Beer Review: Three 3’s Blueberry Saison

Name: Blueberry Saison
Brewing Company: Three 3’s Brewing Company
Location: Hammonton, NJ
Style: Farmhouse – Saison
ABV: 5.8%

A Farmhouse beer from the Garden State featuring an iconic fruit from the State makes for a fun, flavorful beer.

From Three 3’s page for their beers:

This classic light bodied Saison is flavored with mosaic hops and then conditioned on a truckload of local Hammonton Blueberries, creating a beautifully colored farmhouse ale! Bright colored, crisp, and juicy… With just a little bit of bite! The perfect summer beer!

Few fruits are as associated with New Jersey as the tasty and tart blueberry. After all, the blueberry is the State Fruit of New Jersey. As it so happens, Hammonton, New Jersey, home of Three 3’s brewing, is the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” so when I saw this beer available in stores around me, I figured what better beer to feature/review during New Jersey Craft Beer Week. The imagery on the label evokes the “Welcome to Hammonton” sign emblazoned with “Blueberry Capital of the World,” which is a really nice touch.

Three 3’s is one of a triumvirate of breweries in Hammonton and the brewery whose beers I’ve seen most often in my area so I was especially pleased to see something this interesting on the shelf. I like blueberries quite a bit, they are one of my favorite fruits.  Adding blueberries to a Saison would be a logical pairing. Given those ideas, does the theory prove out in the beer itself?

The beer pours a bluish-reddish-purplish, as you might expect. Think a slightly lighter and hazier version of what blueberry or cranberry blueberry juice would look like with carbonation and a head, of course. Aroma is blueberry with a bit of tanginess intermingled with the earthy flavors associated with Saisons. Nothing unexpected in what is wafting from the glass of beer through my nose into my palate.

First sip leads me to think the taste follows the nose. More sips proves that out to be true. On the front end of the beer, there is a large amount of blueberry. This is great because as I said, I like blueberries. I think the yeast and bready elements inherent in the beer evoke thoughts of blueberry pie in my palate memory. Because blueberries are a tangy and sweet fruit, the beer has nice amount of zing, too. Not sour like a gose, but the pleasant tartness natural to blueberries.

This saison leans a bit on the earthier side, with a bit of an aftertaste. That’s about my only issue with the beer, but that’s more of a personal preference on saisons that exhibit this kind of aftertaste. In that sense, my instinct tells me this is a well-made beer. Before posting this review, I wanted a second take on the beer. The first can, I enjoyed all by itself, with no food accompaniment. The following night, I had the beer with the usual pizza my wife and I get on Fridays and I was surprised that I enjoyed the beer even more. It seemed like more blueberry was present, or my palate was in a slightly different place a day later. Either way, Blueberry Saison from Three 3’s is a top notch saison that is made more flavorful with the local fruit shining as a smart additive.

This is a great beer to represent NJ and NJ’s claim as the Garden State that puts the Official State Fruit on full display. Saisons, with the moniker of Farmhouse Ale is a logical beer to be brewed in Garden State, throw in a fruit (Blueberry) that 100% exemplifies the region of the fruit and few beers may as deliciously shout New Jersey as much as Three 3’s Blueberry Saison. In short, a beer well-worth trying.

Recommended, link to Untappd post. I initially gave this beer 3.75 rating, which translates to a beer I’d want again and happily buy again. After the second can the following night, I’d give this one a 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 9)

You have a keen taste for this Belgian masterpiece. Did you know the Saison style beer was invented by Belgian farms, brewed in the Winter and served the Spring / Summer to all their workers? Well now you do! That’s 45 different Saisons.

 

Beer Review: Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont (Beer Review 100!)

Name: Saison Dupont
Brewing Company: Brasserie Dupont
Location: Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6.5%

The legendary template for a beer is that world class rarity – a beer that lives up to its reputation and may even exceed it.

I love the “holes” in the fluffy head.

From Brasserie Dupont’s page for the beer:

The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in our farm-brewery, during the winter time. Then this beer became a second refermentation in the barrel. During the next summer, this very thirst-quenching beer was served to the “saisoniers” which were working on the fields.

