Beers best sipped in colder climes are beginning to turn up in Madison, but I hope it's not an indication that snow will be here anytime soon. Rob Larson, owner and brewmaster at Tyranena Brewing, has not been sitting around waiting for the temperature to fall -- he actually started working on the bigger, bolder brews of winter more than eight months ago. After a long sleep in bourbon barrels over the summer, his new, rich Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier chocolaty double stout is now on the shelves.
What is it? Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier Barrel-Aged Chocolate Vanilla Double Stout from Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills, Wis.
Style: The American Double Stout, inspired by the Russian Imperial Stout, is medium- to full-bodied and very dark in color, with lots of malty flavor and alcoholic warmth. The style can offer more flavor from hops, though, as well as malty sweetness. While it is bold on the palate, it is somewhat cleaner and smoother than the Imperial Stout. It is also common for American Double Stouts to be fermented in former bourbon barrels. The style ranges in strength from 7% to 12% ABV.
Background: The Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier is based on the brewery's late winter stout with the similar name -- Down 'N Dirty. The name is associated with a train wreck that occurred in a swamp near Lake Mills in 1882, which entombed a locomotive in the dirty black muck soils along what is now the Glacial Drumlin Trail.
Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier gets additions of cocoa nibs and vanilla beans for aroma and flavor. It is aged for up to eight months in bourbon barrels, which adds sweetness, vanilla and oak character, along with alcohol-tinged tones of bourbon. A portion of the nibs and beans are added directly into the oak barrel and allowed to sit in the aging beer. Looking back, Larson laughs at the extra effort that was involved: "It was not fun getting the beer out of the bourbon barrels because of all the cocoa nibs and vanilla beans that kept clogging up the barrel."
Larson made just 59 barrels of Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier. He says that making such a beer in bourbon barrels requires quite a bit of space, which limits how much he can turn out. Orders for this beer far exceeded what Larson made, which translates to 'pick up a supply now.' Waiting would be like trying to buy a snow shovel after the first big snow.
Tyranena's Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier is 7.5% ABV, and it sells for about $10/4-pack.
- Aroma: Assertive sweetness of chocolate malt and vanilla.
- Appearance: Very dark, looks thick. Thin to medium marbled tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied, round and smooth.
- Taste: Lots of chocolate malt up front, with hints of vanilla and oak throughout.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Solid malty finish, sweet with vanilla, oak and bourbon; accented with light, firm warmth from the alcohol.
Glassware: One is tempted to put this beer in a typical tulip pint -- a Guinness-style glass. While that certainly will do nicely, I found that a brandy snifter encourages slow sipping to appreciate the chocolate and vanilla flavor. Take your time with it. Allow it to slowly warm, and you'll be pleased with all those smooth, sweet flavors.
Pairs well with: Try Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier with soft cheeses like Gouda and Brie. However, I find its sweetness is best as an after-meal beer or even on its own at the end of the day.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Doubly Down 'N Even Dirtier Barrel-Aged Chocolate Vanilla Double Stout is a wonderful winter beer. I really enjoy its robust sweetness from the chocolate malt, additions of cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, married with a background of oak and bourbon. Don't mistake this beer for a harsher Russian Imperial Stout. Its mouthfeel and alcohol content actually place it among lighter American Doubles. While I appreciate this beer, and no matter how much the bold sweetness attempts to lure me to go for a second, the flavors are a bit much for enjoying more than one in a sitting. Despite that, I've socked away a 4-pack of my own in anticipation of the first big snowfall, when all I really want to do is sit inside and sip something like this by the fire.