Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Devil Over a Barrel

Tyranena Brewing Company
Lake Mills, WI

Style: Porter

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Brewers Gone Wild, times two …

The first Brewers Gone Wild would be the latest release from Tyranena Brewing Co., an “imperial oatmeal porter brewed with coffee beans and aged in bourbon barrels” called Devil Over a Barrel.

The second Brewers Gone Wild would be my hometown baseball club, the Milwaukee Brewers, who have turned around a season that was quickly headed for disaster by winning 12 of their last 16 games and gaining a whole, uh … half game in the standings. This has nothing to do with beer, but I need to use this brief moment to give my boys a shout-out, as I’m sure it won’t last (Nigel predicted before the season that his Brewers would struggle to finish .500 and I’m not backing off of that).

Back to the beer. Not to sound like a broken record, but Nigel has become enamored with Tyranena since the inception of the BGW series, which is appropriately referred to as “a series of big, bold, ballsy beers.” I’ve tried most of them and have yet to find one that didn’t reach at least the four mug threshold. The series seems to have moved away from hop monsters temporarily, as Devil Over a Barrel joins this past winter’s Dirty Old Man as a barrel-aged porter (Dirty Old Man utilized rye rather than oatmeal and coffee, as Devil Over a Barrel does). Devil Over a Barrel is an updated version of The Devil Made Me Do It, a BGW release from late last summer, with the difference being that this one is aged in bourbon barrels. Unfortunately, The Devil Made Me Do It is the only BGW release in the past two years that Nigel failed to sample, so I can’t compare the two.

Since I’ve reviewed so many Tyranena selections, including a number of BGW brews, I’ll get right to it as I have nothing additional to add that I haven’t touched on previously. My initial impression of Devil Over a Barrel is that it is very similar to Dirty Old Man, which is just fine in my opinion. I thought Dirty Old Man was a wonderfully unique take on the porter, with the utilization of rye and whiskey barrel aging making for a nice, tasty twist. Substitute the rye with coffee beans, and you have Devil Over a Barrel.

Devil Over a Barrel pours ultra-dark brown with a hint of mahogany. Like Dirty Old Man, it is extremely lifeless, revealing only a minimal tan head on the pour that evaporates instantly, leaving no trace to speak of. The aroma is wonderful, a sure harbinger of what’s to come. You would think that any beer brewed with coffee beans would have an aroma that is dominated by the distinct characteristics of roasted coffee. That isn’t the case with Devil Over a Barrel; while coffee is the primary aroma, it’s quickly tempered by pleasant wafts of sweet Kentucky bourbon, creamy vanilla, chocolaty malt, a touch of grain, and fruit (black cherry and ripe banana). While Dirty Old Man was also pleasantly aromatic, the rye in that selection was far more dominant than the coffee is here; this is truly an exquisite aroma that is sure to please craft beer lovers, coffee lovers, and anyone with a sweet tooth.

The taste is just plain phenomenal; honestly I’m rooting for Tyranena to screw one of these Brewers Gone Wild brews up so I can give it a scathing review rather than heaping on the praise yet again (that’s a lie … Nigel never roots for bad beer). This is an example of a brew that tastes almost exactly like it smells. Initial flavors of fresh roasted coffee are quickly joined by the distinct sweet zip of a brew aged in oak bourbon barrels. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … the use of oaken bourbon/whiskey barrels adds a touch to fine craft brews that is out of this world. The initial roasted malt is quickly joined by a sweet sugary tinge of cocoa and molasses, as well as dark fruity notes of black cherry and fig. One of the reasons I like the barrel aging process is that it adds smoothness to the brew; Devil Over a Barrel takes this a step further with a fantastic creamy vanilla flavor that is reminiscent of a fine espresso. A mild earthiness is present in the distant background, as is a touch of alcohol (perhaps aided by the bourbon barrels … I couldn’t find an official ABV, but I’m guessing it’s in the 7-8 percent range) and I do believe I detected the slightest hint of hops in a couple of sips. Full bodied but exceptionally smooth, Devil Over a Barrel is to be treated with respect, as it is not only loaded with flavor, but packs a punch as well.

If you can get your devils and dirty old men and imperial whathaveyous straightened out (I love the monikers given to the BGW brews, but they are becoming a bit confusing as time goes on), be sure to sample Devil Over a Barrel, as it is an absolutely phenomenal beer. Loaded with a plethora of flavors and aromas, this is a brew that I’ll surely be trying again and again before it disappears into the annals of history. Tyranena brews are widely distributed throughout Wisconsin and other parts of the upper Midwest, so if you see it, pick it up (Tyranena’s four-packs typically retail for $7-9). And, though nobody solicited my opinion, I’m rooting for Hop Whore Over a Barrel as the next BGW selection.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on June 16, 2008.
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