Surely therefore, our Saison Dupont is considered as “the classic” among the Belgian season beers! Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quenchener with no equal, just the way it was created. Our selection of yeasts is the perfect base for these typical aromas and ditto taste. A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for a long time in your cellar, result into this complex and particular aromatic beer..

This is something of a momentous review – Beer Review 100 at the Tap Takeover. A little over two years to get to that number, but here it is. I wanted to do something a little special for review #100, specifically a beer held in high regard by many people, one that is fairly readily available, but one I haven’t yet tried. I finally settled on what many consider the standard bearer for the Belgian Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Saison Dupont.

Another stylistic preface – Saison/Farmhouse Ales aren’t a go to for me. I don’t dislike the style, but it isn’t always my first choice. I’ve had a little over 40 over the past few years, largely because it is a fairly widely available standard style. Most of the Saisons I’ve had are American; however. The style likely originated in the 1700s in Belgian farms in Wallonia, mostly from ingredients on the farm. The beer that eventually became Saison Dupont (or a version of it) was first brewed in 1844 and with the same recipe since the 1950s. The beer gained much more popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s after Michael Jackson visited the brewery and encouraged Dupont to partner with a US importer. All About Beer has a great article on the beer, which is where I gleaned much of the information I just spouted about the beer.

The above is all well and good, but what do I think about the beer?

Anytime a beer has the cork and cage, that tells me it is special even if the science behind this capping technique is the real reason why it is capped this way. The cork pops not unlike champagne/sparkling wine (no surprise since Belgian brewing and French wine are geographic neighbors), and out flows a beautiful earthy scent. I let the beer settle after the aggravation of the cork popping and then pour the beer. It is hazy, golden yellow, and creates a very thick and fluffy head. Even tilting the glass at 45 degrees doesn’t prevent the thick head from taking up more than half of the glass. Lots of yeast and at work in the beer for sure.

More earthy, almost bready aroma from the beer as I inhale the aroma more fully. Maybe sweetness and spice, too. I wait for the head to settle before taking a sip.

That first sip is … legendary. Beautiful, complex, potent, and flavorful. Belgian ales and Belgian style ales, in my mind, are most strongly characterized by their yeast, and that is definitely the case with this beer. Dupont has been using the same yeast/yeast strain since about the 1940s so the beer has been consistently delicious, if this batch bottled in early 2019 is any indication.

The yeast evokes pure earthiness, and a saison to me is probably the most earthy style of beer – I get slight hints of lemon, some breadiness, a sweetness throughout most of the time the beer is traversing my palate. It finishes with a bit of spiciness and a pleasant dryness.

The bottle is big, 750ml so it isn’t one to drink quickly. Compared to most other styles, I probably wouldn’t let this one warm to room temperature too much. Straight out of the bottle you get so much flavor that the only real reason to wait before taking that first pleasant sip is for the head to dissipate. Once that happens, dive in and enjoy.

This is an extremely versatile beer that I can imagine pairing with just about any meal. As the global template for the style, Saison Dupont should be readily available in most liquor stores and bottle shops. I’ve seen the beer in both the big 750ml bottles and 4 packs.

Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.

Jeff Alworth over at his Beervana Blog has a great article on Saisons, which highlights Saison Dupont. It is well worth a read, as is anything Jeff has to say about beer.

Without hesitation, I can say this beer is an absolute must-have. This is a beer that absolutely lived up to the reputation it has earned over the last 70 or so years. I know, I’m really pushing the envelope here on my 100th beer review with those statements about such a revered beer.

This is a beer that is supposed to age fairly well, so I’d like to try a bottle with a little more time on it as this bottle has a 2019 bottling date.

Recommended. Link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Unibroue’s A TOUT le MONDE

Name: À Tout le Monde
Brewing Company: Unibroue
Location: Chambly, QC Canada
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 4.5%

From Unibroue’s Landing Page for the beer:

À TOUT LE MONDE Ale honors the mutual passions and friendship of Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Unibroue’s Brewmaster Jerry Vietz.

