Scurvy may be the least worry of a pirate these days, but it is good news for fans of bitter beers. Tyranena Brewing is swelling its ranks of seasonal brews with Scurvy IPA, which hits store shelves in Madison this week. The name reflects the humor of owner and brewmaster Rob Larson, who creates this ale by adding orange peel to the wort. This leaves the beer with an assertive orange aroma and distinctive bitterness.
What is it? Scurvy IPA from Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills, Wisconsin.
Style: The India Pale Ale, or IPA, is known for its heavy hopping and aggressive bitterness. It offers a strong floral hoppy nose, and a color that ranges from gold to a deep copper. Medium to full bodied, these strong hop tones can accentuate sharpness in the texture and flavor. The IPA is a style that emerged in the 1700s when British brewers found that using high amounts of hops would act as a preservative, and would help the beer withstand the long sea voyages to India.
Background: Tyranena Brewing is well known for its hoppy beers, including its Stone Teepee Pale Ale and the very popular Bitter Woman IPA. Last year, Scurvy was released as part of the Brewers Gone Wild limited series of four-packs. This year, Scurvy joins the regular seasonal lineup of six-packs, just in time for early summer.
Rob Larson took both sweet and bitter orange peels, chopped the dried chips into even smaller pieces using a food processor, and placed them into large bags that were dumped into the hot wort. He explained that this was somewhat like using big tea bags. Visitors to the brewery this spring could smell the orange aroma that was bubbling off the large fermentors along with CO2 from the yeast. Larson unveiled this year's Scurvy last Friday, April 24 in the brewery's tasting room, offering a free pint to anyone dressed as a pirate.
The orange peel in Scurvy adds both citrus tones and bitterness. Despite the image of ailing sailors that the name might conjure, it's interesting to note that the Brits are given credit for the IPA style. Brewers found the heavy hopped beer could withstand long sea voyages while providing a source of palatable drink. Scurvy, an illness of concern to those sailors, was caused by insufficient intake of Vitamin C. Well, we all know that citrus fruits are a great source of the vitamin, and this beer is brimming with orange aroma and flavor. Scurvy finishes around 6.5% ABV, and sells for about $8.50/six-pack, or $8/growler in Tyranena's tasting room.
Meanwhile, the next installment in the Brewer's Gone Wild Series is Bitter Woman In the Rye, planned for a mid-May release. This version of the brewery's flagship IPA is made with 18% rye malt. Tyranena also launched distribution into Chicago last week, shipping cases of Bitter Woman, Rocky's Revenge (a barrel-aged brown) and Headless Man Amber Alt. It remains to be seen if Chicago will get any Scurvy. At the tapping party last week, though, I overheard one regular joking that "Scurvy was just too good for Illinois."
- Aroma: Floral hoppiness and firm orange bouquet.
- Appearance: Hazy orange to reddish copper, with a thick, bubbly, tan head.
- Texture: Medium and bubbly.
- Taste: Strong hoppiness with a firm citrus underpinning of flavor.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Bitter with a lingering dry orange flavor that seems to offer a hint of pepper-type spice.
Glassware: Scurvy is best in a tall, clear, wheat glass, or even a footed Willi Becher-style glass. The tall, large body will show off the beer's bright color, while the soft taper at the top will focus its aroma.
Pairs well with: This is an aggressively hopped beer that needs something that competes with the flavor. Cajun dishes such as jambalaya, blacken chicken, or fish will match nicely. A hot Thai dish would also be a great companion for the citrus aroma and dry bitterness.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: The orange peel makes Scury different from many other Wisconsin-brewed IPAs. It has the bitterness that hopheads will enjoy, but the combination of dryness and orange flavor in the finish makes it distinctive. While it's not a beer I'd drink a lot of in one sitting, Scurvy is something special to look for -- an out of the ordinary beer in a sea of IPAs.