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Rocky’s Revenge

Other reviews for this beer:
Baby-Boy Jackson one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer read it ›
Tyranena Brewing Company
Lake Mills, WI

Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Look kids … BROWN!

Roll out the red carpet and light the fireworks, ladies and gentlemen, Nigel is about to enter uncharted territory. After one hundred bazillion reviews on this fine web site, I’m finally going to review my first brown ale. Perhaps this is a bit blasphemous given my English roots, roots that I share with the very brown ale I’m about to insult, but I’ll say it anyway: brown ales, like the color brown, Gordon Brown, and the Cleveland Browns, are excruciatingly boring (for those of you not up on current events, Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister of Great Britain).

Its not that I have a problem with brown ales, per say; I just typically prefer a beer that has more life to it, something that can’t be described by simply saying “looks like brown, smells like brown, tastes like brown.” Hell, it was a brown ale that helped young Nigel get started on his beer transformation, the popular English beer Newcastle. I’ve never really had a bad brown ale, but I’ve never had a particularly good one either. The best I’ve had is Bell’s aptly named Best Brown, which I would rate a high three mugs. Other than that, I can’t really name the brown ales I’ve sampled, though I know I’ve had a few. Recalling a brown ale is a lot like remembering that family vacation you took to South Dakota when you were 12; it wasn’t bad, but for some reason you can’t seem to remember the details.

Before I continue, I must clarify some comments made in a recent review by Senior Beer Review Correspondent Jill Jyllenhaal. While it’s true that Nigel mocks Eddie Glick during our painfully dry staff meetings (seriously, the guy rambles on more than my old high school biology teacher) and has perfected the art of the sarcastic eye roll, I don’t let out any “farts and/or burps” (OK, perhaps the occasional burp depending on how many brews I’ve indulged in prior to the meeting, but no farts). I wouldn’t even pay attention to Eddie if it wasn’t for the fact that Jill and Baby-boy are in the back making out like a couple of drunken sorority girls, so I have no choice but to focus my eyes on the front. Also, Nigel isn’t “beefy,” checking in at 6 feet tall and 180 pounds; any “waddling” is likely due to heavy beer consumption the night before. Come to think of it, the entire staff is in pretty good shape, especially when you consider that combined, we drink enough beer in one evening that the grain utilized to brew said beer could feed Botswana for an entire year. But she is right about one thing … I don’t give a bloody rat’s ass what Eddie thinks. And yes, I may occasionally sell out my colleagues in order to advance my career, but if Jill doesn’t want to be accused of drinking Budweiser during our meetings, she should leave her water bottle in her cube.

I chose Tyranena’s Rocky’s Revenge as my first brown ale review for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Tyranena is a local brewery that I’ve had great experiences with, so I can’t imagine any way they’d screw up something as simple as a brown (note: this is classified as an American brown ale, not an English brown). Also, a “portion” (I’m not sure how to interpret that) of Rocky’s Revenge is aged in bourbon barrels, an interesting twist on a typically tame style. I’m curious to see what the use of bourbon barrels will do for a brown ale, but I can only see it as a positive; a hint of bourbon anywhere during the session may be the only thing that keeps Nigel awake. Tyranena is kind enough to provide the following stats: 5.7 percent ABV, 30 IBUs, 2-row, Caramel, Carapils, Chocolate, and Munich malts, and Fuggles and Northern Brewer hops.

Rocky’s Revenge (like many Tyranena brews, it’s named after local mythology with a story printed on the label) pours … WOW! It pours a deep mahogany, giving a surprising fiery red tinge to a brew that I expected to be, you know … brown. A mild fizzy head of just under an inch quickly evaporates, leaving a bit of creamy lace at the top throughout the drink; there’s also some noticeable sedimentation. Initial aromas leave me very optimistic: sweet malt with a hint of bourbon. A nice, sweet aroma of bourbon comes through right off the bat, quickly joined by a plethora of sugar in the form of caramel, toffee, molasses, chocolate, dark brown sugar, and any other type of tooth-rotting substance you can think of (and you wonder why us English have bad teeth …). When compared to craft brews in general, Rocky’s Revenge has a pleasant but mild aroma; when compared to brown ales, this is the Taj Mahal of aromas.

Now that we’ve established that it doesn’t look or smell like brown, does it taste like brown? Well, yes, but only for the fact that caramel, toffee, chocolate, molasses, and bourbon are all various shades of brown. Honestly, I’m shocked as to how flavorful this is. Initial flavors of sweet Kentucky bourbon are quickly joined by dark sugars in the form of caramel, chocolate, molasses, and toffee. This is one of those rare brews that will curl the tongue, and likely the only brown ale that will produce such a reaction. Hints of dark fruit and vanilla form a secondary presence, though they still fall squarely into the sweet category. If it wasn’t for that hint of bourbon, which also provides a minor dry alcohol zip to counteract the sugar, this beer would be so sweet that you could pour it in you coffee in the morning, skipping the Splenda. I’d like to say this is far too complex to classify as a brown ale, but I’m not sure what other category it would fall under; it IS a brown ale, albeit the most picturesque, aromatic, and flavorful one I’ve ever had, by far. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, Rocky’s Revenge checks in with a modest ABV and could be considered a session brew, although I think most people will find the sweetness too overwhelming after a couple.

Amazing. I never would have guessed I’d find a brown ale that would rise above the three mug level, but this is clearly it. In terms of browns, this is a five-mugger; in terms of beer in general, it’s a solid four mugger, quite a feat given the style. Rocky’s Revenge may not have changed Nigel’s opinion of the brown ale overall, but it has left a lasting impression upon me and allowed me to use the word “brown” 86 billion times in one review. Check it out if you have the opportunity, as it will likely change your opinion of brown ales forever … or at least for a few drunken hours.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on August 5, 2008.
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