Some days you go to work and need a beer when you are done. Sometimes you go in and are told to drink some beer while you are there. Those are the good days.
When Brewery Ommegang, based in Cooperstown, NY, sends you a limited edition Game of Thrones gift pack, featuring their Dubbel Ale, Valar Morghulis, and their Tripel Ale, Valar Dohaeris, plus a Game of Thrones and Ommegang branded glass out of which to drink it, you say thanks and fill your cup.
The pair of beers go well together thematically: Valar Morghulis, "All men must die," leads to Valar Dohaeris, "All men must serve," the only response acceptable in the land of Westeros. Each beer Ommegang brews themed to Game of Thrones has a link between the name and type of beer. For example, one of their earliest was the "Take the Black" Stout. Stout, of course, is the darkest of beers, and the "Take the Black" credo of the Night's Watch mixed in nicely with that. These two are slightly less overt about their thematic ties to the show, but still work.
The Valar Dohaeris tripel is a 9% ABV Belgian-style brew. The first whiff of the beer is sweet, as the honey within threatens to overwhelm the senses. A deeper breath teases the sharp nature you'll get on your tongue when you taste it, the yeast punching out the sweetness with a little tart bitter. When you taste it, again, the sweet hits first, with the bitter approaching the back of your tongue. The lingering taste opens your nose in almost a whiskey-esque fashion, letting it take in the full flavor with multiple senses. Drank at a nice chill 40 degrees, this is a beer to drink all on its own - no smoke, no food, just enjoy the taste of the beer itself. Sweeter at first than a Delirium Tremens or Golden Monkey, and more open than a La Fin Du Monde, this is a Tripel that should be savored, perhaps while contemplating men without faces or girls with no names.
The Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale, however, is a smooth, all-to-easy-to-drink red symphony. Rather than a series of tastes, the Morghulis hits all at once, with the dark caramel sugar instantly balancing out any sharpness out of the 8% ABV Belgian. Sweeter than other reds or browns, the sugar never overwhelms, thanks to the malt and clove balance. While it looks, smells, and even at first touch tastes like a heavier beer, it drinks almost like a light brew. This is one that tastes like it would compliment almost any other flavor, whether you're drinking it with a nice medium-rare steak, highlighting its sweetness with a salty hot pretzel, or just savoring the full-body and light finish with a quality cigar. It would be easy to recommend the Valar Morghulis to just about any beer drinker, whether their palette is sensitive to every ingredient or they're used to a case of American goodness.
Special thanks to Ommegang and HBO's Game of Thrones for providing the beers for tasting. The gift pack retails at $22.99, and can be found at retailers in most states, and Ommegang's beer finder will point you in the right direction. Valar Dohaeris is also available individually at a recommended $9.99 a bottle, and on tap in select bars around the country.
All Men Must Die - might as well have a drink.