Beer: Fire and Blood Brewery: Brewery Ommegang Style: Red Ale ABV: 6.8 percent
Brewery Ommegang is onto something with this TV/beer thing, it would seem. Last month, Harvest Moon Brewing Company made millions of Trekkies ecstatic by releasing the first officially licensed Star Trek-themed brew, Vulcan Ale. Soon after, Dock Street Brewing Co. bottled Walker, its tribute to The Walking Dead brewed with smoked goat brains. We are awash in alcoholic cross-marketing.
It's not hard to see why more breweries are making beers that tie into popular TV shows. Ommegang's first foray into synergy of this level, Iron Throne Blonde Ale, sold out far more quickly than anyone expected. In response, brewers doubled the batch size for the second beer in the series, an anise-tinged stout called Take the Black. It sold out just as quickly. Never underestimate the attractive power of a show with so many boobs and beheadings.
Fire and Blood is the third brew in the series, released just in time for the premiere of Game of Thrones' fourth season on April 6. Like the beers before it, this ale was crafted to correlate with characters and themes from the show. The character of choice this time around: Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, queen of the Andals and the first men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, breaker of chains and mother of dragons. These titles are important in Fire and Blood (the motto, appropriately, of House Targaryen). As "breaker of chains," Daenerys has freed from slavery and now leads a tribe of grassland nomads, which inspired Ommegang's brewers to include rye and spelt -- somewhat uncommon brewing grains -- in the beer's malt bill. As "mother of dragons," Dany controls three living, breathing fire lizards: Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. To honor these mythical beasts, Ommegang added fiery ancho chilies to the beer and Game of Thrones' visual effects people designed three different bottle labels, each featuring a different dragon.
Fire and Blood is the most drinkable beer in the series, if not the most delicious (that, in this writer's opinion, was Take the Black, which is tasting mighty smooth about now). Hazy and colored like tarnished copper, this frothy red ale is capped with a large, dense, pillowy tan head that boasts as strong a claim for its place atop the brew as Daenerys does for the Iron Throne -- it sets itself up tall and refuses to relinquish its place. A whiff of this bold froth reveals notes of apple skin, caramel, wet bread and black pepper gained, no doubt, from the addition of spicy, floral Styrian Golding and Tettnag hops. Wisps of smoked chile pepper swirl in the background.
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Daenerys Targaryen has a unique ability in Game of Thrones: heat and fire cannot harm her. Like the mother of dragons, you need not fear Fire and Blood's flame -- the ancho chilies aren't intense in either flavor or heat. In fact, the brew's flavor is solidly amber ale, with pizza crust, apple juice, black pepper spice and floral hop bitterness arising before sharp rye dries out the finish. The peppers do lend a soft vegetal character as well as a gentle heat that warms the throat -- perhaps this is the way a dragon feels.
It's certain that we'll see another Game of Thrones beer (Ommegang has announced plans to brew at least one more in the series) and likely that more breweries will get in on this synergistic game. I'm not opposed, as long as brewers avoid simply using a show's name to move product and continue to craft beers inspired by the shows -- and that the beers taste good. I'll let you know about that goat brain beer.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.