Rating → 84 points
Stats: Oatmeal Stout. 5.6% ABV. 30 IBUs. Ottawa, Ontario.
Colour: Dark, dark brown — impenetrable
Mouth Feel: Medium, very natural carbonation; light in the mouth, creamy in the middle, clean finish
Purchased: From Brewery
Price: $7 (plus $3 bottle deposit)
Pairing Notes: Sushi
I wonder if I have your attention now. Yes?
“Beer” — what does that word conjure? A few generations ago it might have exclusively conjured images of tough working men — burly fellows covered in dust and dripping with sweat. For a few more decades, companies like Coors Light and Molson, Heineken, Stella Artois and Budweiser have been trying to convince us that it is a party in a bottle, whether it clubbing with Heineken hipsters cheering for our favourite sports teams, the message was the same: drink it and you will be happy.
Today, with the craft beer movement in full swing, beer is no longer the exclusive beverage of burly men in construction hats. Indeed, it is not something exclusive to men at all — and it is not just a bunch of bitterness and bubbles poured from a chilled can ripped from your TV screen which promotes parties and revelry on far away mountain tops.
Beer can be sensuous … it can rock the senses and move the heart. (Yes, I just said that ….)
It can be chocolate and vanilla and the kind of thing that warrants candle light and clean white sheets.
This latest offering from our local Beyond the Pale Brewing Company proves that the oatmeal stout, a beer that can sometimes overwhelm with its earthy flavours, can also surprise and be a delicious digestif with loads of chocolate and a demitasse of espresso all mixed together with some palate cleansing bitters that just leaves your tongue tantalized and ready for more.
Don’t get me wrong — this is full-bodied beer and typical of the style. But what makes an oatmeal stout so wonderful when done well is the sweetness integral to oats, a sweetness you might otherwise associate with a perfectly cooked bowl of oatmeal. No, the beer doesn’t take like oatmeal, but the best qualities of the oats find their way into the stout with a fullness of flavour, a creaminess, and a delicious sweetness that makes an otherwise ‘big’ beer extremely sessionable (read: drinkable). While this isn’t the creamiest oatmeal stout I’ve had (McAuslan makes one of my favourites), it is nonetheless very creamy while being balanced with some excellent hops that keep the beer relatively light on the tongue and with an unusually crisp finish for the style.
What makes this beer very good, though, are the deep dark roasted malts that give the beer one of the most impenetrably dark pours I’ve ever seen … and which consequently loads up your glass with a ton of chocolate flavours, a bit of char and cigar tobacco in the middle, and a nice dash of espresso to finish when the bitters come in as well. My only small knock on this beer is the balance of carbonation. One of the things I have grown to esteem in this brewer is their craft and attention to carbonation levels which are often on the low-medium side. In a stout this would be ideal. I’m not sure if it is the size of the bubbles — but that would be my guess — but the carbonation doesn’t quite match the style and takes away from the creaminess instead of adding to it (as smaller bubbles might). The result is a refreshing beer, yes, but not exactly what I would peg as ideal for this particular style.
All in all, however, an excellent winter beer that should make its way into most of your fridges before spring arrives. I know it will be in mine, for sure.