It is brewed as a tribute to all the friends of hard rock music and Belgian style ales in Quebec and throughout the world. Heavy metal has played a very influential role in the history of Quebec’s musical development and Quebec city has the reputation of being one of the metal music capitals of the world. It is a closely-knit culture characterised by very passionate and devoted fans, much like that of Unibroue’s refermented ales.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Dave and Jerry’s paths recently crossed, their mutual passions for both arts would spark a desire for a Megadeth beer brewed by Unibroue.

And so À TOUT LE MONDE Ale was born, inspired by the most popular hard rock song to feature a chorus sung entirely in French, and whose video is in the Music Hall of Fame of Quebec’s most popular TV music show. The beer is a refreshing and artisanal Belgian Style Dry Hopped Saison and the label appropriately and prominently features a symbol that is synonymous to Megadeth, their well-known mascot Vic Rattlehead.

With my piece a couple of weeks ago on Saisons, I thought it was about time I reviewed a beer in that classic style. Sure, I reviewed a “Sour – Famhouse IPA” but I wanted to focus on a straight-up Saison. As often is the case when I want to try a single beer, my local Wegman’s came through for me in their make your own six pack deal.

As a fan of both 1980s heavy metal and quality beer I’d been wanting to try this beer for a while, though when I first learned Megadeth was going to be brewing a beer in partnership with Unibroue, I wouldn’t have expected it to be a saison. I love when my expectations are shattered for the good.

Fact: Megadeth’s Rust in Peace is an absolutely perfect album and one of the 5 or 10 greatest metal albums all time. If you don’t agree you are wrong.

Unibroue is out of Canada, I’ve had a few of their beers and enjoyed them, so I was hoping this would deliver the goods and it certainly did. As you can see in the picture above, the beer pours a light, bright bubbly yellow out of the glass.

The first taste is a nice “wow” of refreshment. I can imagine if I was toiling out in my yard on a warm spring day and had a sip of this I would be even more pleased. After all, the Farmhouse Ale was crafted specifically as refreshment for field/farm workers.

There are some fruity, citrusy notes that complement the characteristic Belgian yeast so well. I got a little bit of banana in there, too. This isn’t an overpowering fruit like a lambic or even a banana-heavy Hefeweizen, but rather a beer that is a harmonious and a very well-crafted . There’s a subtle pop of hops at the end, but it makes for a very well balanced finish with an IBU rating of 22.

As I’ve said in talking about Pilsners, Saisons are similarly one of the world-classic styles of ales. They don’t get quite the attention as say, IPAs or barrel-aged stouts, but damn when you have one made exceptionally well from the style’s standard ingredients and brewing methods, you can have an elegantly crafted ale that is sure to please. With À Tout le Monde, Unibroue’s brewmaster Jerry Vietz has created a genuinely delicious ale in a traditional style. It isn’t something I would have expected to enjoy as much as I did, but there you have it, shattered expectations. Then again, with my growing leanings to the Belgian style of beers, coupled with how well this beer is crafted, hindsight would would easily point to my enjoyment of this beer.

I’m going to have to hunt this one down to get a four pack or two because my brother-in-law (the biggest Megadeth fan I know) is already fuming at me because I didn’t share this with him. You may be hearing a tiny violin playing as you read those words.

This beer was kind of a big deal when it was first released in 2016, with a website dedicated to the beer:  http://www.megadethbeer.com.

The name of the beer is a song title from Youthanaisa, Megadeth’s 1995 album but I prefer the 2007 re-recording with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil slightly retitled as À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free) which appeared on the United Abominations album, also a very good album. I’ve embedded the YouTube Video embedded at the very end of the post for your listening/viewing pleasure.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 6)

You have a keen taste for this Belgian masterpiece. Did you know the Saison style beer was invented by Belgian farms, brewed in the Winter and served the Spring/Summer to all their workers? Well now you do! That’s 30 different Saisons.

Draught Diversions: Spring Fling 6 Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Spring doesn’t exactly align with beer in the same way that Fall/Oktoberfest does, but there are two styles that signify spring in the beer world: Maibock (lager) and Saison/Farmhouse Ale. Spring officially began about a week or so ago, but with Easter this coming Sunday, I figured now would be a good time to assemble a Six Pack of Spring Beers. Seeing how this is one of my Six Pack posts, I’ll feature three beers of each style. I’ve only had half of the beers from today’s post so for the other three beers, I’m highlighting beers based on a combination of reputation and what appeals to me.

