The pairing of chocolate and beer seems to be the current rage. Perhaps the proximity of Valentine's Day adds to the interest in this topic, but pairing the two isn't all that new. After all, the term "chocolate malt" was originally a reference to the dark chocolate color of deeply kilned grain. It's the type of malt and flavor one often finds in porters and stouts. Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills has been working to perfect the flavors, and in the past week introduced its latest new beer, a chocolate oatmeal stout.
What is it? Down 'N Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout from Tyranena Brewing Company.
Style: The stout falls in the ale family of beers. The oatmeal stout has oats in its grist, which add a smoothness or silkiness to the mouthfeel. These beers are dark brown to black and have a sweet maltiness, with some roastedness in the background. Oatmeal stouts commonly range from 3.0 to 4.8% alcohol by volume.
Background: Down 'N Dirty is the newest beer from Tyranena. Despite the provocative name, it's actually a reference to a train wreck that occurred in a swamp near Lake Mills in 1882. The engineer at the controls of a speeding locomotive ignored the advice to slow down, and the steam engine plunged off a bridge, landing deep in the muck soils near Rock Lake. The train is said to be entombed in the muck to this day, alongside the Glacial Drumlin Trail. Down 'N Dirty is thick and black like the muck soils.
This beer is a late-winter seasonal for Tyranena. Its base recipe calls for chocolate and brown malts that give it flavor and a velvety black color. Flaked barley and oats give it somewhat of a soft mouthfeel. However, brewmaster Rob Larson also adds unmalted roasted barley for coffee-like tones. Then he adds 10 pounds of cocoa nibs to every 24-barrel batch. Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that are separated from their husks and broken into small bits.
Last fall, Larson made a porter style beer that featured cocoa nibs -- this led to the Down 'N Dirty recipe. His Chocolate Imperial Porter had nearly four times the nibs of the new stout. Down 'N Dirty sells for $4/pint and $8.50 growler (refill) at the brewery's tasting room, and around $9 a six-pack in your favorite store.
- Aroma: An assertive, inviting, roasted to slightly burnt aroma.
- Appearance: Very dark; looks thick. A soft, thick tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied, round and soft.
- Taste: Smooth chocolate flavor up front, then a sharp maltiness takes over.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Firm roasted bitterness amid the cocoa nibs and chocolate malt.
Glassware: Down 'N Dirty has a great black color and a soft brown head. The English tulip glass, also known as a Guinness Pint, showcases the body and holds the head very well.
Pairs well with: The firm, sweet background of this beer will go well with a slightly sweet entrée. Try Down 'N Dirty with rich pastas, such as those with Alfredo sauce. A light honey-glazed ham would also be very welcome next to this brew.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Rich in chocolate malt, firm roasted aroma and the accent of sweetness from the cocoa nibs -- these characteristics make Down 'N Dirty a great winter beer. It might look thick and heavy, but it's lighter than it appears. Earlier versions of this beer include an Imperial Porter and another called Pretty Damn Black Oatmeal Stout. Both were great beers with assertive chocolate and so much mouthfeel they seemed almost "chewy." Down 'N Dirty has awesome drinkability, making it seductively "sessionable." It's a beer that lures you into wanting more than one. However, it does have a 6.3% ABV, so it deserves some caution.