Beer Review: Tyranena Brewing Company Rocky’s Revenge

This dark Wisconsin beer celebrates a creature of local legend.

photo by Kevin Gibson

photo by Kevin Gibson

Modern breweries are increasingly creative with their brands. It never seems to grow old, especially when the name of the game is fun. Tyranena Brewing Company caught my eye recently with a label depicting a large sea creature terrorizing a couple of fishermen in a rowboat. This wasn’t a special release, just an American brown ale with a cool name: Rocky’s Revenge.

Turns out that, yes, the creature in the rendering is the “legendary” Rocky, “a great saurian” who we were warned about by “the ancient inhabitants of Aztalan.” Apparently, the legends of Wisconsin–-this brewery is located in Lake Mills— run deeper than just cheese curds and beer.

Tyranena, the brewery’s branding tells us, is the ancient name of Rock Lake, a body of water that “began long ago, in a time before history was written,” in which ancient stone structures lie deep under the waters. Cryptically, we are told, “No one knows for sure who built them, the purposes they served, how and why they are now submerged, or even the meaning of the word ‘Tyranena.’”

While I admit I looked it up just to be safe (got me), the sheer over-the-top absurdity of the folklore depicted here made me smile. It was very much like the folks behind this brewery, which launched in 1998, were doing their best to channel the spirit of the fictional British band Spinal Tap and its take on Stonehenge. The brewery offers up other Wisconsin folklore—and history-themed beers, from Headless Man Amber Ale to Chief Blackhawk Porter.

Inside the bottle and this fun story lies a brown ale blend, portions of which were aged in bourbon barrels. Brewed with five different malts, from Caramel to Chocolate, this beer is probably just what you already think it is: a rich, biscuity ale with a creamy body. Even on the nose, the oak and bourbon are just hinted at—and upon my first sniff, I could barely detect it at all. But this lovely-looking brown, with flashes of amber, is full of flavor and body, with a minimal bitterness, and carbonated to the point that it tickles the palate slightly.

A couple of sips in, the barrels begin to reveal themselves, but it’s subtle, which clearly is what the brewers were going for. That oaky sweetness blends nicely with the hints of chocolate and roast in the malts for a lighter-bodied beer that, while it isn’t special, will serve you well during winter months.

The beer tops out at 5.75 alcohol by volume, meaning you don’t have to feel guilty about having more than one. I love an imperial stout, but when those beers come in at 11 percent, they can torpedo you pretty quickly.

Either way, it’s worth sipping a Rocky’s Revenge just to ponder the folklore that began beneath the lakes that lie between Madison and Milwaukee. Take a sip and let Rocky the saurian take you away.

Rocky’s Revenge is available year-around in bottles and on draft.