Tyranena made a pretty big splash this fall in Minnesota, and it's continuing into 2009 for me. I loved their IPAs they released in the warmer months, but waited until the bitter cold (-17 today in Minneapolis) to sample the heartier stuff. Last night I destroyed the Devil Over a Barrel, an Imperial Oatmeal Porter with Coffee Beans, and tonight I'm tackling Rocky's Revenge, a Brown Ale.
I'll start with the Barrel. Couldn't find a picture of it, but it's part of the 'Brewers Gone Wild!' series that has produced a number of bud-challenging offerings. Barrel is no different. As soon as I dislodged the cap, I was transported to school mornings growing up, when I'd wander sleepily into a coffee-stained kitchen. The coffee smell was beyond potent.
As a non-coffee drinker (the childhood kitchen scarred me), I was concerned. How could I possibly enjoy a beer that tasted so strongly of beanage. The first few sips were challenging, but by the halfway point, I could barely put the glass down. I guess I'll attribute that to the oatmeal aspect of the beer. I can't quite explain it, but it's as if the oatmeal was a smooth bridge from the tip-of-the-lips coffee taste to the spicy throat tickle. That middle portion of the drink was so smooth, it didn't matter what the front end tasted like.
It's good to have an outstanding porter. Imperial porters are especially difficult to find. I feel like porters would be an easy transition for people who enjoy beers like Michelob Amber Bock or fake darks of that nature. They are smooth, potent, and packed with flavor. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this one as a starting point, but once you have an appreciation for the style, Devil Over a Barrel is a must.
As for Rocky's Revenge. This beer is a year-round Tyranena option, and fairly priced. It's tabbed as a brown ale, with 'a portion aged in bourbon barrels.' I don't have many brown ales, and they too aren't very prominent these days (four versions of Surly's Bender are currently among RateBeer.com's 25 highest-rated brown ales). Newcastle is a common brown ale that comes to mind.
Well Rocky's Revenge is a good one. I didn't get much of a sniff on this one, and it took me a few sips to get a handle on what I enjoyed about it. There's definitely bourbon in there, but nothing overpowering. I really grasped onto a wonderful sweetness that was present in every gulp, a nice vanilla cream that you can't help but like.
There's no comparison between the two beers when it comes to potency, and Barrel is clearly a more complex, rich beer, but Rocky is an easy drink and one I'd offer to any average beer drinker. I pounded it in a half hour, and that was while I was typing this. It's a good gateway, as they say, to get to know unfamiliar kinds of beers. As far as ratings go, I'd give Devil Over a Barrel 4.5 stars and Rocky's Revenge 4.