Belgium Comes To Cooperstown

This weekend, July 20-22, was the annual event at Brewery Ommegang called Belgium Comes To Cooperstown (BCTC). This was their 4th year holding the event and my first year attending. I must say, all of the good things I have heard about this event are true, it was a really great time!


Click HERE to see all the rest of the pictures. Sorry there isn’t many, I kept forgetting I had my camera with me.

This year Ommegang limited the number of tickets being sold to 800 tickets (previously I don’t believe there was a cap). Of those 800 tickets, 200 of these tickets were to be VIP tickets. VIP ticket holders were entitled to a 750ml bottle of Ommegeddon (there newest beer), a special 6 course meal paired with beer Friday night, camping Friday night, a ticket to the BCTC beer festival event on Saturday, and camping Saturday night for $120. Not a bad deal in my opinion for a weekend of fun, but unfortunately these tickets sold out in 5 days. The other 600 tickets included a ticket to the BCTC beer festival and Saturday night camping for $90, a little bit pricey but could be worth the cost. These tickets sold out also before we got a chance to purchase them. So about two weeks ago now I contacted the brewery to see if they still needed volunteers for the fest. They said they did and we were on our way. For the volunteers included was camping Friday and Saturday and a ticket to the BCTC beer fest on Saturday – plus the deal was for every four hour shift you volunteered you were compensated with a case of Ommegang beer! So all of this for the cost of our time, I think we scored!

We had been in contact with the brewery previously and signed up for a volunteer shift both on Friday and Saturday, that way guaranteeing we could camp both nights plus so we both could score two cases of Ommegang beer each. So, it was Robert and I who decided to volunteer for Ommegang. I took off from work on Friday and Monday and he was already off. We left the house on Friday around 6:30AM (just slightly behind schedule) to make the 5ish hour drive. We needed to be there by noon to start our first shift. Both days we had 12-4 shifts, not bad. Everything went fine on the drive up except for the hour of stand-still traffic we hit on the North East Extension of the PA Turnpike thanks to an environmental spill. We made it to Ommegang right at noon and luckily for us they were not quite ready for the volunteers so we were able to pitch our tent and throw our gear down before starting our shift. On Friday I got assigned to traffic control. Essentially we (myself, a guy from Milwaukee we met named Craig, and Robert for part of the time) had to direct the different cars where to go depending on what they were there for. Of course we were told conflicting information from different employees, but eventually Craig and I agreed on what we were telling the cars so at least from our end it started to go smoothly. One of the groups I checked in was the crew from Stewart’s in Bear, so it was good to see Ric and Natalie to know some familiar faces. About a third of the way through our shift Robert was reassigned to do another section, basically they said they needed some muscles and he volunteered, so he got the job of being the ‘hey-can-you-move-this’ guy.

After our shift on Friday we went back to the beer booth to get out vouchers for our case of beer, it was very much like getting your paycheck, and when we went to the store to acquire the cases it was very much like blowing your whole paycheck at the bar, bizarre. Anyway, we were allowed to choose from the Ommegang (Abbey Ale), Rare Vos (Amber Ale), Hennepin (Saison), and the Witte (White Ale). We also found out we could upgrade by paying extra to the two “bigger” beers they have the Three Philosophers (Quad) and the Ommegeddon (Belgian Farmhouse-style with Brettanomyces). We got paid with the Ommegang and Ommegeddon for that shift. After we were done there the Friday night fun began and we started drinking some top notch beers with fellow campers and playing some Cornhole until dark. After a dinner break, we began walking around the campgrounds and hanging and drinking with all the great and diverse people that were there. We probably crashed around 2AM calling it a night.

Saturday morning came around early, we were probably up between 7-8AM, partially because that’s how camping goes and partially because there was a mandatory meeting for the volunteers from 9-10AM on how to tell if someone is drunk and how to deal with them. The meeting was a pure waist of time. The lady in charge could have honestly made her point much clearer if she would have said what she really wanted us to hear and been done in 10 minutes instead of drawing it out with stories and losing most of out attentions. After the meeting we had about two hours before our shift began. I’m glad we had that break for while we were sitting in the meeting I had delayed-hang-over set in and I really needed those next two hours to drink some water, eat some food, and find my face.

