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OMMEGANG WITH A BANG!

Let me tell you about a magical place, way up in the mountains of upstate New York where the trees are evergreen, cows are forever happy, Belgian beer flows like water and baseball memorabilia is in every possible direction you look!  My friends, I’m talking about Cooperstown NY. Friend of COOK, Hahri, and I got invited to Cooperstown to participate in the annual Ommegang Brewery Festival.
OBF is a two-day extravaganza where some of the best breweries in America showcase their beers and make sure you are pretty much hammered for 48 hours straight.  A huge draw of the weekend’s festivities was the “Hop Chef” final competition where local boy and Philly Mag “Best Chef” George Sabatino was competing for the title against three other chefs from that won “Hop Chef” competitions in Maryland, D.C. and NY.
Let me give you a rundown the events. We arrived in Cooperstown around 7:30 p.m. on Friday August 3 after a long seven-hour drive. The main events of the the festival were happening on Saturday, but the staff of all participating breweries came the night before to camp out in the huge open fields of Ommegang.

As soon as we got there we understood we arrived extremely unprepared!  We had no idea what to expect so after setting “camp”(two small tents) we walked around to see what was going on around us.  We found out that because there was not much to do the first night everyone was planning on one thing…DRINKING!  Walking around we saw campsites that looked like little colonies with fully equipped kitchens and bars, I’m talking two to three beer kegs in almost every other tent we walked by.  Everyone was really nice and was happy to share the wealth so without further ado we joined the party.

Next morning was painful  — I’m not going to lie to you.  After a hearty breakfast we met up with George, who was there before anyone else around 11 a.m. prepping hard for the day.  The competition started around 2:30 p.m. and at that point George and his guys were pumped and determined to win.

Please meet the competition:

Jeff Eng, D,C,:

Maryland crab cake, Maryland fried chicken skin, dehydrated Cracker Jack foam made from coconut milk and Hennepin

Tommy Harder, NY:

Abbey Ale, was a take on a crab cake using braised duck leg, foie gras, figs and fennel, foie mousse and a mole rojo

 

Jaime Ortiz, Albany:

Braised rabbit on corn cake, with Hennepin “dirt”

 

George Sabatino, Philadelphia:

Capon rooster sausages, white bean puree, Ommegang Rare Vos mustard, pickled fennel and pickled radish with tomato-olive tapenade.

 

 

The Hop Chef competition was intense and went on for almost three hours.  It took place in its own tent, but surrounding it was tents filled with things to occupy onlookers’ time.  Two gigantic tents filled with close to 70 different breweries, each of which had about two to three different beers to try!  Oh and did I mention there were about 3,000 to 4,000 happy drinkers? Everyone got a beer glass and all you had to do is walk to a stand and pick what you wanted, and the great thing was that there were almost no lines because of all the options.

 

Around 5 p.m. we all gathered to the big stage outside to find out who would be declared the winner.  In my opinion George’s hardest competition was Jeff Eng, and until the last minute I was biting my fingernails.  But then they said it- George won!  (As you already probably know)

To celebrate after a full day of drinking super strong Belgians was too much at the time so we passed out on the grass for a good hour.  But when we woke up the party was definitely not over.  We still had great bands to watch and a few more brewskis to drink and lots of people watching to do.

So to all the beer lovers out there I highly recommend for you to check this festival out next year.  Even with 4000 people around us there was still tons of space for everyone on the amazing grounds of the brewery.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ommegang Ommegang is proud of the fact the festival is not a massive event ( if they want it is possible to double the amount of people) so they limit the number of tickets to keep it fun and enjoyable for everyone.

So until next year I’ll miss you Ommegang, and I shall remember you forever, Cooperstown.

Photos by Yoni Nimrod & Hahri Shin

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