I’ll start with Saisons, one of the classic Belgian ales. I’ve only had a limited amount of saisons and that includes samples at breweries or beer festivals, so I am far from an expert on the style. However, one of my summer go-to beers is Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale. Basically, I’d like to sample more of this traditional style which  was made for farmworkers to enjoy as a refreshment during their days toiling out in the farmlands. Only one of the three I’m listing have I had more than once (and I really enjoyed it), so I’ll start there.

Worker’s Comp Saison – Two Roads Brewing Company (Stratford, CT)

How could I not include this beer from Two Roads? Especially considering head-brewer/owner Phil Markowski (as I may have mentioned in the past) literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales – Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. I’ve had this offering from Two Roads a few times and it is always a dependable Ale. Workers Comp is a year-round beer and should be available through Two Roads’ (growing) distribution footprint but it is especially timely right now. At 4.8% ABV this beer is a sessionable ale, which is what a Farmhouse Ale/Saison should be considering the roots of the style.

Saison Dupont – Brasserie Dupont (Leuze-en-Hainaut, Belgium)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Belgian Saison considering the style was invented in Belgium. If I’m going to go with a Belgain Farmhouse Ale, then I have to include Saison Dupont, from Brasserie Dupont. This is essentially the Farmhouse Ale that started it all and touted in a few places as the best beer in the world. I think this one is available in both 750ml bottles and 4-packs.

I haven’t had this one yet, but with how much I’ve been enjoying not just Belgian-style ales, but beers from Belgium lately, I may have to try it this spring.

Saison – Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Trying to whittle down the enumerable saisons available in the market down to one last interpretation of the beer is a difficult task, to be sure. There are two breweries in the Northeast whose brewing portfolio is in a distinctly Belgian tradition, so I’ll go with one of those, specifically Allagash. I’ve had a couple beers from the Maine brewery so I’d really like to try this most Belgian of beers.

Allagash describes the beer quite nicely: Citrus and peppery spice are balanced by a pleasant malt character. Saison is full bodied with a rustic, dry finish. Made for enjoying, no matter which type of work you’re returning from. That description makes me want to grab a bottle right now.

Like Two Roads’ Saison, this beer is available year-round and with Allagash’s relatively large distribution footprint, this ale should be easy to find.

On to the Maibocks…

Bocks, specifically Maibocks, are one of the less common lager styles. I see more dopplebocks and weizenbocks than the lighter, spring variety so selecting three for this post proved more challenging than the saison half of my 2018 Spring Fling 6 pack. Granted, we are still in March as of the date of this post, but I’ve been seeing Maibocks (especially the first one) on shelves already.

Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock (München, Germany)

Of course I would go with at least one German brewery, right? This is a beer style and brand filled to the mug with tradition: “By tradition, the first barrel of Maibock is tapped at the Hofbräuhaus in the last week of April, in time for the merry month of May. The success story of Munich’s oldest bock beer goes back as far as 1614.”

I had a six pack of this last spring and enjoyed it. There’s a really nice malty, caramel feel to the beer overlaying the crispness of the lager. This beer is a prime example of German brewing tradition.

Dead ‘N’ Dead Rogue (Newport, OR)

Dead ‘N’ Dead is whiskey barrel-aged version of Rogue’s year-round flagship beer, Dead Guy Ale. I really like Dead Guy and if it is on a beer menu, I’ll usually order it to get the night going. I like most barrel-aged beers so if you take a beer I already like and throw it in a whiskey barrel for a while, chances are high that I’ll really like it.

I’ve seen this one in stores and shelves but haven’t yet tried it. Like many of Rogue’s special brews, this beer is available in 22oz bombers so I imagine you’d want to take your time with this beer given the potential complex tastes and the 8.2% ABV.

Cultivator Helles Bock – (Hershey, PA)

It has been quite a while since I had a bottle of this beer because unfortunately, I think it might be a brewery-only release now. Once part of Tröeg’s Hop Cycle, it was replaced last year in that cycle by First Cut. Cultivator, however, was a very good example of the style. Malty and bready, it was quite a bit like Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock.

This was a solid offering from the always dependable brewers at Tröegs so I’d love to see it again, maybe in one of their seasonal variety packs.

Six beers worth trying this spring if you can find them. What are some saisons, maibocks, or other spring seasonal beers that are worth checking out?

Beer Review: New Belgium Brewing’s French Oak Saison

Name: French Oak Saison
Brewing Company: New Belgium Brewing Company
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Sour – Farmhouse IPA (untappd) / Barrel Aged Sour Farmhouse Ale (Bottle)
ABV: 7.5%

The beer’s description on New Belgium’s Landing Page for the beer:

To understand “Belgian-style beer” is to understand Belgium’s nuanced regions and historical past. To the north, we have Flanders, a region invaded and occupied by many foreign powers over hundreds of years, known for everything from white beer to oak-aged sour brown ales.

To the south, we have Wallonia, a region known for its rich farmland, industrial coalfields, French culture and farmhouse ales like Biere de Garde and saison. Our French Oak Saison pulls inspiration from both regions by marrying a dry, hop-forward Wallonia-style saison with a golden ale soured in French oak foeders for 15 to 18 months — a method derived from Flanders. The rye and spelt grains in the saison contribute to a medium-light body while the Huell Melon and Tettnang hops give aromas of honeydew and white pepper.

The result is a rustic, goldenrod yellow saison offering pleasant lemon and white grape aromas and a bright, mouthwatering sourness with a clean, dry finish.

New Belgium, is of course, one of the largest (4th largest), most widely distributed, and longest standing (established in 1991) American craft breweries. As the name would imply, the brewery focuses on Belgian style ales. Along with their popular Fat Tire Amber Ale, Dubbel and Trippel, New Belgium has an extensive barrel aging line of beers with one of the largest cellars for barrels in the U.S. Which leads to this beer, an ale in French-Oak barrels for about a year and half. The style classification is a seeming mish-mash of styles that may not seem complementary to each other and a couple of styles that aren’t exactly in my favored styles. I expected something overly bitter and hoppy.

That couldn’t be farther from the what this beer turned out to be. There’s a citrusy aroma floating out as the beer pours from the 22oz bottle into the glass. The first hit is very much citrusy, with strong hints of lemon that was hinted at in the aroma. The sour/sweet is prominent and makes the beer very, very drinkable.

The barrel aging, I think cuts some of the hop-bite as well as the peaty-earthiness that some Farmhouse Ales can impart on the palette. This is a bright, crisp beer that shines in both flavor and color, my photo above does not do justice to just how inviting the beer is. As my brief comment on untappd suggests, this is a lovely beer that would do well for a spring day. As it was, the beer was a nice change of pace from the stouts, porters, and darker ales I usually enjoy during cold months.

This beer is so refreshing and sweetly balanced it practically screams at you to keep drinking, but the complexities of the flavor urge you to take your time. The 7.5% ABV isn’t too high, sort of a middle of the road beer in that respect, but a tad higher than many Saisons/Farmhouse Ales which are typically slightly lower in alcohol (closer to 5%). As this one stands, the barrel aging likely drew out more of the alcohol presence making for a very smooth, tasty and drinkable beer.

This is the third beer I’ve had from New Belgium’s barrel-aged portfolio (the others being Lips of Faith – Flowering Citrus Ale and Lips of Faith – Clutch) and while those other two were good, the pure drinkability – complex taste & sweetness making me not want to put the beer down – elevate this beer to another level for me. I’m not sure how many of these are still on shelves, but if you want an interesting take on a Farmhouse Ale, this is a great beer to fit that taste craving.

Further, if you only know of New Belgium through Fat Tire, Trippel, and Abby, explore beers like this one. Those popular beers you see everywhere on draught and in 12oz bottles help to make beers like this experimental ale possible.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Now for a seasonally appropriate review of a variety pack of pumpkin beers less than a week before Hallowe’en, the O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack.

O’Fallon Brewery, based in Missouri, has been crafting ales and lagers since 2000 including their regionally popular Pumpkin Beer. Unfortunately, only select beers of their output are distributed here in NJ, although I recall seeing their pumpkin beers last year and I did pick up a bomb of their Imperial Stout earlier in the year. Two particular beers in  this “Pumpkin Patch” pushed me to get the variety pack, the Jack O’Latte Milk Stout and Pumpkin Bread Dunkelweizen. So, how did the whole variety pack fare? Like most variety packs some beers were, of course, better than others, but not in ways that I expected. I’ll give a mini-review of each below leading up to the one I enjoyed the most.

