In the High Valyrian language of "Game of Thrones," "valar morghulis" means "all men must die." The phrase is typically greeted with the response, "valar dohaeris," or "all men must serve."
Given the ease with which "Thrones" creator George R. R. Martin kills off characters, we know the "all men dying" part of the phrase isn't an empty threat -- but who (or what), then, must all men "serve?" Beer, if they're lucky. Specifically, Brewery Ommegang's "Valar Morghulis," a dubbel ale the brewery produced this fall in partnership with series broadcaster HBO, and the brewery's fourth "Game of Thrones"-themed beer so far.
But is Valar Morghulis worth spilling blood for across the Seven Kingdoms? We asked a panel of experts to sample a bottle provided by HBO and Ommegang, and they overwhelmingly concluded "yes."
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Our panel consisted of two people who have brewed beer professionally -- one for Avery Brewing Co., the other for Rock Bottom Brewery -- a Denver beer blogger and two homebrew enthusiasts who make their own beer.
Read on for their thoughts.
As is evident in the above photo, Valar Morghulis pours a deep reddish brown, and several of our panelists remarked on its aromas of dried fruit and a hint of anise and plum. Tasting notes provided with the beer promised a "persistent, creamy, off-white head," though ours disappeared fairly fast and with only minimal lacing, perhaps because we didn't pour with enough vigor.
In contrast to many of the other boozy dubbels our experts have tasted, Valar Morghulis walked a perfect line at 8 percent alcohol, between being "bold and in your face," said one expert, but not "cloyingly sweet like dubbels can be." The medium body came across as well-balanced: Flavors of toffee, burnt sugar and apricot were rounded out with a dry finish.
The Apollo and Hallertau Spalt Select hops aren't aggressively present, though a slight spiciness is evident at the end, enough so that one reviewer suggested the beer would get better with age "for a few less phenols and to completely lose bitterness."
The beer comes packaged in stately 750-ml corked bottles and is prime for bottle-conditioning, so waiting is an option, though hardly a necessity.
Unlike other beers Ommegang has produced for its "Game of Thrones" series, which has included a blonde ale, a stout and a red chili beer, Valar Morghulis is a classic true Belgian-style beer, which plays to the brewery's roots.
Our reviewers were highly complementary of the beer and felt the MSRP of $8.50 per bottle was reasonable. Several expressed an interest in tracking down the beer for Thanksgiving, speculating that it would pair well with the rich, savory dishes on their tables.
Brewery Ommegang's Valar Morghulis is available nationally on draught and in 750ml corked bombers. To find a bottle, visit the beer locator on Ommegang's website.