I've found myself craving bitter beers lately. Perhaps it's because after so many hefeweizens this summer I need a beer with bite. So to quench my thirst for hops I decided to put Rob Larson's and Tyranena Brewing's hoppiest brews to a little taste comparison. I set aside a four-pack of this summer's Brewer's Gone Wild special release called Scurvy, an India Pale Ale made with orange peel in the fermentor. Next to it was the just-released Imperial IPA called Hop Whore, also in Tyranena's Brewer's Gone Wild series. I also grabbed the brewery's mainstay IPA, Bitter Woman.
All three offer enough bitter bite to leave you with cotton mouth, even if their names fall between marketing genius and product suicide. Out of the three, my pallet preferred Bitter Woman, not just a pretty face among the hoppy IPAs.
What is it? Bitter Woman IPA from Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills.
Style: Bitter Woman is an American version of the IPA. Most IPAs range in color from a pale gold to deep reddish amber with an emphasis on hops which come through with assertive herbal and citric character. All, or the majority of the hops used are American varieties. The beer is based on a style dating back to the 1700s when British brewers found that using a lot of hops, which act as a preservative in beer, would help their beer stand up on long sea voyages. India was a popular destination for the beer, and its drinkers, at the time.
Background: Aunt Cal, as she is known around the Lake Mills community, is the name of the woman who graces every bottle and six-pack of Bitter Woman. Aunt Cal has become the public face of this beer, if not Tyranena Brewing. As brewer Rob Larson describes it, "We brewed our Bitter Woman IPA the way we imagine Aunt Cal may have been, very fruity and intensely bitter." Bitter Woman (the beer) is made with Amarillo and Cascade hops and offers an assertive 68 IBUs (International Bittering Units; a typical big brewery premium American lager comes in around 15-25 IBUs). Cal is also the name of Larson's dog, who is commonly seen wandering through the tasting room of the Lake Mills brewery.
- Aroma: Hoppy, floral.
- Appearance: Copper to bronze with a rocky tan head.
- Texture: Medium, bubbly.
- Taste: Spicy hoppiness with a malty underpinning.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bitter and a lingering dryness.
Glassware: The Nonik or English pint is a nice glass for this beer because the curve of the glass helps support the thick bubbly head and its wide mouth allows the assertive hop aromas to explode under your nose.
Pairs well with: IPAs can be tricky to pair food with because of the strong bitterness. You'll want a dynamic entrée to compete with the hops, something spicy. Cajun dishes will accentuate the bitterness, while blackened dishes bring out the dryness of the beer.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: The sharp grapefruity and citrus hop qualities stand out and make this a favorite American IPA. While this beer is easy to find in six-packs, it's worth seeking out on draft which tends to soften the texture but bring out the spicy and citrus aromas. Either way, this beer goes a long way in satisfying the hop head. Just be careful, too many and Aunt Cal's image starts to flash a smile, or worse -- a wink!