A beer based on a TV show seems like it must necessarily be a gimmick. But scratch the surface and it becomes obvious that the Game of Thrones-inspired Iron Throne ale from Brewery Ommegang is a substantial and remarkable brew.
First, consider the brewery that HBO chose to work with. Brewery Ommegang (owned by Duvel Moortgat) is based on the Belgian farmhouse brewery tradition and is known widely as one of the early leaders of the American craft beer movement. Ommegang was the first to brew a saison in the U.S., and beer aficionados consistently snap up the brewery’s other special releases.
More importantly, this Belgian blonde ale establishes its credentials in the glass. Properly poured — with enough vigour to create a moderate, one-inch, nearly white head, but carefully enough to leave the yeast sediment undisturbed at the bottom of the bottle — the Iron Throne ale is a brilliant yellow-gold.
The aroma is driven by characteristic notes of Belgian yeast (a Brewery Ommegang signature), including banana and warm spices, along with bready malt and a grassy-floral note form the hops. Wheat and citrus zest join the show with the first sip, augmented by a powerful dose of carbonation. It is moderately bitter throughout.
The dry finish indicates to me that this beer will gain complexity and smoothness with age. The printed best-before date on bottles for this release is April 2015, but if you don’t mind losing some of the floral hop aromas, I would consider that more of a “drink on” date.
HBO and Brewery Ommegang have announced that their Game of Thrones series will continue this fall with the release of Take the Black stout. Apparently, Iron Throne was the brewery’s quickest-selling special release, so we should thank the LCBO for bringing it to Ontario, and we should keep our fingers crossed that a shipment of the new release will be secured.
If you’re a fan of the TV series, you’ll enjoy the bottle design and maybe the associated marketing hoopla that went with the special release. But even if you’ve never heard of the wildly popular show, it’s easy to appreciate the care that went into producing this complex and delicious golden ale.