Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Dirty Old Man

Tyranena Brewing Company
Lake Mills, WI

Style: Porter
ABV: 7.9%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Sometimes these things write themselves…

As has been the case with most of the releases in Tyranena’s Brewers Gone Wild series, Dirty Old Man needs no further coaxing from Nigel to produce immature chortles from fellow beer dorks. Dirty Old Man joins Spank Me Baby, Hop Whore, Stickin’ It to the Man, The Devil Made Me Do It, Who’s Your Daddy, and Bitter Woman from Hell as wonderfully risqué titles in what has thus far been a phenomenal line of limited edition, ballsy brews. For the sake of keeping things PG-13, I’ll skip sharing some of my many “dirty old man” stories with you and just get on with the review.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Dirty Old Man’s release since I first heard of it back in October. One problem … although the beer was ready to roll, the federal government was not. The Tax and Trade Bureau (a branch of the Treasury Department), apparently taking cues from their nazi brethren at the FCC, wouldn’t allow Tyranena to release the brew due to “questionable” imagery on the label. Each Brewers Gone Wild release comes with a distinctive, simple, bright yellow label with some info about the beer and a cartoon caricature sketched on the side. Dirty Old Man’s sketch is a stick-figured, hunchbacked old man with a cane uttering “gimme a sponge bath.” Humorous for sure, but far from offensive if you ask me. Apparently this is the edited version, as the TTB wouldn’t allow the original phrase Tyranena selected, “want some candy?” to appear due to its supposedly offensive nature.

This leads me to a very obvious question: WHAT THE HELL DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? It’s a beer label, people … you have to be 21 or older to buy it in the first place. You can buy the nastiest porn under the sun when your 18, so what’s the big deal? Camel cigarettes have been prominently displaying a giant camel dong on their packs for years … isn’t that offensive? What’s next? Keebler has to pull all of their Rainbow Chips Deluxe cookies off the shelves because they offend Evangelicals? (Damn those gay elves … corrupting America’s youth, I say!) New parents won’t be able to soothe their child’s diaper rash with Boudreaux’s Butt Paste because some no-brained simpleton finds the name offensive? Sausages will have to assume a less phallic shape to prevent any unwarranted sexual connections among adolescents? PLEASE!

Once again, the government has proven why 99 percent of the civilized world laughs at Americans due to our ridiculously petty, backwards notions and so-called “ideals.” Honestly, this one blows my mind … IT’S BEER! Nobody under 21 is even going to see it, and if they do, seriously … are they really going to notice? It’s not displayed in the snack aisle, the ice cream aisle, or the puppy chow aisle. It’s in an adults-only section of the store, and in the larger scheme of things, is a cartoon caricature uttering “want some candy?” REALLY that offensive?

Putting the past behind us, Dirty Old Man was finally released in February and is now available at most good beer retailers that carry Tyranena. My first sample was in early February at 10th Annual Food and Froth fundraiser at the Milwaukee Public Museum, sponsored by the Friends of MPM. It’s a great event that raises money for a good cause (Nigel is a historian, so museums hold a special place in his heart) and there is an impressive selection of brews (mostly regional micros, though some national micros and macros mixed in). I was going to review it, but I decided it was a bit too informal as far as beer tasting events go to warrant a review. That having been said, there were two things that really stood out: the Furthermore booth, and Dirty Old Man. There was no shortage of good beer, but nothing else really grabbed my attention (though the Sierra Nevada rep did inform Nigel that the 2008 Bigfoot will be “noticeably less hoppy” … cue Nigel sad face). It’s certainly an experience drinking massive quantities of craft beer while walking amongst the many exhibits (I drank an IPA under a Tyrannosaurus … scratch that off my “things to do before I die” list). Fortunately the museum was smart enough to shut down the Body Worlds exhibit that is currently on display in Milwaukee, as the combination of craft beer and corpses likely would’ve led to total chaos.

Dirty Old Man is an “imperial rye porter aged in whiskey barrels.” According to the bottle, 40 percent of the malt is aged in rye whiskey barrels, and 60 percent is just “malt.” Not exactly sure what that means, but that’s all the info I could find. The important points are that this is brewed with some rye malt (something that always intrigues me), and it’s aged in whiskey barrels, which is the perfect aging process for a fine porter or stout in my opinion. While I was blown away at Food and Froth, it was only a 3-ounce sample … we’ll see what a bottle has in store for Nigel.

Dirty Old Man’s pour is reminiscent of a dark cola. A rich, ultra-dark brown brew reveals about a half inch of initial fizzy head that quickly dissipates, leaving a nice creamy trace at the top throughout the drink and some lingering stickiness on the sides. The aroma is very pleasant and complex. Initial chocolaty notes hit the nostrils initially, quickly followed by a roasted nuttiness, a mild smokiness, and the distinct aroma of rye whiskey. Rye is a very distinctive grain, so there’s no doubt when you come into contact with it. Background notes of coffee and alcohol finish off an aroma that is both sweet and earthy.

My first sip at Food and Froth left me speechless, and it’s just as tasty out of the bottle; it’s an amazing beer that is further proof of what American craft brewers can do when they hit the experiment button. The aging process really distinguishes this from a slew of excellent imperial porters out there, as the unique blend of rye and whiskey is just … well, it’s damn good. The aging made this incredibly smooth and easy to drink, something that is not often true in powerful imperial porters or stouts. Hints of rye hit the tongue first, quickly followed by chocolate, roasted nuts, and smoke, with a noticeable coffee aftertaste. The whiskey is also quite noticeable, sort of a smooth bourbon flavor that adds to the already wonderful taste. I didn’t detect much in the way of alcohol, despite this checking in at nearly 8 percent ABV (some may argue that the whiskey notes are alcoholic, but I disagree). As the beer warms, the rye becomes more subdued and a mild smokiness clearly takes hold, which is perfect for an imperial porter. It’s debatable as to just how much the barrel aging added to the overall flavor of the beer, but you can’t argue with results. This beer is fantastic, case closed. Full bodied, Dirty Old Man goes down remarkably smooth with a mild earthy, smoky aftertaste that is not too offensive. While the thickness, complexity, and relatively high ABV suggest this isn’t meant to be a session brew, I guarantee you’ll have a hard time not finishing off a four pack in an evening.

Fortunately for us, Tyranena didn’t get too discouraged by the feds’ pointless meddling and we’re now able to share in the bounty of what is easily the tastiest Dirty Old Man I’ve ever laid my tongue on (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Any lover of good beer, particularly of dark beers, should definitely give this a shot. Major props to Tyranena for once again raising the bar in the Brewers Gone Wild series … and here’s to censorship!


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 3, 2008.
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