Story last updated at 4/23/2014 - 2:31 pm
I don't watch TV. I don't go to the movies. I'm too busy drinking and writing about beer to fetter my time away with sitting in front of the TV watching images scroll by.
The big joke at my house is that when I do occasionally sit down for a minute or two while the TV is on, and find some passing interest in something, it's all hands on deck to help me with the remote. On good days, someone opens my beer. Ancillary to this, I don't listen to music either. Oh, I enjoy music, but when the radio is on - and that's only when I'm driving somewhere in the Fermentomobile - talk radio is on, not music.
This comes at a price. I'm out of touch.
I've been hearing about this "Game of Thrones" thingie, and it wasn't until I walked into one of my favorite grog shops and saw bottles of Game of Thrones beer on the shelf that I really started paying attention.
Go ahead and laugh, but I even had to ask the much-younger store proprietor what Game of Thrones is all about. "Oh, it's a big thing," she told me. "It's a HBO series which is in, like, it's fourth season," she said.
I learned more about the series in five minutes than I'd even heard of in four years. Go figure. Still, it was the beer that piqued my interest.
"Oh, you're not alone," she said. "Since we opened today, I've had six calls wondering if we had the beer."
TV and movie-inspired beer is nothing new. A beer made for the season finale of "The Walking Dead" has just been released. Dock Street Brewing Company produced Dock Street Walker, an American pale stout brewed with wheat, oats, flaked barley, organic cranberries and smoked goat brains. I'll pass.
I've heard of Dock Street, but am more intrigued by the better known Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, N.Y. that's churning out this next iteration in a series of Game of Thrones beers. The first beer was Iron Throne. The second was Take the Black Stout, and the one that caught my eye is Fire and Blood Red Ale.
I'm not going to digress a whole bunch about the hit HBO series. I did figure out that the series is based on a series of novels by author George R.R. Martin, the first of which was published in 1996. This series won a whole bunch of literary awards that even as a writer, I've never heard of.
OK, one of the novels made the New York Times bestseller list and hit No. 1 in July 2011. That's good enough for me.
If I read a lot of "high fantasy," I might indulge. I don't know if Martin's a beer drinker, but I remain more interested in what Ommegang made of the concept than the countless video games and other high-hype, high-marketed spinoff creations that come from the screen.
I'll just leave it at this. Maybe you'll understand this better than I ever could, but according to Brewery Ommegang's web page, which has a portion dedicated exclusively to the Game of Thrones beers, "named after the motto of House of Targaryen, Fire and Blood is inspired by Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. To celebrate the rebirth of dragons, three different labels were created by the Game of Thrones visual effects specialists, each depicting one of Daenerys' feared dragons. Randomly distributed amongst the cases, each case will contain all three bottles."
I wonder how many devotees rushed out to score a case of this red juice just to collect the bottles, not knowing a damned thing about Ommegang or the beer.
I paid $8.96 for my single 750 ml cork and bail-finished bottle with a picture of one of the dragons on it. There's no way I'd pay $107.88 for a case just to score all three of the Official HBO Licensed Products.
Thank goodness most liquor stores break up the cases and set all three out on a first-come, first-served basis. There's a limit of three per customer, by the way, attesting not only to the apparent rarity of the beer, but with a nod to the three distinct, artful labels.
If a lesser brewery had produced this stuff, I'd probably pass, but I have a lot of respect for Brewery Ommegang. It's considered one of the most authentic psuedo-Belgian breweries in the world. In fact, Ommegang is owned by the world-class Duvel Moortgat Brewery of Belgium. If it's any testimony, I maintain a desert island six pack - rather than have one favorite beer in life, aficionados can maintain six they'd prefer to die with if stranded on a desert island. Beers can be rotated in and out of the six pack at will over the years.
In mine, the only beer that's never been cycled out is the original Duvel, a Belgian strong pale ale. Oh, and a visit to Ommegang in Cooperstown has been on my bucket list long before it was acquired by Duvel.
So, what about Fire and Blood? It's an oddity, perhaps by design. I expected as much from a beer that contains not only the requisite malt and hops, but spelt, rye and Ancho chilies.
The bottle-conditioned beer pours a deep, almost ruddy amber in the glass. A very thin white head initially covers the top, then trails to the edges of the glass. The nose delivers the requisite Belgian-esque funk I'd expect from the signature yeast strain. The rye pokes out too, along with some dark fruit essence and a touch of spice and very background hops.
The same Belgian-influenced essences push through in the flavor for sure, but the beer is predominantly malt forward with rich caramel notes and some biscuit like edges. The vinous dark fruit essence is there as well as is the rye, and to a lesser degree the spelt. The chili influence is subtle and contributing in a vegetal sort of way, only really coming out in the dry, spicy finish with a touch of heat. The 6.8 percent alcohol by volume is buried in this one.
All in all, I would have appreciated a lot more complexity given the label, the hype and the intensity that the whole Game of Thrones concept seems to be. Would I buy another one? Sure. It's OK. Maybe I'll grab another one, sit in my big recliner, have someone pry out the cork and serve it to me as they fuss with the remote so I can tune in and see what's beyond the beer in this popular series. There may still be some around if you search it out. Care to join me in front of the tube with a glass of beer?