “citrus.” And it deserves the kind of respect that notes such flavors are unique: yeast and/or hop driven: a compliment to the brewer. Actual fruit taste, style-wise, should be considered a defect in this case.

And one thing Rare Vos doesn’t have, style-wise, is a defect when it comes to Belgian style brewing in general, and Belgian Pale Ale specifically.

I recommend it for those who like Belgian Pale’s light, somewhat peppery sense, take on phenols. In most beers from other parts of the globe; other styles of brewing, this would be considered a defect and usually taste terrible. But Belgium brewers know how to take what many consider to have become tainted yeast and make wunderbar.

And “wunderbar” defines Rare Vos quite well.