As far as craft beers go, product and movie tie-ins don’t typically fill you with a lot of hope and high expectations. When the label bears the name of a respected brewery like Ommegang, though, it’s a little bit easier to be optimistic. The Cooperstown, New York-based brewer has gotten plenty of press for their ongoing Game of Thrones collaboration series, but to date the beers haven’t really been overly adventurous: A pale ale and a stout. Fire and Blood, on the other hand, takes a few more risks.
What we have here is a dragon-themed brew, a “red ale” in name, but immediately sorted into that category loved by some craft beer geeks and feared by others: chile beer. And they have good reason to be wary, because chile beer can be truly difficult to pull off successfully. Occasionally, the flavors don’t show up at all. On the other hand, they all too often dominate the entire proceedings. Chile beers demand a practiced touch, and when they’re bad they can be truly awful.
Game of Thrones fans will be happy to note, then, that Fire and Blood hits pretty close to the mark. The aroma is complex, with lots of exotic spice, a whiff of smoke, fruity esters and funky Belgian yeast character. Those are a lot of elements going on at the same time, but you might compare it to a lighter-bodied Belgian dark strong ale with a touch of campfire smoke.
There’s a lot going on flavor-wise as well. Smokiness is again light, and there’s a definite buzz of spice in the background. The ancho chiles contribute some dark berry and dried fruit flavor like raisin, along with a little bit of tickling spice in the back of the throat. This is likely amplified by the rye in the grain bill, but there are so many different flavors that it’s a little difficult to tell. Belgian yeast also contributes a telltale banana note, and there’s even some vanilla sweetness.
This is definitely a sold entry into the chile beer arcana, although your appreciation of it will likely be limited by how much you enjoy chile beers in general. If we’re ranking the overall strength of chile character against other, similar brews, it’s somewhere in the “light to moderate” range, appropriate for the beer it’s built around. It doesn’t pack the intensity of a fire-breathing dragon, but in this case that’s probably something to be thankful for.
Brewery: Brewery Ommegang
City: Cooperstown, NY
Style: Belgian red ale with chiles
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles