Over the course of the past five years, HBO’s “Game Of Thrones” has spawned a cottage industry of blog posts, podcasts, and even a separate half-hour of television (“After the Thrones”) dedicated to recapping, explaining and prognosticating events in Westeros. Viewers following the epic trajectories of the Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens and Baratheons have been witness to no shortage of brutality and tragedy, including beheadings, poisonings, stabbings, and Red Weddings.
Since the show’s third season, which aired in 2013, Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang has produced a commemorative brew for every season of “Game of Thrones.” Which ones are appropriate for celebrating victory against your enemies, hopping a ride on a dragon, scouting the Wall or scheming to usurp the Iron Throne? Let’s recap.
Seven Kingdoms (Season 6): By this point, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have effectively lapped author George R. R. Martin, who’s still hard at work on the latest in his series of “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. Does this mean that something even vaguely resembling a happy ending is on the horizon? The tagline for this hybrid Belgian wheat beer and American ale seems to anticipate as much: “Of Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms, six were conquered and one, indomitable, was brought in, not by war, but by the sacred blood ties of marriage.” Brewed with pilsner malt, wheat and oats, and carrying tangy and spicy — but not overly bitter — notes, Seven Kingdoms is now available both in 750-ml bottles and on draught.
Three-Eyed Raven (Season 5): Played by legendary actor Max Von Sydow, the Three-Eyed Raven is one of the most mysterious characters in all of Westeros. A seer who lives in symbiosis with an ancient weirwood tree north of the Wall, he had, until Season 5, appeared to be a figure exclusive to the dreams of Bran Stark. This dark saison may not produce visions, but it is a beer whose appearance proves deceiving. Saisons are traditionally golden in color, but the Three-Eyed Raven comes out of the bottle looking more like a porter. But like a traditional saison, this beer is light-bodied, crisp and rustic. Expect yeast-forward flavors to give way to subtle maltiness, finishing with a delicious sting of pepper.
Valar Morgulis (Season 4): In High Valyrian (the Latin of Westeros), “Valar morgulis” translates to “All men must die.” If extended in greeting or conversation, it is customary to respond with “Valar dohaeris”: “All men must serve.” In other words, there are two sides to this sentiment, just as there are often significant costs and benefits to be accounted for with every choice made in Westeros. In that context, Valar Morgulis makes a fitting name for a Belgian dubbel. A decadent brown, the beer’s toasty richness disguises an astringent, hoppy finish. An allegory for life in Westeros, perhaps?
Fire and Blood (Season 3): You can’t talk about “Game of Thrones” without talking about dragons. Thought to be long extinct, dragons are key to Daenerys Targaryen’s plan to reclaim the Iron Throne for her family. Fire and Blood is a red ale for the collector: there are three label variants, each depicting one of the three dragons (Drogon, Rhaegal, Viserion) hatched by Daenerys at the end of Season 1. Ommegang has added ancho chiles to what is otherwise a relatively sweet (think fig and cherry, not apple and peach) ale, one brewed with spelt and rye in addition to pilsner malt. While not smoky, Fire and Blood remains an excellent barbecue beer.
Take the Black Stout (Season 2): You’d expect any fictional world so indebted to medieval history to prominently feature beer, but if Tyrion Lannister is any indication, the alcoholic beverage of choice in Westeros appears to be wine. But you can bet the men of the Night’s Watch are probably more likely to enjoy a hearty traditional English ale as they wait out the long, wintry Northern nights. Chocolate Malt, Midnight Wheat and Roasted Barley lend this Black Stout a deep, earthy warmth and a full body. The addition of star anise and licorice root only accentuate its unexpected herbal and floral delicacy. Rogues and miscreants they may be, but the Night’s Watch is still a brotherhood.
Iron Throne (Season 1): It all begins here, with the most coveted relic in all of the “Game of Thrones” universe. And Ommegang itself was not prepared for the popularity of this inaugural brew — they’ve had to step up production of each subsequent “Game of Thrones” beer to meet demand. This blonde ale puts citrus front and center, thanks to the addition of lemon peel and grains of paradise — an increasingly popular ingredient in craft beer due to its ability to complement a wide array of hops. Phil Leinhart, Brewmaster at Brewery Ommegang, has his own description of this beer, and it is worthy of any bard: “Iron Throne is certainly fair in color and soft in appearance, yet it still possesses a complexity and bite to be on guard for.”
Which of these “Games of Thrones” beers have you sampled? How would you rank them? What are you looking forward to from Ommegang as it works to keep up with future seasons of the show? Join us at Flying Saucer after your watch party, or share your own beer lore in the comments below.