When I reviewed Take the Black Stout, one of the early releases in Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beer series, I boldly predicted that the increase in popularity of craft beer would lead to many tie-ins and marketing promotions between breweries and movies or TV shows. It’s been over a year and my prediction hasn’t really panned out. There is apparently a series of beers based on the Hobbit movies, but they are brewed in Washington and not distributed to the East Coast. Other than that I haven’t heard of any of these types of collaborations (feel free to pass along any that I might have missed). I’m not really sure why, these Game of Thrones beers seem to fly off the shelf. I would imagine there is some hesitancy to market using an alcoholic beverage, and that some brewers feel like this type of collaboration would be “selling out”. I personally think it’s a fun way for a brewer to be creative, trying to come up with recipes that relate to specific scenes or characters in a show or movie. The newest release in the Game of Thrones series is Valar Morghulis, a Belgian style dubbel. I am a fan of the Game of Thrones show as well as the books (anyone who reads this blog regularly should realize my geekiness extends well beyond beer), and love this beer title. Valar Morghulis is a popular saying in Braavos and means “all men must die” and the coin on the label plays an important role in the show and books. Ommegang chose the title and style after an online fan vote. Ommegang Valar Morghulis is brewed with a series of specialty malts, Belgian Candi sugar, and Apollo and Hallertau hops. It is sold in 750 mL bottles for a limited time.
Ommegang Valar Morghulis pours a deep amber with a moderate sand-colored head. The smell is a mixture of bready malts and a little fruity yeast. The taste is malt forward as you would expect from the style, touches of toasted bread, caramel, plum and raisin. The Belgian style yeast adds significant complexity with notes of apple, apricot, clove and pepper. The hops aren’t very evident in the flavor, but they dry out the finish a little and keep the beer from being too sweet. The beer is medium bodied and good to sip at 8% ABV. The fruity esters from the yeast come through more as the beer warms. This is a solid version of a Belgian dubbel, grab some for now or to enjoy with the premiere of the next season on HBO. You could even age a bottle until the next book comes out, it will still be good years from now and we might be waiting that long for a new book :). Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Ommegang Reviews:
Ommegang Glimmerglass, Ommegang Take the Black Stout
The Belgian dubbel style, the malty and darker beer originally developed in Trappist monastaries, is not nearly as coveted by American craft beer enthusiasts as other similar styles. When it comes to Trappist styles it seems like more breweries make the bigger and boozier quadrupels and the lighter colored tripels that are amenable to higher doses of hops. Dubbels meanwhile compete for shelf space with other malt-forward styles like stouts, porters, Scottish ales and barleywines. I actually really enjoy a well made dubbel, the fruity and spicy Belgian yeast nicely complements the full body and malt sweetness resulting in a complex beer without the huge ABV. One of the flagship ales of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, ME has long been their Dubbel. This is a good example of how the dubbel style can fall through the cracks, it is much less prevalent than their ubiquitous White beer and less sought after than some of the special releases that Allagash brews. It is too bad because this is a great beer in this style and is usually pretty easy to find. It is distributed on draft or in 12 oz. bottles and 750 mL bombers.
Allagash Dubbel pours a deep amber with a mild cream colored head. The scent is a mixture of estery/spicy yeast and a little malt sweetness. The taste starts with the famous Allagash house yeast, notes of pepper, clove, apple and pear. This is balanced by significant malt flavor, hints of caramel, crackers, honey and nuts. There are minimal hops, just a little balance and dryness in the end. The beer is full bodied but still pretty easy to drink, the finish is clean with just a slight lingering sweetness. At 7% ABV Allagash Dubbel is by no means a light beer, but it is still lower in alcohol than many Belgian style brews. This is a very solid version of a dubbel, worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with the style or just feel like mixing it up. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Allagash Reviews:
Allagash/Maine Beer/Rising Tide Prince Tuesday, Allagash Saison, Allagash Black
I’m not surprised that many scientists gravitate towards craft beer and homebrewing. In the “real world” I am a chemist, and there are many similarities between my job and my hobby. In both brewing and chemistry a defined set of ingredients are mixed with careful control of temperature to obtain a desired product. While beer can be described as an art as well as a science, precise additions of quality ingredients are important for consistently delicious beer. Many brewers are constantly tinkering with their ingredient profiles, and share the resulting creations as a series of beer releases. Most of these beer series change the malt or hop profiles, allowing the brewer to highlight a particular ingredient or combination of ingredients. Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, MA probably has the most unique series of beers I’ve tasted, their Vinland series.
Each year the brewers at Mystic (who are trained microbiologists), cultivate a naturally occurring yeast strain from a variety of local fruit and use it to brew their beer. The goal is to isolate a strain from a different fruit in a different New England state each year. The first beer in the series used plums from Massachusetts, while Vinland 2 harvested yeast from Maine blueberries. Recently released Vinland 3 uses a yeast strain cultivated from raspberries grown in Vermont, and uses the yeast to brew a Belgian style dubbel. While the fruit itself isn’t used in the brewing or fermentation process, you can often get flavors reminiscent of the fruit that are actually contributed by the yeast. Vinland 3 is available for a limited time in 375 and 750 mL bottles.
Mystic Vinland 3 pours a deep cloudy reddish-brown with a large tan head. The smell is dominated by the local yeast, tons of fruit with a little spice. In contrast, the taste actually starts with the malt, notes of caramel, fresh baked bread and a little plum. The yeast also adds significant character, touches of apple, pear, pepper and must. There is also some raspberry flavor, very subtle but it gets more noticeable as the beer warms. Even with all the mentions of fruit flavors this is very much a traditional dubbel, not a fruit flavored beer. There is a very small hit of old world hops. They don’t add much to the flavor, but the mild bitterness adds some balance. The finish leaves a mix of sweet malt and spicy yeast on the tongue. Vinland 3 is medium bodied and drinkable at 6.0% ABV. As soon as I finished my bottle I wished I bought more (and I’m sure I will very soon). I might have preferred Vinland 2 overall, but it is pretty much a coin toss, both beers are great. This is highly recommended. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Mystic reviews:
Mystic Brewery visit and Day of Doom, Mystic Hazy Jane, Mystic Mary of the Gael, Mystic Vinland Two, Mystic Table Beer