Beer Review 0535: Brewery Ommegang Game Of Thrones Take The Black Stout

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Ommegang, founded in 1997 in Cooperstown, New York, specialize in Belgian-style ales. The principal founders were Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, who also happened to own the Vanberg & DeWulf beer import company.

The brewery started in a traditional Belgian farmhouse setting and quickly expanded — by 2003, Feinberg and Littlefield sold Ommegang to Duvel-Moortgat, brewers of the world-renowned Duvel Golden Ale (my rating: 100 points). For a short period of time, Duvel-Moortgat brewed some Ommegang beer until they could appropriately expand the New York operation.

Ommegang enjoys wide distribution across the United States, appearing on the shelves of 43 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

A couple recent offerings sees the brewery teaming up with the successful HBO television series Game Of Thrones, which premiered in 2011. Personally, I’ve never seen an episode of the show, so I don’t know anything about it, but there are a series of beers involved that share inspiration from storylines that take place on the show. The latest release, Take The Black Stout, is “inspired by the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch, made to be deep, dark and complex like those who have sworn the oath to defend Westeros against threats from the north.” Hopefully, if you’re a fan of the show, that makes sense. This is the second beer in the series; apparently demand was so high after the first beer that Ommegang has increased production by more than double. Take the Black Stout comes in at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is brewed with licorice root and star anise.

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Uncorking (there’s no fight here; this cork zoomed out with seemingly no pressure) and pouring produced a nice, large head that lasted, built frothy and billowing over top of the glass. The beer is as described, jet stout black, and has only a trace of ruby red edge at the bottom of the glass. The body appeared clear and had no particles or sediment. Lacing was extremely nice, leaving light tan clumps of suds all along the sides of the vessel. It’s a good looking brew.

Things start to get confusing on the nose. If you’re expecting a stout, you better guess again; this aroma is very much like a Tripel, with plenty of orange peel and candied orange and a solid backing of bready, doughy yeast. The scent is wild for how dark this beer is. Dig deeper and you’ll find dark cereal malts, and a nice amount of dark fruits like raisin and prune, especially as the beer warms.

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On the palate, the initial trappings of a Tripel are still apparent, with a heavy presence of orange peel and bready yeast, but the dark malts are here and rush in during the middle of the taste. At first, it’s like sweetened coffee, building to a finish of bright citrus hops that provide some bitterness, then more pronounced bitter with a deep layer of black coffee, licorice, and burnt toast. This is one of those beers that once you get to the finish, each sip continues to get more and more deeper in terms of flavor; halfway through the glass, the toasted malts start to get a bit much when combined with the moderate to heavy bitterness. Take The Black Stout is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy, and slightly gritty texture.

I wouldn’t classify this as a stout, that’s for sure. It’s more like a Dark Tripel. No surprise that the flavors here are good, but finishing the bottle was tiring and dare I say the addition of licorice root and star anise made the finish just a touch too strong.

Brewery Ommegang Game Of Thrones Take The Black Stout, 82 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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