The beer I had first was the Pumpkin Bread, as I’ve said in some posts, I really like Dunkelweizens so I’m always on the lookout for a new Dunkel to try. In the case of O’Fallon’s Pumpkin Bread, there are definitely bready elements of the Dunkelweizen but a lot of the expected finishing notes (clove/banana) are masked or altogether not present due to the pumpkin / pumpkin spice elements. As I commented on untappd, it does exactly what the label suggests, evokes the flavor profile of pumpkin bread. That said, there’s something not quite there for me. Not a bad beer, just not quite what I’d hoped.

 

Next up (and the one I tried last) was the standard Pumpkin Beer, which was a perfectly acceptable pumpkin ale. It didn’t blow me away but it didn’t leave an aftertaste like some pumpkin ales can leave. Better than many pumpkin beers I’ve had, not quite as good as a few others, and one I’d rank in the top half of the many pumpkin beers I’ve had. In other words, a pumpkin ale I’d reach for again. I can understand why this is a local favorite in the State of Missouri, this is a very drinkable ale. This would be for relaxing by a fire pit whilst enjoying a few while the night begins to cool.

 

The one that surprised me the most was Saison De Citrouille. Citrouille is French for Pumpkin, and as the name implies, this is a Saison/Farmhouse brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. While I enjoy Saison/Farmhouse Ales, they aren’t one of my “go to” styles. Sometimes, this style can have a bitter, earthy aftertaste that I find unpleasant. On the other hand, some of the lighter Saisons I’ve had are more crisp with a bit of a fruitiness to the flavor profile. O’Fallon’s take on the style is a nice variation and melding of styles, the pumpkin spices blend really well with esters in the beer, complementing each other for a balanced, tasty beer. A perfect beer for those early fall days that still have some warm winds and sun leftover from the summer.

Last is Jack O’Latte and the beer from this variety pack I enjoyed the most. There was a time I loved pumpkin flavored coffee and would have it every day once the leaves started changing. Since the Pumpkin Spice overkill began a few years ago (coupled with Dunkin Donuts drastically altering its flavorings), I slowed that roll and mostly drink dark roast coffee. Anyway, back to this beer… Jack O’Latte does everything right with those flavors: a stout sweetened with lactose, further enhanced with pumpkin / pumpkin pie spices for a beer that makes you want more. If this were available in 6-packs, I would make sure to pick up a pack every fall. In the end, isn’t that what a brewery tried to do with the beer it produces?

The final verdict: The O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack is worth trying if you enjoy pumpkin beers and are looking to sample a variety of styles with pumpkin/pumpkin spice flavors. Each beer is good with the Saison De Citrouille and Jack O’Latte very good. I it is impressive, on the whole, how well O’Fallon blends the pumpkin flavors into a variety of typically non-pumpkin styles.

Draught Diversions: Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones Beers

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This Sunday, the biggest show in the history of HBO returns, Game of Thrones so what better time to feature the  officially “licensed” beers made by the fine folks of Brewery Ommegang inspired by the show. I’ve been a fan of the books for years having read the series when the first book published. I was lucky enough to attend a couple of George R.R. Martin’s signing events over the past couple of years, too.

At the Staten Island Yankees, who became the Staten Island Direwolves for the day. There’s an actual wolf sitting next to Mr. Martin

When HBO decided to make what even author George R.R. Martin considered an unfilmable project, the craft brewers of Ommegang knew they could complement the show. The show was an immediate success when it debuted in 2011, two years later in March 2013, the first Game of Thrones beer from Brewery Ommegang was released – Iron Throne Blonde Ale, a refreshing, relatively light beer at 6.5% ABV.

