Tyranena owner and brewmaster Rob Larson recently created a little bit of a political stir when he gave the Lake Mills brewery's loyal fans notice of a price hike starting on Inauguration Day. He described how the brewery is now required to give its wholesalers a 45-day notice, and cited higher costs for bottles, malt, hops, packaging, and cleaning supplies. This left him with little choice but to increase prices, a bump of 50 cents per pint and half-growler refill in the brewery's tasting room.
However, for some, the thought of a price increase on the day a new president takes office smacked of politics. Larson has admitted to some political "leanings" in past editions of Tyranena's newsletter, and has stated that he was not shy about being more than intrigued by the candidacy of Sarah Palin. Fervent speculation soon followed about the timing of the jump in prices, though it was not out of line with increases at many other breweries.
To quell the political rhetoric, Larson decided to throw an inauguration celebration for President Obama on January 20, and to mark the occasion he released the brewery's 2009 edition of its scotch ale named Sheep Shagger. To show is sense of humor and add to the fun, he also offered a free pint to partiers who dressed up as Palin or then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
What is it? Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale from Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills
Style: Scottish style beers tend to emphasize malt qualities and give less attention to hoppiness. These styles in part reflect the use of brown malts, as well as a brewing process that features longer boiling periods. The Scotch ale is distinctive among more general Scottish brews by offering richer color, more malty sweetness and a higher alcohol content that ranges from 6-8% ABV. Scotch ale may also be made with peat-smoked malt, and if identified as such, one can expect smoky and earthy tones within the aroma and flavor profile.
Background: Tyranena's Scotch ale is a special seasonal beer, usually appearing in mid to late winter. Larson uses a Scottish malt called Golden Promise along with a base malt from Wisconsin for the brew, but this year increased the amount of peat-smoked malt in the mash. Together, they produced an alcohol warmth clocking in at 7.7% ABV.
The 2009 rendition of this brew was temporarily dubbed InaugurAle for the Inauguration Day release. The beer's real name, though, is Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale. This is a tribute to a Scottish immigrant to the Lake Mills region known as Colonel Carmichael, who settled near the head of Rock Lake in 1844 with his sheep farm. This was not a very successful business venture by most accounts, but just historically memorable enough to inspire the name of this beer, and goes with Larson's practice of using local historical figures for the names of his beers. Tyranena, the name of the brewery, is the American Indian name for Rock Lake.
Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale is currently available in the Tryanena tasting room for $4/pint and $8.50/growler-refill. It will not be bottled until next winter, but it should start turning up in local bars on tap within the next few weeks. It is also featured as the Beer of the Month for February at The Old Fashioned in downtown Madison.
- Aroma: Light, but firm maltiness.
- Appearance: Clear, deep copper color with a thin, off-white head.
- Texture: Medium bodied, with a round and somewhat silky mouth feel.
- Taste: Solid caramel maltiness with a light lingering hint of peated malt in the background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, warm with an earthy bitterness.
Glassware: The color and body of Sheep Shagger deserves a big dimpled mug to show off its copper and bronze hues and go with the bigness of the brew's image.
Pairs well with: This Scotch ale has some wonderful caramel malty flavors that will go well with soups and stews, especially those heavy in beef broth.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: This firm malty brew will match well with winter comfort foods. I really enjoyed its body and smooth malty tones that offer faint hints of smoked peat in the overall flavor. It would have been too easy for Larson to overdo it with the smoked peat, but he was judicious during its brewing. The result is a pleasant accent with a firm malty flavor. Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale rather deceptively seems medium to light bodied, but it will sneak up on you with its warmth.