For our shifts on Saturday Robert and I were assigned as beer pours for the first half of the fest. So the actual beer fest part of the whole weekend was scheduled from 2-6PM on Saturday, our shift was 12-4PM. So by volunteering we worked half of the tasting time but got to drink half of the tasting time too. There were some volunteers that did the same thing but flipped, I’m glad that isn’t what we got. Anyway, from 12-2 we were suppose to help set up and from 2-4 pour beers at the fest. Each volunteer was assigned to a specific brewery – Robert got The Tap Brewpub and I got Troegs. Well, The Tap never showed up and Troegs rolled up with a posse of about four people so they didn’t need my help. So instead for the first two hours we just randomly helped who ever needed help, mostly hauling bags of ice and standing around. At two o’clock I went back to Troegs to see if they need help pouring and of course they didn’t and Robert hooked up with the guy from Shelton Bros. Distributing and helped him pour Jolly Pumpkin beers for two hours. So from 2-4 I basically walked around again, refilled ice for a few people, took out some trash, and basically killed time until four. At four Robert and I stripped off our volunteer shirts, grabbed our beer case vouchers, went to pick up our beers (Three Philosophers and the Hennepin this time), ran back to the car to drop them off, and ran back to the fest to play catch-up. In all honesty, two hours of drinking huge Belgian-style beers was probably better than four because I was starting to “loose my edge” after two hours. Some highlights of beers I can remember are the Gorm Noire from Three Floyds, the Hop Goddess and Ink Well from Offshore, the 06.06.06 Vertical Epic from Stone, and everything from the Lost Abbey.

After the fest we moseyed back to the camp site, grabbed some more beers and the Cornhole sets and started all over again. We wound up finishing the last Cornhole game on Saturday a good 30 minutes after dark. It was pretty sweet having the set with us because we got to hang out with several other people who we may not have met otherwise, everyone was totally into the game. We also happened to run into the Unibroue representative while playing and he had me follow him back to his car and he hooked us up with six 750ml of Unibroue beer, Chambly Noire, La Fin Du Monde, Maudite, and some others. After it got dark it was time for wondering around the camp grounds again. While we were wondering around we saw a game similar to Cornhole but very different at three different campsites. It was like mini-cornhole played with metal washers instead of corn bags. The boards were smaller and closer together too, plus two of the three sets had three holes on the boar instead of one, it looked quite interesting. We wound up kicking it with the Iron Hill compound, the Stewart’s crew, and the employees from Ommegang mostly. After a while (near midnight) a cool band took the stage, there was live music from 2PM-2AM. They were called Mecca Bodega and they threw down some serious percussion good time dancin’ fun. We kicked it in the music tent during most of there set. After the Mecca Bodega throw-down we meandered back to our tent to hit the hay about 2AM.

When Sunday morning arrived it was between 7-8AM again. So a whopping total of about 10 hours sleep for the weekend, nice! Fortunately, besides being a bit tired, we both woke up feeling rather fresh. We took our time eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and breaking down camp. While we were breaking down camp two separate other campers that had volunteered came over and asked us if we wanted one of their beer vouchers because they didn’t have enough room in their cars to bring home the beer. Of course we took the vouchers and thanked them several times. We redeemed these two vouchers for the only two styles of beer we hadn’t acquired yet which were the Witte and the Rare Vos. So we wound up scoring one of each style beer Ommegang makes, sweet! To be fair and because we wanted to, we decided we were going to split each case, so we actually got a half case of each style a piece. Packing the car was interesting, but we got it all to fit. It was funny, driving the car I could really feel the weight of everything we had, but after a half an hour or so on the highway it felt “normal”.

All in all it was a great weekend and I would totally go back again. In all honesty I feel as if volunteering was definitely a good choice and would probably do the same next year. Robert has already talked to Ommegang about trying to get Erik Mitchell and the band booked to play next year, so that’s really cool, especially since the person we need to talk to is one of the ones we were hanging out with a lot. For me, this is now the fest that all the rest will get compared to, thanks to Brewery Ommegang!

4 Responses to “Belgium Comes To Cooperstown”

  1. Garrett Says:

    Super jealous of the haul you guys got. That’s killer.

    Save all the empty bottles for me! That would rule too…

  2. David Says:

    Jaw drops……..Eyes Wide Open………WOW!

  3. Brian Says:

    Yeah, Garrett, I totally will, I’ll try to get Robert to save his for you too. That means more Belgian-style beer from you, sweet!

  4. Fool Circle - Artisanal Ales » Blog Archive » The Big LeBREWski Says:

    […] year the fest even had a theme/nickname, The Big LeBREWski – crazy. Anyway, last year Robert and I went up and volunteered at this even and had a really great time. So this year we […]

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