This was a smart move and a very approachable beer,  with hints of citrus. I recall having a sample at the second Garden State Brewfest in May 2013, when the event was held walking within distance from where my  in-laws live. I also remember the box/case of bottles Brewery Ommegang had at the event went very quickly so I was fortunate that a local favorite bar had it on tap a couple of months after that. As of this writing, Iron Throne is the only one of the Game of Thrones beers I haven’t checked into Untappd as I didn’t sign up until about a year later.

Later that year, the second Game of Thrones beer was released, a rich earthy stout clocking in at 7% ABV: Take The Black, which is named as an homage to the Night’s Watch. These men, often bastards or criminals who “commute their sentence” by taking the black of the Night’s Watch and live at the Wall. They are humanity’s defense against what may emerge from beyond the Northern borders. I recall enjoying the beer, but there was a bitterness to the finish that didn’t complement the chocolate profile so well. Not a bad beer, but I thought the Iron Throne was a better beer. (untappd check-in)

The third beer, Fire and Blood is a 6.8% Red Ale with chili peppers launched March 2014 about a month before Season 4 began airing. This beer is as an homage to the fire breathing dragons of House Targaryen and their matriarch Daenerys. The series Martin gave the books is A Song of Ice and Fire so there’s a thematic parallel there, too. I only recently began appreciating beers made with spiciness so when I had this one a few years ago, I wasn’t too keen on it. There seemed to be a fruitness to counter the spice at the end, but it is still a well-made beer. (untappd check-in)

October 2014 brought the fourth Game of Thrones beer and up to that point, the Game of Thrones beer I enjoyed the most. An 8% Belgian Dubbel, Valar Morghulis takes its name from one of the key phrases from the series which translated from the ancient language of Valyrian, means “All Men Must Die.” It should be no surprise that this is a well-made, delicious beer considering how very Belgian it is in nature. Ommegang’s year-round Dubbel, Abbey Ale, is incredible beer, earning a perfect 100 from Beer Advocate. Valar Morghulis doesn’t have as much of a fruit hint as does Ommegang’s Abbey, but it is still a delicious beer. I’d especially love to find another bottle of this in the next couple of days to enjoy while watching the season premiere on Sunday. (untappd check-in)

Season Five and beer number 5 in the Game of Thrones series synced up and released at the same time in April 2015. Beer #5 is a 7.2% AB Dark Saison named Three-Eyed Raven after a creature of prophecy and supernatural power whose visions have profound effect on the characters and their actions. This is a pretty unique beer, blending elements of a farm house Saison with a dark ale/stout. The IBU on this one is high at 80, but it is balanced by a mellow fruitiness on the finish. I would love to give this one another try, too. (untappd check-in)

Two things changed with beer 6. Rather than a fall release, it was released closer to the premiere of Season Six of the show in March 2016. The beer bottle’s shape/style changed slightly, too. This installment of the beer series takes its name from the collective realms where the story takes place, Seven Kingdoms, which is a Hoppy Wheat Ale at 6.9%. This is probably my least favorite of the Game of Thrones beers. I really like wheat beers, but there’s too much of a hop presence in this one for my liking. I know, the name/style says it right on the label, but it just didn’t work for me as well as all the others. (untappd check-in)

That’s a signed first edition of A Game of Thrones

Season Seven begins this weekend (July 2017), three months later than usual, but returning to the dual year release, Ommegang released beer number 7 in September 2016. This is currently my favorite of the eight beers they’ve released, a big 9% Belgian Tripel, Valar Dohaeris. The name is a companion saying to Valar Morghulis and means “All Men Must Serve,” (in this case beer) and a companion or “sister beer” to that earlier Belgian Style Dubbel. Oh boy is this a delicious beer and has the yeast, spice, banana, and bready profile you would expect from a Tripel. Since this a 9% beer, it might be a good idea to slowly enjoy this one over the course of an episode or two. (untappd check-in)

The most recent brew is timed slightly ahead of the premiere of Season Seven, Bend The Knee a Belgian Golden Ale that does not feel like the 9% the label indicates. It is more malty than I’d expect a golden ale to be, but the Belgian yeasts, along with the honey added during the fermentation seems to cut the bitterness some Golden Ales can exhibit. (untappd check-in)

So, those are the Game of Thrones beers. 8 beers, seven seasons and 5 books as of this writing.

All the books in the series, and all the bottles except the most recent, “Bend the Knee”