In preparation for the upcoming series finale of the epic Game of Thrones series on HBO, The Happy Gnome in St. Paul just hosted a beer dinner fit for royalty. As I write this, the Stark motto is proven true once more: Winter is Coming. Frigid snow billows in the air outside, obscuring vision and tricking the eye into thinking, “did I just see a white and ragged form shambling toward me?”
To back up a bit for those who have been living under a rock for the past 8 years or so. A Game of Thrones started as a novel written by George R. R. Martin, an amazing author who cut his teeth on science fiction and horror starting back in the 1970’s. I’ve been reading his books and short stories for ages. In 1996 he published this massive tome of fantasy, which I happened to pick up in a Borders remainder bin for $6. Over the next two decades Martin very slowly parcelled out more books in this series, with many a year between each new release. The popularity of the books became quite impressive. Then in 2011, HBO released the official television series based on the books to much bloodthirsty fanfare. Between holding very close to the books, rated R content, and fantastic visual effects this series has become one of the most popular in recent history. This Sunday the final season begins.
So how does beer fit in with this story? Well, the creators of the Game of Thrones TV series decided they wanted to do a craft beer tie-in and approached Brewery Ommegang about doing this. One can assume they were big fans of the Belgian style brewery located in Upstate New York (Cooperstown). I’ve loved Belgian owned Ommegang for years–drinking and collecting their takes on Belgian styles. When the first collaboration was released it was quite the event amongst both regular nerds and beer nerds! Since then, the’ve come out with a continuing series of beers to commemorate characters from the show.
Dinner is Coming. . .
Enter the Happy Gnome. This bastion of beer culture looms over the Twin Cities beer scene like a veritable Great Wall in the North. The Gnome is famous for its epic beer dinners, hosting one nearly every month. This month General Manager Evan broke out five kegs of GOT beers they had been hoarding in their cellar (along with the giant dragon skulls) and invited the Ommegang folks out to share the details with us.
Upon entering the upstairs Firehouse Room event space we were handed stemware glasses filled to the brim with the tart and refreshing Ommegang Pale Sour. With drinks in hand we roamed the room, assessing our friends and foes, watching for signs of treachery. A hard-earned word of wisdom: Always check for hidden chainmail prior to sitting down to eat with strangers.
Ommegang representative Shaun Wolf sat at the head table with his entourage like some appropriately-named Stark lord, sharing out his extensive knowledge of the brewery and the beers. We the unwashed masses raised our special glasses of foamy libations in response. Like starving wildlings we guzzled through five amazing beers paired with spectacular dishes of rich foods.
Chef Scott Brink plied our hungry gullets with dishes ranging from a tangy asparagus salad, to the most tender of porketta roasts floating atop a creamy polenta. As usual, the food alone would have been worth the trip to St. Paul.
The beers were an interesting mix of styles, each seemingly better than the last. With our salad course we were treated to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms–a hazy straw colored possibly incestruous relation to the pale sour we had tried previously. Our second beer, paired with perfectly seared halibut was the sanguinous Fire and Blood.
We moved on to the previously mentioned pork tenderloin that was a true wonder of the culinary arts. This was paired with Mother of Dragons, a slightly tart amber ale sharing lineage with Belgian dubbel and sour cherry kriek. With great Hodor-like debauchery I kept tearing into these dishes with abandon, forgetting to take pictures of them before demolishing them. Next was a cheese course paired with Jon Snow’s the King in the North. This beer was my favorite of the night: a strong 10.5% ABV smooth Imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels. So good.
And the final dish was a decadent coconut Belgian chocolate cake that I barely had room left for. The last beer was yet another strong barleywine ale brewed for Tyrion Lannister: The Hand of the Queen. This was complex, slightly fruity, and all mellow–a big beer for one so diminutive in stature.
And with that, the feast was finished. Scraps of meat were thrown to the hounds, beers were spilled, banners torn down, and maybe only a few neccessary beheadings.