Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: A nice break-in beer for those who want to try bourbon barrel-aged beer

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, and welcome to Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with it, all the preparations. Possibly you are traveling or have people coming into town; maybe you are going to enjoy a quiet day with just a few. Whatever you do, please remember to give thanks for all of your blessings and for those who are less fortunate. My wife, Lisa, took our 3-and-a-half-year-old grandson Riley (a.k.a. “Rebel”) to Woodman’s to make a donation for the Rock River Valley Pantry. Riley gave the DJ, Jackson, his money and told him it was for “All the babies that may not have a Thanksgiving.” Riley has a new buddy now, and they played his favorite artist, Tom Petty, for him on the radio. Lisa said you should have seen his eyes! We are truly blessed.

This week, I would like to talk about a barrel-aged beer from behind the Cheddar Curtain near Madison, Wisconsin, in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. The brewery is Tyranena (pronounced Tie-rah-nee-nah) Brewing Co., and the beer is Rocky’s Revenge.

I have reviewed Tyranena Brewing Co. before, but in case you do not remember, here is a brief reminder. Tyranena Brewing was founded in November 1998 and began operations in October 1999. Before this spring, Tyranena beers were not available in the Rockford area. The brewery has a tasting room and beer garden, but no restaurant. During the warmer weather, they have food carts on some evenings, and on Fridays, they will have personal-size, wood-fired pizzas. Picnics and grilling are also welcome, but you must bring your own food and utensils. Check out their website for details: http://tyranena.com/.

Rocky’s Revenge is a brown ale that is available year round, packaged in bottles and at 5.75 percent alcohol by volume makes this a beer you can have a couple of in one sitting.

This beer is to be served at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website, and I am using a nonic pint glass. OK, here we go …

The beer pours a dark amber-brown that is fairly clear, showing some carbonation bubbles rising to the top. A one-finger depth of creamy off-white head tops this, which recedes fairly quickly to a thin layer, leaving a nice, short and thick lacing. Pretty decent-looking for a brown ale.

This has a faint bourbon aroma with notes of vanilla, oak, a hint of dark-roasted malts and some subtle chocolate and nuttiness, making this pleasant with nothing overpowering and nicely blended. No hop aromas are detected.

The first taste has a maltiness that is indicative to brown ales; a nut flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on (maybe pecan?) is present, along with some vanilla and oak. The bourbon booziness is quite faint.

The mouth feel is smooth, wet and creamy, showing a surprising amount of body and a soft presence for a brown ale. The carbonation complements the flavor profile well. No harshness, astringency or hotness from the alcohol.

My overall impression is this is a nice break-in beer for those who want to try bourbon barrel-aged beer, as it is not terribly complex or boozy. The mild alcohol by volume for a barrel-aged brew is refreshing, as only a portion of this beer was actually aged in bourbon barrels, then blended back into the batch, so it’s intentionally subtle, exhibiting a side of bourbon barrel beers that makes it quite drinkable. I’m glad I tried it, and although it is not high on my list of barrel-aged beers, I might get it again on occasion.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Prost!

From the Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014, issue

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