by Scott H. Andrews | November 6th, 2013 | No Comments
As a fantasy & science fiction writer and reader, I’ve loved George R.R. Martin’s work going back over a decade. Even in his short fiction from 35 years ago, you can feel that same vividness and tangible realness that his current huge fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has.
That ongoing saga has now hit the mainstream with the success of its HBO show Game of Thrones. And with that, although Martin has seemingly been licensing tons of products already (swords, miniature figures, RPGs), HBO has licensed a series of beers.
Which might seem a face-palming recipe for disaster, but the brewery they’re doing it with is Omegang, the Belgian-beer specialists from Cooperstown NY. I missed their first Game of Thrones limited offering, a blonde, but I’m not a big Belgian fan. But two days before a party for some fellow fantasy writers, I came across a whole palette of the next GOT beer in my local store, a stout, so I snagged it.
Enter “Take the Black Stout,” named for the order of black-clad, service-sworn soldiers who guard the Hadrian’s Wall-like wall at the frozen north of Martin’s fantasy realm. The bottle artwork is a gorgeous and impressionistic rendering of a weirwood tree with its sacred carving of a face in the bark, an old religious practice of the people from those northlands.
Is “Belgian stout” a real thing? Or is it as real as Martin’s dragons and Otherses. In this age of “Imperial IPAs” and “Belgian Pilsners” and countless other such invented styles, I suspect the latter.
The head of this Take the Black poured quite nice and frothy. The flavor had a definite Belgian yeastiness underneath. The body was solid but a bit on the weaker side, but then again, I prefer stouts with so much body and punch that they coat your tongue.
The overall flavor however was a pronounced bitterness, tasting more of sharp hoppiness than burnt malts. Especially combined with the somewhat lacking stout body, that bitterness stuck out to me, in a way that bitterness never does in an aged stout with more solid body.
I respect Omegang, even though I’m not a big Belgian fan. I have a second bottle of this Take the Black, and I don’t regret that. It’ll give solid enjoyment while I wait to drink something else, but I won’t be in a hurry to Take the Black again.
Rating: nice to try, but likely just another (gorgeous) bottle for my collection.