Brewery Ommegang has been making Belgian inspired ales in Cooperstown, NY since 1997. Originally a local brewery, Ommegang was purchased by European brewery Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, but all of their beer is still developed and brewed in Cooperstown. The backing by a major brewery has helped with distribution, as Ommegang beers are now available in 43 states and Canada. Having national distribution was probably a major selling point in the co-development of a new set of beers inspired by HBO’s smash hit TV show Game of Thrones. This cross promotion is relatively rare in craft beer, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if TV shows, movies and sports franchises start collaborating with craft breweries to make special beers for publicity. The second beer in the Game of Thrones series is Take the Black Stout, a Belgian dark ale brewed with star anise and licorice root. Belgian dark ales encompass a wide range of dark colored beers that are brewed with Belgian yeast, but don’t fit into traditional abbey styles. When done well this style complements the roasted and dark malt flavors of porters and stouts with the fruity esters of the Belgian yeast.
Brewery Ommergang Take the Black Stout pours almost pitch black with a small light brown head. The first smell contains notes of roasted malt along with a touch of licorice, followed by some light must and raisin from the yeast. The flavor is dominated by the dark malts; roasted barley, coffee and a little dark chocolate. The fruity yeast flavors are present but muted, there are hints of dark fruit flavors like plum and currant. The beer resembles an English or American stout more than many Belgian darks. I’m not a huge black licorice fan, so I was glad that the flavor here was mild, you get hints of anise but it’s not overbearing. There is enough hop bitterness to balance the beer and keep it from being sweet, but the dark malts are the star here. At 7.0% ABV this is a solid beer but not as heavy as many of the American craft beer’s dark offerings, and the alcohol doesn’t show up in the flavor profile. Take the Black Stout has a sturdy body and full flavor, making it the perfect beer for a cold winter night, even if you don’t live on a giant wall of ice. As the Stark family motto goes, winter is coming, so grab a bottle of Take the Black Stout to help keep the chill off. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.