Brewery owner and brewmaster Rob Larson offers his most limited releases in four-packs that he calls his Brewers Gone Wild series. Over the years he has given provocative names to the beers in that line-up (Carnal Knowledge, Dirty Old Man, Who's Your Daddy, Bitter Woman from Hell -- you get the idea.)
The label tells the story of a woman who "isn't going to be ignored" (as in the film Fatal Attraction); Larson was inspired by discovering a downed light post in the brewery's parking lot a few months ago. (Indeed, the label shows a cartoon of a woman in a vehicle, ramming the light pole.) "Her perfume seduces you. But deep down, you know she's dangerous," reads the Fatal Attraction "story" on the label. "You enjoy the experience as she reveals her black heart and bitter soul," it continues. The metaphor applying to this very dark and extremely hoppy beer may make some readers laugh, while others will cringe.
What is it? Fatal Attraction from Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills.
Style: Fatal Attraction is an Imperial Black India Pale Ale. These beers also get called Black India Ales (BIAs) or, when American cascade hops are featured, they may be called Cascadian Dark Ales. "Imperial" refers to all of the ingredients being ramped up to induce more flavor, body and strength. Expect such a beer to be deep black in color with lots of hop bitterness and some warmth from the amount of alcohol (which will range from 7% to 10% ABV).
Background: Tyranena Brewing is well-known for its hoppy beers. Larson has turned out a few taproom-only versions of BIAs over the past couple of years. He offered a black IPA in early 2013 and followed that up last March with an imperial that eventually became Fatal Attraction. Larson's latest beer shows off Simcoe and Amarillo hops with a strong backbone of chocolate, caramel and roasted flavors from the malts. He keeps the drinker's attention focused on the resiny and piney bitterness of the hops, while avoiding the burnt-bitterness often found in highly roasted black malts. There's more to this beer than just a hoppy dark porter or stout -- it really has the character of an IPA.
Fatal Attraction finishes around 8.5% ABV with an estimated 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Unites). It sells locally in four-packs for around $9/four-pack. At the brewery it's also available in pints for $5 and growlers for $16 (refill).
- Aroma: A resiny hoppiness.
- Appearance: Black color with a medium soft brown head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied, soft and warm throughout.
- Taste: An initial hoppiness with a smooth backbone of rich roasted sweet-maltiness before the hops come back in the end.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Warm and bitter. A hint of roasted-coffee bitterness in the ending.
Glassware: Fatal Attraction does okay in the standard bar pint. Neither the American nor British pint glass do much to enhance the beer, so this assertively hopped beer works just fine in either.
Pairs well with: The hoppy bitterness and mild roasted malt flavor will go well with a modest amount of spice or sweetness. It's a nice companion for grilled items like steak and chicken, or salads topped with feta or goat cheese.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Consensus: Fatal Attraction receives 87 (very good) from Beer Advocate and a 78/37 (overall/style) from Ratebeer.
The Verdict: This Imperial Black India Ale is pretty good -- though it boasts an assertive bitterness, it avoids the over-roasted qualities too often exhibited in bad BIAs. There's plenty of resiny notes throughout, and the dark roasted malts and barley offer a soft toffee accent. Its smooth texture and alcohol warmth from its 8.5% ABV lessen what could be harshness from an estimated 100 IBUs. I enjoyed it, especially when allowing it to warm. That warmer serving temp allows the malt and hops to become more complex and intriguing.