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
Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY has recently gained publicity due to their series of beers inspired by the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Before this popular collaboration Ommegang was know predominantly for their wide range of year-round and seasonal Belgian style ales. Since I am spending the Spring focusing the blog on a Belgian style of beer, it is critical to include a selection from Ommegang. While they make a popular and delicious flagship saison called Hennepin, I chose to try Ommegang’s Spring seasonal saison, Glimmerglass. James Fenimore Cooper nicknamed a lake in Cooperstown Glimmerglass due to the amazing reflections of the surrounding hills, and Ommegang decided it was a fitting name for their Spring seasonal. The beer is distributed through most of the country in 12 oz bottles and on draft.
Ommegang Glimmerglass pours straw gold, slightly cloudy with a large but quickly dissipating white head. The smell is all Belgian yeast, fruity esters and spice along with a little citrus and must. The taste starts with the yeast too, green apple, pepper, pear and a touch of orange. The malts are present, contributing flavors of grain, biscuits and crackers. The hops are pretty mild, adding some floral and woodsy notes and just a hint of bitterness. The beer has a light mouthfeel and is very easy to drink. At 5.4% ABV it is on the light side compared to many saisons, good for drinking on the porch on a warm afternoon. The finish is pretty clean with a little malt sweetness and spice lingering on the tongue. This is a solid and drinkable saison, perfect for the warm weather to come. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
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.