Maybe you’ve had Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, a Belgian-style Ale, produced in Cooperstown, NY. Maybe you’ve just heard of it. Regardless, if you’ve heard of the beer, you had to have wondered who the philosophers were. When I first had it at Brewco, a California chain of brewpubs, someone asked if I knew who they were. I had no idea — I guessed Plato, Socrates and some other Greek. That was shot down and my drinking partner said he thought it was a reference to Belgian philosophers, though he didn’t know who. We Googled and got nowhere, testing out many theories along the way.
Realistically, the only solution was to find out from the brewery itself. Luckily they were helpful. The answer: It’s a reference to a William Blake’s An Island in the Moon, a satire written in 1784 and published posthumously. In the novel, there are three main characters:
- Quid the Cynic
- Suction the Epicurean
- Sipsop the Pythagorean
The brewers then extrapolated from the personalities of the characters to opine on the beer they had produced and was presumably nameless. The Three Philosophers, is a painting from early 16th century Italy, so the beer presumably takes its title from that, as if Blake’s characters were in the painting. If discussing the beer, Quid would question why the beer is necessary, Sipsop would question how it was possible to make such a beer, while Suction would simply enjoy the beer in all of its glory. Blake hated Suction and the materiality he represented. Obviously, the Ommegang brew squad feels differently. It gets kind of meta to think about how a beer was named for three fictional characters theoretically talking about it.
Three Philosophers represents a pretty far-out idea to use an arcane novel as inspiration for naming a beer. For that, it’s an awesome name.
Three Philosophers: The Beer
Since, this is The Efficient Drinker, getting calorie information is sort what we do, but the brewer didn’t provide that information directly. Using 9.7% ABV and doing some geek math on the Original Gravity and Final Gravity gets us to an estimate of 290 calories per 12 ounces, or about 65% efficiency. Not bad for a tasty beer!